Power And Performance
Battery News From PMA

Power And Performance

I literally got a charge out of seeing the plethora of chargers and both reusable and primary batteries at PMA this year. (By the way, when you see the word "primary," it's the politically correct term for "throwaway.") Everywhere I turned, batteries, chargers, and more batteries and more chargers. Replacement battery packs for our ravenous digital cameras were in abundance. Surprisingly, some companies were still touting more conventional technologies, and at least one company even came to the fore with batteries to replace the once ubiquitous mercury button cells--salvation for old camera users is at hand!

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 damage).

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 environments.

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.