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Snap Two It
Pride Of Li-ions
Rugged Response
Chemistry Lessons

Battery Technology Update

by David Fox

What's new in batteries for 2001.

Snap Two It

Big news events rarely come to a halt so that you can change a tape or a battery. If it is really important that you capture everything, disk cameras address the first problem, and the new Endura system from IDX can solve the second.

Each Endura-50 battery comes with a V-Mount connector which allows you piggyback a second battery on top and draw its power without having to stop recording to change batteries. "This ability will really get you out of a fix," says Tony O'Connor, managing director, IDX (Europe).

Because IDX uses Lithium-ion technology, the batteries are light enough that two stacked together won't make the camera back heavy. Of course, there are other dual battery systems in use, but these are not only heavier, but the batteries don't work in parallel like this, so you can't benefit from the power of both at the same time.

Two E-50s provide almost 100Whs of power, and can not only extend your recording time, but the extra power comes in handy when using on-camera lights. To work more effectively with lights, users can take advantage of Endura's in-built Sychron technology, which automatically turns lights on and off when the record button is pressed. This can be added to cameras without an integral DC out light connector using the IDX P-VS adaptor plate (both the P-VS and P-V plates allow Endura batteries to be used on cameras without a V-Mount). The only drawback is that the maximum power draw from two batteries using Sychron and on-board lights is limited to 85Wh.

The 500g batteries also feature an LED array to show how much charge they have left, and this information can also be seen in the viewfinder on many cameras (in PowerLink mode, the combined capacity of both batteries is displayed). The batteries were launched at IBC and instantly sold out the first two months of production.

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Pride Of Li-ions

PAG's latest battery, the L75 (75 Watt hour), is its first move into Lithium-ion. "We're moving into Lithium-ion because the demand is there. People want lighter batteries. People see the technology in laptop computers and cell phones and want the same technology in the camera," says Nigel Gardiner, PAG's sales director.

For certain applications, he believes it is an excellent technology. "There isn't one battery to suit all. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages," he says.

"A Lithium-ion battery is less than one-third the weight of NiCD. That's a dramatic weight saving," he says, although in a static situation, especially where you have on-camera lights, the user is still better off with NiCD or NiMH because Li-ion can't deliver the high current draw necessary for lights.

All PAG batteries are available in Time Battery versions, which gives an accurate estimate in an on-battery display of how much time they have left under the current output requirements.

As it has only been selling Li-ion for the last quarter, and has a lot of back orders to meet, he says it is too early to say if it will definitely overtake its other systems, but "judging by the take up so far, I think it will be our biggest seller."

No one type of battery technology may be perfect for every application, but you don't need a charger for each, as its new AR Series charger will now charge all three technologies, as PAG has upgraded it to accept its new Li-ion battery. Users with existing AR Series 2 units aren't left out as they can easily upgrade their chargers by replacing a chip.

Sony is one of the biggest battery manufacturers "selling hundreds and hundreds every month," of its L40A, L60A and L90A Lithium-ion units. Richard Lewis, Sony's product manager for camcorders, says the popularity of Li-ion is because "basically they have a very high power to weight ratio and no memory effect, so you can just top them up at anytime. We also have an indicator on the side which shows the rate of charge on each battery."

Its latest introduction is the BC-L120 battery charger which delivers a faster charge. It can now completely charge four batteries in 400 minutes, compared to 600 minutes previously. It also has a 100W 12v output, so users can power a camcorder or other device directly from it.

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Rugged Response

Frezzi's new 100 watt hour NiMH batteries are available with or without built-in energy gauges. They have been highly "ruggedized", with a rubberized outer casing, "to make it drop proof and better for handling in wet or cold conditions," says Frezzi's president, James Crawford. "Our batteries are the only ones that are field engineer repairable," he claims.

It has also introduced a new charger. The M2100A has side mounts and includes a complete four channel battery management system, which will charge all manufacturer's battery packs (12 to 14.4v, NiCD or NiMH), will also discharge them to their proper voltage cut-off, has a Battery Rescue mode which revives abused or over-discharged batteries, and includes an analyser to assess battery condition.

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Chemistry Lessons

Aspen's new White Knight NP35 14.4v NiCD battery has been designed to work with cameras which have high power demands, which stretch the limits of a standard 25Wh/13.2v NiCD. Aspen has recently launched a range of ROQ Pro Series for Aspen A-lock Bantam bricks available as 35W NiCD (or 65W NiMH), which John Yardley, its European sales director, believes offers one of the lightest NiCD batteries anywhere.

Aspen also sells NiMH batteries, but Yardley says there is still a lot of demand for NiCD. "It's a known chemistry. It's a chemistry operators have been using for years and they have confidence in it. It's a very robust piece of kit and can cope extremely well with low temperatures. I sell more NiCDs into the Scandinavian territories than anywhere else," he says. "NiMH, by its design, doesn't cope as well as NiCD in the lower temperature ranges."

"No battery will like cold weather, but NiCD will work better in cold weather," agrees Anton Bauer's technical marketing manager, Gerry Brown.

Anton Bauer now offers a three year guarantee on all of its new NiCD batteries, promising that users will still obtain at least 70% capacity after three years, or it will replace the battery. Something Brown says is only possible because NiCD is proven technology. It also guarantees the chargers for three years.

He believes that despite the introduction of other technologies, NiCD will have a significant part to play in location production for many years, because of its power, price and reliability. "If you are going to use a camera with high power, as most digital cameras are, and have a light on top, you need something which can deliver high power, which NiCD can," says Brown.

NiCD still accounts for the greater portion of Anton Bauer's sales. "We do have customers coming back to us for NiCD having had troubles with Lithium-ion", he claims.

Aug 2001

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© 2000 - 2010

Batteries - NiCad, NiMH, lithium Ion: the pros and cons, and the arguments in depth.
A quick guide to taking care of your batteries
Not been looking after your batteries? - help is at hand
For more technical details on batteries the Anton Bauer "Video Battery Handbook" is definitely worth a look.
technical stuff on lithium ion batteries from Sony

David Fox