NiHy's Get Bigger
& Faster Charge
Nickel metal hydride, simply known as Ni-MH or NiHy (nickel hydride),
has come on gangbusters since the government crackdown on nickel cadmium
(NiCd) and the problems of heavy metals (cadmium, in this case) polluting
the ground waters. While NiCd still holds sway in many appliances and
space probes, NiHy cells have made tremendous inroads where digital cameras
are concerned. While more compact digicams are moving toward wafer-thin
lithium ion cells, many others still use the more economical round cells,
and to drive these power-hungry devices, these cells need to be revved
up and charged fast. Perhaps the biggest news in this category is Rayovac's
15-minute rechargeable system.
Rayovac (which also distributes Varta to US photo channels) is looking
to be the first with the fastest, debuting their 15-minute I-C3 (In-Cell
Charge Control) rechargeable Ni-MH system. Normally, the charger is equipped
to monitor charge cycles and heat buildup. But a 15-minute rapid charge
is beyond a charger's routine capabilities, so Rayovac designed
the monitoring technology into the battery, preventing excess pressure
from building up and thereby ensuring safety. This approach also allows
them to use higher mAh-rated batteries in the system. Launching with 2000
mAh AA cells, with 800 mAh AAA to follow. The charger will be available
in two-position ($20) and four-position ($40) models, handling any combination
of AA ($15/four pack) and AAA.
Uniross launched their high-capacity 2300 mAh Ni-MH batteries, the highest
capacity AA nickel hydrides to date, along with 900 mAh AAA. This company
also highlighted the new Ultra Fast Charger with four AA Ni-MH 2100 mAh
batteries, in an ultra-slim design. Dual voltage, it charges two or four
AA/AAA NiCd or Ni-MH cells in one to two hours, and features built-in
overcharge protection. The new 2300 mAh batteries will take a half-hour
longer to charge on this device. Uniross also has a complete range of
digital battery packs for those digital cameras that use lithium ion packs,
with a universal charger to handle all of these as one product.
Maha Energy Corp. proudly displayed their PowerEx branded battery products.
They explained that the PowerEx line-up offers two advantages: speed and
size, pointing to the fact that their fast chargers are of a convenient
size and a suitable match for today's compact digital cameras. In
addition, because rechargeable batteries decrease in usable life as you
increase the charging speed, PowerEx chargers feature a choice of fast
or slow charge. The 100 minute Cool Charger (MH-C401FS), for instance,
maintains a cool temperature to prolong battery life, with four charging
channels, plus car and universal adapters.
The Digipower division of Mizco Intl. Inc. was showcasing their One-Hour
Rechargeable Battery Kit, which comes with four 2000 AA mAh batteries
and is dual voltage, capable of charging two or four batteries, AA or
AAA, and featuring trickle charge. More impressive perhaps is their new
DPS-9000 Digital Camera Power Pack, which is compatible with a large number
of cameras and camcorders. It features an 1800 mAh lithium ion pack, LED
fuel gauge, tripod socket, multi-voltage, and comes with cigarette lighter
adapter ($80). They also showed the Universal Power-Link multi-device-compatible
car adapter ($80).
GP Batteries introduced a half-hour (for 1800 mAh cells) Ni-MH charger
under their own brand name, featuring individual minus delta voltage cutoff,
individual temperature sensor, individual safety timer, trickle charge,
LEDs, and alkaline and primary battery detection (to stop charge and prevent
Lenmar directed my attention
to their Mach 1 SpeedCharger line-up, which is based on this company's
NeoTherm technology, employing microprocessor control to deliver a rapid
charge without undue heat buildup, thereby extending battery life. Three
models are available: Mach 1 Alpha lithium ion charger, taking under 30
minutes; Mach 1 Delta for 3.6 and 6v Ni-MH and NiCd camcorder batteries;
Mach 1 Gamma, which comes with four 2000 mAh AA Ni-MH batteries and charges
any combo of AA/AAA Ni-MH in one hour or less. All models feature LEDs,
multi-voltage, and car adapter.
To continue to meet the demands of the rechargeable user, Energizer announced
plans to upgrade its one-hour charger to charge in half the time, accepting
AA or AAA Ni-MH cells ($29.99). The upgraded Digital Power Kit will be
available in August and can charge AA, AAA, and 9v batteries, and comes
with four 1850 mAh AA batteries ($19.99). Other new products include 2100
mAh AA Ni-MH batteries from NEXcell and Harding Energy/Quest.
Nothing Is Irreplaceable
The batteries that come with today's digital cameras may have met
their match, if not superiors, in a variety of replacement cells and packs.
Arguably most noteworthy is Samsung's approach to reusable power.
Not sitting idly by, Samsung addressed the problem of power-hungry digicams
with the world's first rechargeable lithium ion CR-series battery
pack, called the Digimax Battery I-Pack. It replaces two conventional
AA cells or a single CR-V3 battery in today's digital cameras while
providing the same high-voltage, low-temperature performance. Under similar
operating conditions, the I-Pack will last over 10 times longer than AA
alkaline cells. The Digimax Battery I-Pack recharges in two hours, with
no memory, and the charger also works with Ni-MH batteries.
Both Phoenix Corp. of America and Brandess-Kalt-Aetna (BKA) introduced
their own line of rechargeable lithium ion replacement batteries. They're
designed to be suitable for a large variety of digital cameras. BKA's
brand is called Digital Pursuits, and consists of nine batteries.
Panasonic moved in a different
direction, with long-lasting, high-performance PowerEdge batteries to
meet the demands of ravenous digital cameras. The oxy-alkaline batteries
can last up to 43 percent longer than traditional high-drain alkaline
batteries in digital still cameras.
Energizer has made its Energizer e2 photo lithium battery run even longer,
up to 30 percent, lasting up to five times longer in digital cameras than
ordinary alkaline batteries. The product works well in both hot and cold
Duracell is banking on future devices being designed around their new
Prismatics wafer-thin batteries. Two batteries will be available: CP1,
a lithium primary battery for digital cameras, with the alkaline LP1 being
aimed more at audio devices.
A few battery packs are designed
to work with more demanding gear, powering not only a camera or flash,
but both at the same time. Case in point, the widely compatible Quantum
Turbo 2x2, which employs Ni-MH technology and features dual outputs and
twice the power as the larger and older Turbo.
Lumedyne is now shipping the Signature Series Cyclers, with seven LED
battery gauge in a rugged ABS plastic case. Also now available are other
packs in the Cycler line-up. The Digital Camera Battery, from a company
by the same name, is also designed for demanding needs. Surprisingly compact,
this pack can be worn on a belt and features dual-regulated outputs and
a user-replaceable Ni-MH battery.
Exell Battery USA specializes in mercury and other discontinued primary
cell replacements (button-size and up), with over 29 photo batteries composed
of zinc-air and silver. Silver is preferable because it behaves more like
mercury and it has a much longer shelf life. Other new and noteworthy
rechargeable replacement battery packs were showcased by Delkin Devices
and Battery-Biz Inc., both lithium ion technology. Battery Technology,
Inc. also exhibited their extensive replacement battery line-up. And,
if you need a case to store all those high-powered batteries, PC Card
Packaging may have what you need in their Battery Pocket Cases. Different
cases hold different-size round cells, in varying capacities.