How do you manage your batteries?

DaveJP

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The area I live in moved out of lockdown and into Tier 3, (which in the UK has the most severe Covid-19 restrictions), so my photography is still restricted and I'm bored, hence the rather mundane subject of this thread. How do you manage your batteries?

Years ago I read somewhere that it pays not to charge lithium ion batteries fully unless they're going to be used immediately. If they are likely to be left unused for a while – say a few weeks before you get around to that particular battery - charging them to no more than 80% prolongs the battery life. Also, it's supposed to be best to remove the battery from the camera before it's fully discharged, leaving something like 10 - 15% charge remaining.

I don't know just how true this advice is. However, my batteries have lasted well; the camera's battery setting shows no degradation so far for any of them, even though some batteries have had nearly four years of regular use. Nevertheless, reducing the amount of charge to around 60 – 70% does shorten the usage period for each battery. Furthermore, I often wonder if it would do the battery good to be fully charged or discharged once in a while. Incidentally, I number all my batteries and use them in strict rotation, so I always know which battery is due to be used next.

What do you do? Have you ever heard similar advice? Do you have a battery usage regime of your own? Please dispel a little of my boredom with a few answers.
 
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I also have a numbered set of batteries which I rotate. This also helps keeping track which ones need recharging and which are still good to go.
Not super concerned with the % of charge when I am going to use the batteries, I just charge to 100% and use them until the camera signals that the battery is running low.

Battery degradation isn't really influenced by charging them to 100% or 80% but just the total stress put on them. Charging/discharging put stress on the battery resulting in wear.
Lithium ion batteries have a wider capacity than what you are able to charge. So 100% can in reality be more like 90% and 0% for example around 15% (these percentages are widely used in battery packs for electric cars). Both for safety and longevity.

Often third party batteries provide more capacity (smaller margins) so they can offer a high capacity in the same form factor. This is not bad in itself (in principle this doesn't make a battery unsafe, although this obviously depend on many other factors) but they are more prone to wear/tear from charging which can result in slightly lower longevity.

I do only use the official charger.

Some third party chargers may only have one charging stage (charge full speed to 100%) but it's better to charge with two stages (as fast as possible to ~70/80% and then gradually lowering charging current). Using only one "full-speed" stage puts more stress on the battery so it degrades the battery faster.
I know for a fact that Olympus chargers monitor battery temperature to change the charging stage, you don't want lithium ion batteries running hot (also keep your charger out of the sun in the summer).
I expect the official charger to also monitor if the voltage of the battery is still rising (low % charged) or has peaked (almost done). In the latter case the charger should gradually lower the current provided. Both are often missing in third party chargers which will degrade the battery faster (and potentially be unsafe).

If you are planning on storing lithium ion batteries long term you should keep two things in mind:

1. Always store them charged. If the cell voltage drops below 2V for some time the cell starts to break down elevating self-discharge or cause a electrical short. Don't try to recharge a depleted battery which have been lying around for some time as it can become very unstable.
2. For optimal long term storage put them away at ~40% (3.8V) as Li-ion batteries have almost no self-discharge below 4.0V. But rule 1 is more important, I rather store them 100% full and accept more self-discharge vs storing them empty and potentially create a unsafe battery.
 
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Michael Meissner

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It changes over time and what particular batteries I'm using.

Lets see over time, I have 4 different Olympus batteries:
  • BLM-1/5 for the E-1/E-3/E-5
  • BLS-1/5/50 for the Stylus-1/E-m10 mark II/E-m5 mark III/E-P2/E-pm2
  • BLN-1 for the E-m5 mark I/E-m1 mark I
  • LI-90/LI-92 for the Stylus TG-2/TG-5
And 3 different Panasonic batteries:
  • DMC-BCL12 for the G85/FZ300
  • DMC-BLH7 for the LX10
  • VW-VBT380 for the HC-770 camcorder
The BLS-1 and BLM-1 batteries required the original Olympus charger or third party chargers with 2 pins. When the BLS-5 and BLM-5 came out, I had to upgrade the charger to the new charger (with 3 pins) that could measure whether the battery was full. There was a law passed in Japan a few years ago that mandated chargers turn off when the battery was charged instead of continuing on to trickle charging. One problem was shortly after the transition, an earthquake damaged the plant in Japan that made the BLS-5 batteries, and Olympus went back to distributing the BLS-1 batteries with foreign (to Japan) sales for a time, while rebuilding the factory.

I tend to feel if a battery uses standard lithium ion chemistry that it is ok to use third party chargers. However, in the case of BLN-1 batteries (and perhaps BLH-1 batteries), the chemistry is slightly different and the nominal voltage is different. For best results, you want to use a charger that is tuned towards that battery chemistry and voltage levels. Thus for official Olympus BLN-1 batteries, I use the Olympus chargers.

For non-Olympus BLN-1 batteries (such as the Watson batteries I use), I do use the third party battery chargers, since as far as I can tell, the third party BLN-1 batteries use standard lithium-ion cells. One effect of this is the E-m1 mark I, and E-m5 mark I/II cameras are tuned towards the Olympus batteries, and the camera sensor will detect the battery being nearly empty sooner. But with the price difference between good third party batteries and Olympus batteries being 2-3x I am often times willing to use third party batteries instead of official Olympus batteries. Due to the charge level, if I'm doing a full day of shooting, it might mean I would use 3 Watson BLN batteries in a day compared to 2 Olympus BLN batteries.

At the first sign of a battery swelling, I immediately take it out of rotation and replace it. My town has a special shed to put used lithium-ion batteries (along with the older lights with mercury in them). For the record, I've had both official Olympus and third party batteries swell up. Similarly, if the charger indicates the battery is bad, it is taken out of rotation.

One thing that I used to do, but I need to get back to is every week or two, rotate the batteries stored in the cameras with freshly charged batteries. In the old days, this was more important since batteries lost their charge fairly frequently.

I do the same charging routine for AA batteries. I don't use AAA rechargeable batteries that much, but in charging things up, I discovered my current AAA batteries don't work and I need to replace them (the FL-300R is where I discovered this).

One thing that third party chargers have that I wish official Olympus/Panasonic chargers had was a digital display or at least bar graph to indicate how much charge level there was.

I like the dual Watson charger, because you can charge two batteries at the same time, and just change the plates depending on the battery that is used. This is useful if you are going on a trip with multiple cameras that use different batteries.

Recently, for the third party chargers, I have moved to USB chargers that can charge 2 or 3 batteries at a time. These are often fit in small areas of suitcases. The Watson charger is somewhat bigger, and I can fit 3-4 of these USB chargers in the same the Watson chargers uses. In addition, if I'm out and about for a full day without being near a power source (such as when I'm photographing renaissance faires), having the USB chargers means I can use a USB phone charger battery and charge up the camera batteries in my pack while I'm shooting with the other batteries.

Being the modern techie, I generally need to travel with a power strip with multiple USB power outputs, so this can cut down on the number of A/C plugs I need to use. Last year, I moved to a cell phone that uses USB-C instead of USB micro-B for charging, and now I need to do fast charging for the phone, as well as USB micro-B for my other devices.

I now have a platstic case that has multiple sections in it, and I have a row of BLN's, BLS's, etc. I take the batteries out in order, so over time, all of the batteries are used.

While the E-m5 mark III has in-camera charging, I generally don't find it is as useful as I thought. The E-m5 mark III will only charge the battery if the camera is turned off. I discovered this when I borrowed the E-m5 mark III before buying it, and I was driving from one place that I had shot in the morning to the second site, and I decided to charge the camera in the car while driving. Unfortunately, I had not turned off the camera, so the battery did not recharge. I did have other BLS batteries with me.

And off/on, I've been playing with using dummy batteries to run cameras from external power sources.

The Olympus DSLRs bring up an interesting point. Olympus hasn't sold a BLM based camera for many years. This means the official Olympus BLM-5 batteries are getting up in years. I tend to feel this is a case where buying a good third party battery (that was made recently) trumps buying the official battery. Since none of the current Olympus/JIP cameras use the BLN-1 battery, I would anticipate that shortly those batteries would have the same status. The BLS/BLH/LI92 batteries are still used in current cameras, so official batteries should be still available.
 
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PhotoCal

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I NEVER buy third-party batteries. That means I have fewer batteries to manage!
Would you risk your gear to save $20 on a battery? I wouldn't.

In addition, I don't need to carry as many batteries as those who buy third-party batteries.
I letter each one, and rotate their use.
I don't charge them until I'm ready to go out and use them in sequence.
Right now B is in a charger (unplugged) and the other (A) is in a case).

Before I go out I plug in the charger and when it's done charging B goes into the camera and A goes on the charger, then into the battery case.

It's simple if you have dependable batteries.

For my other bodies I just have one OEM battery.
 

Acraftman

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I have been using wasaba for 4 years along with my oly I do use the charger that comes with the battery I think I have six batteries in my bag and just shoot until there dead. The only superstition I have is I always try and put the oly batteries in the camera body and the wasabi's in the grip as I did have one swell which I should get rid of but a little sandpaper and slides right back in like new:eek:.
 

Bushboy

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I don’t overthink this. I use them in the camera until the battery flat indicator thing starts flashing.
I only have two, so it’s easy.
A wasabi and an olympus. Both equally as good.
Olympus won’t be manufacturing batteries, they just get the manufacturer to put their sticker on it.
The Olympus wall charger is the way to go. I have left them on the charger for days, no ill effects. When that light goes out it stops charging.
 

ac12

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I only use OEM batteries and chargers. Just my thing.
If you notice, the OEM chargers have at least three contacts, the 3rd party ones only two. What is/are the other contacts on the charger for?
  • I was told by a battery engineer, that lithium chargers use a 3rd lead for PTC (Positive Temperature Control), to shut down the charger if the battery overheats.
  • I also read that one of the leads is for balanced charging, so the two cells are equally charged.
    • Never figured out the circuitry for how that works.
  • I do know that some Canon batteries and chargers talk to each other. Because I've seen OEM batteries that won't charge in a 3rd party charger, and similarly, 3rd party batteries that won't charge in an OEM charger.
Until I cut open a charger or battery, I won't know.

Battery run time:
  • Mirrorless is very different from a dSLR. I can shoot my dSLR all weekend and Monday on a single charge.
    My Olympus EM1-mk1 sucks battery power. The EM1-mk1 with the P-Lumix 12-60 will drain the battery in 4 hours (continuously on). The average time was verified by repeated runs. This means for a full day of shooting (15 hours) I need to carry at least FOUR batteries.
    The mk2 uses a larger capacity battery, so will last longer.
  • In addition, when I put the 12-100 on the EM1-mk1, the run time drops down to 2-1/2 hour run time. That lens sucks power. So depending on which lens I use, I may need to carry more spare batteries. A full day with the EM1-mk1 and the 12-100 will require at least SIX batteries.
    The larger battery mk2 will run 3-3/4 hours, and require four batteries.
Charging:
  • When I travel, I have two chargers, to charge the batteries in pairs.
  • With four batteries I have to charge in two shifts; #1 as soon as I get to the hotel, #2 overnight.
  • Six batteries will require a third charger.
My Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for charging at home is:
  • After a shoot, I recharge all used batteries.
    • When I shoot sports, the used batteries are drained.
    • With charged batteries, if I have to, I can grab and run, and not worry about uncharged batteries.
  • Before a shoot, I "top off" the batteries that I will take.
    • This is so that I am at max charge and have max run time.
    • It stinks to have the battery go empty during a shoot, because it was only partly charged.
    • This is more important with the mirrorless than the dSLR, because the mirrorless drains the battery fast. See the statement at the beginning about battery run time.
I number all my batteries and use them in rotation.
Numbering the batteries makes it easier to ID and keep track of a battery that is going bad.

As with Mike, I will pull a swollen battery out of rotation and dispose it.
I had one that was just a little swollen and was difficult to get out, and it is now pulled out of rotation. I've also seen swollen batteries at school where they got STUCK in the camera. That is something that I do not want to deal with. Which is why I pull any swollen batteries.
 
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Mike Wingate

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I number my batteries and use them in rotation. I only use genuine Panasonic batteries.
 

ashburtononline

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I rotate numbered batteries. Again, as a commercial photographer I only ever buy Olympus genuine batteries .... others may be as good but I cannot afford to take a chance on it .... especially to save a few dollars.
 

Clint

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I typically buy several batteries of the same kind at the same time and marked with the date of purchase. I probably have 10 batteries for my OM-Ds, so when I travel I minimize my charging concerns.

All of my batteries have cases and when charged the camera batteries are put in the cases with the contacts at the bottom, or in the case of AA/AAA all the positive contacts are on the same side. When used they go back in a case with the contacts up or for AA/AAA, 2 batteries with positives one way the other two the opposite.

When I get back all still charged batteries go in the front of a drawer and the others are charged then put in the back of the drawer. If I ever have battery swell up, it is recycled and all other batteries with the same date are closely checked. At some point in time I’ll recycle the oldest batteries and replace them.

My lighting equipment has many more and larger batteries. These are charged at the end of each shoot and marked with a colored label and put back in storage. I make a calendar entry with a reminder that these need to be charged 5 months from the date they were last charged. Again, any signs of swelling and the battery is replaced.

And then there are my phone, battery powered flashlights/lanterns, power tools, Goal Zero batteries, etc.! I have two shelves dedicated as a charging station and battery storage.
 

DaveJP

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Thanks to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to reply to this thread; it makes for interesting reading. I'm still not certain if my practice of only charging batteries to around 80% and not discharging them completely is sound, but it's worked for me so far, so I don't think I'll change it.
 

ac12

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Thanks to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to reply to this thread; it makes for interesting reading. I'm still not certain if my practice of only charging batteries to around 80% and not discharging them completely is sound, but it's worked for me so far, so I don't think I'll change it.
I do not think you can limit the charge to 80%. None of my camera and NiMH/NiCd chargers has a % charged indicator. Only on one of my laptops can I control the max charge point. Everything else charges to 100%, or when the battery indicates to the charger that it is fully charged.

Do NOT completely discharge the battery. Many battery chemistries specify a minimum voltage/charge level that the battery should NOT be discharged below. The battery will be damaged by excessive discharge. I am not a battery engineer, so I do not know the how and whys of that.
Some chargers will not charge a battery that is discharged below this level.

When my camera battery indicator goes red/empty, I change the battery as soon as I can. I do not try to get every last shot out of the battery, as that risks driving the charge level too low, and the charger may not be able to recharge the battery.
 

Mike Wingate

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I do not think you can limit the charge to 80%. None of my camera and NiMH/NiCd chargers has a % charged indicator. Only on one of my laptops can I control the max charge point. Everything else charges to 100%, or when the battery indicates to the charger that it is fully charged.

Do NOT completely discharge the battery. Many battery chemistries specify a minimum voltage/charge level that the battery should NOT be discharged below. The battery will be damaged by excessive discharge. I am not a battery engineer, so I do not know the how and whys of that.
Some chargers will not charge a battery that is discharged below this level.

When my camera battery indicator goes red/empty, I change the battery as soon as I can. I do not try to get every last shot out of the battery, as that risks driving the charge level too low, and the charger may not be able to recharge the battery.
If the battery runs from 1 bar to the camera shutting down message, there is still some residual power. If you are quick, and manage to recharge the battery within 12 seconds, it will charge again. Longer than 15 seconds and it will still charge again. Leave it for a couple of weeks, and you have a dead battery.
 

PhotoCal

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Any landscape photographers here? How about photographers that appreciate the environment?

If so, you really should reconsider your attitude towards batteries.
They are very environmentally bad to produce and dispose of.
Using only OEM allows me to buy as few as possible- and therefore, recycle as few as possible.

The idea that "third-party batteries are cheap so I buy a lot" really goes against my ethics, and should bother you, too, if you care about the planet and its residents.

I've never had an OEM battery fail/swell in decades of photography.

As for third-party batteries, I have one now that a friend has asked me to dispose of. It's a Wasabi that became swollen after about a year and it no longer fits in the camera (a Panasonic).
 

ac12

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Any landscape photographers here? How about photographers that appreciate the environment?

If so, you really should reconsider your attitude towards batteries.
They are very environmentally bad to produce and dispose of.
Using only OEM allows me to buy as few as possible- and therefore, recycle as few as possible.

The idea that "third-party batteries are cheap so I buy a lot" really goes against my ethics, and should bother you, too, if you care about the planet and its residents.

I've never had an OEM battery fail/swell in decades of photography.

As for third-party batteries, I have one now that a friend has asked me to dispose of. It's a Wasabi that became swollen after about a year and it no longer fits in the camera (a Panasonic).
You have not, but I have.

I have on my desk an Olympus BLN1 battery that is swollen. Not badly, but enough to make it that I have to PULL it out of the camera, rather than easily ejected. To prevent it getting STUCK in the camera, this battery has been removed from use, and is pending disposal.
Even the good stuff fails.

Because of the rather short run time of the EM1-mk1, of only 4 hours continuous (drops to 2-1/2 hours with the 12-100), I have to carry 4 or 5 batteries for a full days shooting. So I have bought a LOT of batteries, for both the EM1-mk1 and mk2. This is the cost of using a mirrorless camera the way I do, lots of batteries.
For comparison, my D7200 will shoot the entire weekend and Monday on a single charge. I have never run down the battery of either of my dSLRs.
 

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