Easy Photo Tip: Frustrated Charging Your Camera Via USB? Buy A Universal Charger

Some cameras, including my classy and not-so-cheap Sony RX100, charge through the USB cable. There’s no need for a separate charger; simply plug the adapter into the wall and the small connector into the camera. There are pros and cons to this system.

The biggest drawback hits people like me who enjoy the convenience of owning more than one battery per camera. If the charger is separate you can charge one battery while using another. Clearly, if the charging is done in the camera, that’s not possible.

Thankfully, there is an inexpensive solution. Buy a universal battery charger. I own two. One is marked “PowerGen Rapid Smart Charger” and the other is labeled “Wasabi Power.” Both perform as expected, and so far I have not come across a battery they can’t accommodate.

If you buy one, make sure it features automatic polarity detection, that way there’s no need to match plus and minus contacts. Most units offer automatic shutoff, too. Some plug directly into the wall (great for travel) while others require a wall wart (external AC adapter) but also can be charged by your car’s 12-volt system. All-in-all, most units are very easy to use.

Cost? Should be around 20 bucks, give or take. My Wasabi unit charges AA, AAA and 9V in addition to lithium ion. One word of warning: make sure you only charge rechargeable batteries. It’s never smart to try to charge single-use cells.

—Jon Sienkiewicz