Jan 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm #1254091
For those of you who take your cameras along on longer trips, how do you get around the problem of having to recharge your camera's batteries? Because it seems quite inconvenient to have to carry the battery charger and have to find somewhere to plug in the battery charger and have to wait a couple of hours for it to charge. This makes me feel like I should stop drooling over the Canon S90 and just get a camera that takes AA batteries.
-SidJan 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm #1562424
First of all, select your camera very carefully. Some are very dependent on the rear display, and it uses a lot of power. Others have optical viewfinding, and the rear display can be used for just viewing images as necessary. Some rear displays can be set to be darker, which uses less power as well.
Camera batteries fall into two main categories, proprietary size and standard size. Most DSLR cameras use a proprietary size lithium polymer battery that is good for hundreds and hundreds of shots. I have about five of those for my camera, so I can keep it going for a very long trip. Some smaller compact cameras use AA cells. Those are OK also, but you might be able to choose lithium primary cells which have 3-4 times the energy density of normal AA cells, and they are lighter in weight, to boot.
It really only makes good sense to try to recharge-enroute if you are going to be gone for a month or more.
The other trick is to do some advance study and figure out where there might possibly be some power available, even though you are 100 miles from the commercial power grid. I know of a shepherd's village at 15,000 feet in Nepal, and there is beaucoup DC power available from a solar rig that I helped on.
–B.G.–Jan 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm #1562427
drowning in spamMember
This is why I liked the Canon a720is so much. It only has two AA batteries to recharge. Using Eneloops, I've gone well over 700 shots with the majority of juice left according to the indicator. That was using the screen on the back too. It has an optical viewfinder that would extend battery life significantly if it was used and the screen was turned off. I'm just kicking myself for not buying one for myself before they were discontinued.Jan 13, 2010 at 4:52 pm #1562430
Miguel ArboledaBPL Member
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
I've done a lot of long-term travel and in the past had trouble with compact cameras losing power along the way, but with my Ricoh GX200 I traveled in Canada last year for a month, taking hundreds of photographs and only recharged the batteries twice. I think a lot of the newer cameras have much better batteries. I've never had to worry about batteries with my DSLR. My Nikon D70s can hold a charge for a month of constant use. When I did the Tour de Mont Blanc in 2007 I traveled for a month with the D70 and never had to recharge it. I do, however, always bring a second backup battery plus a third lithium cell cartridge that takes regular batteries and fits into the camera's regular battery slot.
I miss the days of completely manual, mechanical cameras!Jan 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm #1562433
I read of a wildlife photographer who just spent some days at a wildlife preserve. When he was done, he had shot 20,000 frames.
Geez! I think he had a big solar recharger system going full-blast for the entire time. Not SUL, for sure.
–B.G.–Jan 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm #1562468
> just get a camera that takes AA batteries.
I agree 100%.
But the newer better cameras are moving away from AA cells – d*mn them!
CheersJan 14, 2010 at 11:27 am #1562739
So what is currently the lightest camera that takes AA batteries and has a viewfinder? I'd like it to still give me decent image quality.
Something else that is really appealing to me about using a camera that takes AA batteries is that I can share batteries with my Zebralight H501 if need be.
-SidJan 14, 2010 at 11:28 am #1562740
Carter YoungBPL Member
@kidcobaltLocale: Western Montana
The batteries for the s90 are quite light, as is the charger. With the judicious use of the customizable functions of the s90–such as turning off the display, you can get about 400 RAW plus jpeg shots from one battery. Take four batteries with you and you'll be fine for most any long trip.Jan 14, 2010 at 11:35 am #1562745
you make a good point. The S90 batteries are really light so I suppose I could afford to carry a couple.
-SidJan 14, 2010 at 11:55 am #1562756
Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I have a Cannon SD1200 IS, with a real view finder and the LCD. I like it. Batteries weigh .6 oz, which is less than 1.7 oz for two AA's.
I think the camera can take good pictures, but I am not a photographer. So I am happy with "snap shots."Jan 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm #1562768
As a point of comparison, here's the arithmetic on LX3 batteries:
The LX3 batteries are 25-26 grams each and aftermarket batteries are about US$9-10 each. If I carry three, for about 75g I can conservatively count on 1000 frames, more if I don't frequently use the flash or review my shots.
One pair of NiMH AA cells is about 60g while two disposable Li AA cells about 30g. (Alkaline cells are for emergency backup only because they yield perhaps a tenth as many frames.)
For typical unsupported backpack trips ranging from a night to a week, there's no longer a compelling reason to fret over camera battery swaps or recharging in the field. It's both weight-efficient and frugal to carry one or two spare Li-ion cells.
For extended trips, especially overseas, it gets more complicated. IF you have an AA camera and IF you can buy lithium AA cells, you're fine. OTOH it may make more sense to use a camera that takes OEM cells (most of them nowadays) and pack your charger. Most chargers are quite small and work internationally, e.g., My (US-spec) LX3 charger is 57g.
Going back to AAs, if you have a lot of additional AA gear (flashlight, GPS, radio, etc.) then an AA camera along with a bunch of NiMH cells and a light charger looks more attractive. But as noted in the thread the selection is becoming limited.
RickApr 2, 2010 at 11:13 am #1593554
People in these forums keep telling me this isn't the way to go, but I don't think they carry as many rechargeable appliances as I do. GPS, MP3, PDA phone, bluetooth keyboard, headlamp, camera.
My flexible solar NMH charger weighs 4 oz. The little 5 volt boost power supply, about an ounce. I make sure my electrics either use NMH's or has a 5 Volt USB charging port.
The panel is shown on the back of my pack during a rest break. When I'm hiking, it's usually stretched out across the top of my rolled up sleeping pad. I don't carry it on hikes shorter than 3 days.
solar panel NMH charger
5V USB Boost Charger (uses NMH cells)Apr 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm #1593566
Looks like a very nicely executed system, and I love the Altoids charging box.
Do all your devices run off AAs or are you perhaps powering some with an external battery pack? (Or can you also charge proprietary batteries?) Since you're in the eastern U.S., do you find you're hiking in the open often enough to collect sufficient sun to drive the charger?
RickApr 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm #1593689
Back from 9 day trip in our Alps. Carried a Canon G11 with a freshly-charged battery. Took about 260 photos, but mainly withOUT using the LCD. It took <45 minutes to recharge the battery once at home.
And I have recharged lithium phone batteries in the field with a small solar panel.
CheersApr 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm #1593870
"Do all your devices run off AAs or are you perhaps powering some with an external battery pack? (Or can you also charge proprietary batteries?) Since you're in the eastern U.S., do you find you're hiking in the open often enough to collect sufficient sun to drive the charger?"
Actually, I don't have anything that uses AA's. The little Altoids box has electronics that convert from AA voltage to 5 V. So I can charge anything that has a 5 volt USB jack. 5V USB devices are very common. I charge AA's with the solar panel, then I put the AA's in the Altoids box and use that to charge everything else.
Everything that is, except my headlamp. I've never needed to charge it on the trail, but should the need arise, it uses AAA's which can be charged directly by my panel.
Charging under a forest canopy can be difficult. On a 5 day hike around Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks, I would place my pack in a pool of light whenever we stopped to rest or eat and I would keep moving it when we were in camp to keep the sun on it. I was able to keep my camera fully charged, barely. Everything else, I kept turned off.
KeithApr 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm #1593961
Where did you buy buy the USB socket from? Hard to get.
CheersApr 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm #1594007
Thanks Keith, for your followup. A very clever setup that makes perfect sense.
Duracell sells a gizmo to run various electronic devices from standard AA cells, but yours raises the bar a hundredfold.
In much of the U.S. West, solar-on-the-go seems quite viable, and certainly a lot of other locales as well. It's ultimately the challenge of matching the tool to the trek and the locale.
RickApr 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm #1594012
"Where did you buy buy the USB socket from? Hard to get."
One standard source that we use here in the states is Digi-Key. They seem to have several varieties of USB socket.
–B.G.–Apr 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm #1594014
They do, but how do you manage to buy just a few? In the past they wanted to sell large quantities only.
CheersApr 3, 2010 at 9:38 pm #1594016
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
I believe you can order the boost charger as a kit. Google "Minty Boost"
Google "Minty Boost Solar" for a modification that uses a Li ion polymer battery and a solar cell…Apr 3, 2010 at 9:40 pm #1594017
I don't know. I've been purchasing stuff onesy-twosy from Digi-Key for 35 years now. If they give you a hard time, it might have something to do with the international aspects.
OTOH, I live smack in the middle of Silicon Valley. There is something awfully wrong if I can't find a USB socket at any of several stores within walking distance of my house.
If I need something in a hurry, I will go to Fry's Electronics.
If nothing works for you, I could probably purchase something over the counter. But, I would need to know precisely what connector you seek. I see the photos above, but there are all sorts of mounting bracket options.
–B.G.–Apr 3, 2010 at 9:41 pm #1594018
Roger would likely want to carve his own case out of blue gum wood.
–B.G.–Apr 3, 2010 at 11:23 pm #1594027
> Roger would likely want to carve his own case out of blue gum wood.
Roger might mill a case out of Nylon 66 …
Or he might form one out of 0.5 mm titanium …
PS: OK, laugh, but I have already machined one battery case out of plastic, with gold-plated spring wire terminals. Worked great.Apr 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm #1594115
It's a kit called a Mintyboost. Minty because the elctronics and batteries are mounted in an Altoids gum tin, and boost because it the electronics comprise a boost regulator that steps the nominal 2.8 Volts of the two AA's to USB 5 Volts. It comes in an easy to assemble kit which can be purchased from
Minimal soldering skills are required to build the kit, but if those aren't forthcoming, I see there are several similar (identical as far as I can tell) flexible solar panels that have a built-in USB charger in addition to AA charging. Had they been available sooner, I'd probably own one, but since I don't, I can't make any statement about their performance relative to the one I have.
Here's one link I found:
JamecoApr 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm #1594120
Beware the boost supplies made by battery manufacturers. The one's I've tested would not work with NMH AA's so test before you hit the trail. The likely reason for this is the lower nominal volatage output of the NMH as compared to alkaline cells. The Mintyboost is designed to work both with NMH's and alkalines.
One other advantage of a solar charger that hasn't been mentioned is it can save time when re-provisioning in trail towns. When the weather is good, no need to beg an outlet and wait for the batteries to re-charge.
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