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My Experiences with 'Decoded' Olympus Batteries (Not Good)

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by hazwing, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Sorry this is gonna be a long post. If you want to avoid the waffle, just skip forward to the table of results.

    When it comes to batteries, I'm usually a believer of 'you get what you pay for'. This is from my experiences using various lithium ion batteries in high powered LED torches. I've generally found that batteries based on name brand cells (such as panasonic and sanyo), tend to provide a capacity that is closer to the specifications. After many cycles, I also find name brand cells tend to hold their capacity better than generic cells. Some generic chinese cells may provide the stated capacity initially, but their capacity tends to drop off quicker after discharge/charge cycles. Internal resistance tends to develop quicker in generic cells as well. What I have said is generalisation.

    Having said that, I do feel there is a role for good quality generic batteries. The significantly lower price can sometimes compensate for the previously mentioned deficiencies.

    Personally, I was after some cheap generic batteries to take with me when travelling. I would usually not need so many batteries at home, so I was fine with something that was cheaper, even if it did not last as long. I wanted batteries that were decoded and able to be charged on the original olympus charger. (I tend to be dubious about the quality of cheaper li-ion chargers, I have come across some that overcharge batteries or do not terminate charge properly.)

    I came across two ebay sellers selling 'decoded olympus OM-D' batteries, so I gave them a punt.
    One seller with ebay name 'bifficus' sold 'Upstart' branded batteries.
    The other seller called 'link-delight-na' sold some generic looking batteries.
    Both claimed to be fully decoded. I also sent an ebay message before hand to confirm whether they would work in the olympus OMD battery charger, both replied to the affirmative.

    On receiving the generic batteries from link-delight-na, I found immediately that they did not work in the olympus OMD charger. Obviously they were not fully decoded as stated. They did supply a generic charger which the batteries did recharge in. However this charger stopped working only after a few times using it.

    The 'Upstart' decoded batteries I received from bifficus did charge in my olympus OMD charger. However, I noticed that these batteries would only charge up to 7.95V. Typically I would expect these batteries to charge to ~8.4V when fully charged. I suspect the genuine olympus batteries have special cells inside which can be charged higher. My genuine olympus battery charges to 8.66V.

    I believe the Upstart batteries can actually be charged higher than 7.95V, but because the battery is not decoded properly it stalls at 7.95V in the olympus charger. I was able to charge the Upstart batteries to ~8.4V on the generic (non-olympus) charger. The generic charger became faulty later and I was not able to run any further tests using the generic charger.

    So I ran some tests on these various batteries and the genuine olympus batteries and here are my results:

    TABLE.

    To summarise the results. The genuine olympus battery actually supplies close to the stated capacity of 1220mah. Using the 'decoded' Upstart batteries on the olympus charger does not fully charge the batteries and only provide a capacity ~720mah. I am able to charge the upstart batteries further on the generic charger. The capacity I get from this ~950-1000mah, still short of the rated 1220mah. The generic batteries on the generic charger also give ~950mah, also less capacity than stated.

    So, lets talk about post-sale service. I'm having all these issues with these batteries and charger, and I've contacted the various sellers with my findings. 'Link-delight-na' ended up giving me a full refund and I am satisfied. I am having trouble dealing with 'Bifficus'. They seem to have limited battery knowledge and understanding of the issue. I've tried communicating with them for sometime, they are slow to reply and I have become fed up. It is now awaiting a paypal dispute resolution. I would say AVOID decoded Upstart batteries and avoid this ebay seller.

    In short, if you can afford it and are after something that will last you longer and actually provide the stated capacity, get the genuine OMD batteries.

    p.s. If you have trouble deciphering what I've said or some of the terms used. I am happy to clarify in further discussion.

    Some product photos (not particularly pretty):

    P3140158-1.

    P3140154.

    (note that message that upstart batteries may stop working if you update your firmware, I've had no issues with it actually working in the camera though)
    P3140155.

    Testing setup:
    P3160159.
     
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  2. savvy

    savvy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    714
    Sep 28, 2012
    SE Essex, UK
    Les
    Disappointing, but not entirely unexpected given the price, news.

    Thanks for doing the legwork on this and sharing with us.

    Good luck on the dispute case, I hope it gets resolved
     
  3. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    I thought I would have better luck with the upstart batteries. They are better packaged and not as cheap as other generics.
     
  4. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    Well, you shouldn't have been surprised at the dismal results; after all, they admitted that they were " lyin' " right on the battery :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:.

    (Sorry, Hazwing - sometimes resisting a pun is beyond my capabilities.)

    I've not done volt/amp testing on the Blue Nook Wasabi cells I purchased for my EM-5, but they seem to last as well as the OEM battery. Part of that may be that I don't shoot a lot of frames on a normal day, thus I don't notice any deficiency in the Blue Nook cells if such a deficiency exists.

    Taking the reduced cost of the third party cells (for $24 one receives two cells, a charger, and a car charger) into consideration I'm happy with the performance of the Wasabi cells. The batteries are, of course, small and light so carrying 2 spares on a day shoot doesn't require much of an effort. On some shoots I'll have tow cells in the camera, one in a pocket; other days I won't have the grip attached and may carry only a single spare cell. I like the insurance of having a spare card and battery even on a short walk-a-bout.

    Amazon.com: Wasabi Power Battery and Charger Kit for Olympus BLN-1, BCN-1 and Olympus OM-D EM-5: Camera & Photo

    The first Wasabi charger I received was defective and Blue Nook was very helpful in getting a no-charge (there's that pun again...:biggrin:) replacement to me. Their service was top notch; after receiving the replacement charger I got a follow up phone call from their service rep, asking if everything was O.K. :thumbup:

    There is one caveat - I don't use the OEM charger when traveling, I use the Wasabi charger. Thus the Wasabi outfit doesn't meet your specifications of using the OEM charger. (The Wasabi charger has a flip-down plug rather than a cord and that can be an advantage in some scenarios, a disadvantage in others).

    Again all of my experience is anecdotal, I've not gotten the multimeter out to look at real world specs.

    Thanks for posting your test shots, it's really nice to see the figures in black and white (or, in this case, in full living color :biggrin:).

    Regards,

    Jim
     
  5. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    Seems to me like buying generic batteries for thousand dollar camera bodies is akin to buying a Porsche and then putting generic tires on it...
     
  6. AceAceBaby

    AceAceBaby Mu-43 Veteran

    249
    Jan 21, 2013
    Eh, two batteries with charger for half the price of a single genuine BLN1, so they cost 25% of the Olympus battery, but give 75% of the performance.

    So you can buy four of these, and get 300% of the battery vs a single BLN1.
    In what way is this any kind of bad deal or disappointment?
     
  7. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    Howdy RT!

    Seems to me it's like buying a car that runs fine on regular unleaded and then putting premium fuel in the tank :biggrin:.

    I equate it with the huge amount that Olympus charges for lens hoods. I'm not sold on the idea that the quality or engineering of the OEM battery in the EM-5 is all that much better than it is in the Wasabi cells (in actual use, not bench testing alone). I think batteries, like lens hoods, are looked on as profit making accessories for Olympus.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that :biggrin:.

    However the caveat remains - I've not done the electrical tests on the Wasabi cells, I'm speaking only from my (limited) experience. I did use 3rd party batteries in my Nikon D300, D70s, and Canon G9 and never experienced any undue problems. Bench testing certainly shows the strength (and weaknesses) of the batteries, but in actual use I don't have a problem with swapping out cells when required.

    Others mileage may vary (depending on the type of gas and tires they use :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:).

    Regards,

    Jim
     
  8. owczi

    owczi nareteV 34-uM

    As an owner of the DSTE generic batteries which were one of the first one to come out I admit they are utter crap - but are better than nothing for use as a last resort backup.

    And so, against my reason I spent the additional cash and I now own 4 BLN1s, two Olympus chargers and a nice Y power cable so I don't waste an extra wall socket.

    Many, maybe even most vendors have a long history of making money on extorsionately priced accessories and trying to prevent the use of generic ones - prime example being printer consumables.

    My advice (and I would have never thought I'd say that) would be to buy the original stuff, but buy them one by one, joining the purchase with a bigger expense such as a lens, to try and force yourself into thinking that you're minimising the damage ;-P
     
  9. owczi

    owczi nareteV 34-uM

    However there are many replacement battery brands with a decent reputation - Hähnel, Hama, Forever and the likes and when they release something it's usually OK capacity wise, and first of all it works. I haven't checked if they have some BLN-1s going yet but when they do I would give those a try.
     
  10. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    775
    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    Except tires affect performance and handling while batteries do not change anything other than the number of shots per battery. The analogy would be more like buying a Porsche and only filling up the tank 3/4 each time you go to the station...
     
  11. ptolemyx

    ptolemyx Mu-43 Veteran

    290
    Jun 19, 2012
    Vancouver, BC
    Ben
    I'm perfectly happy with the 3 DSTE batteries + charger I bought for $35 last year. They hardly weigh a thing, so I have three spares in my Retrospective 5 bag and have never yet run out of juice away from home.

    It's not like I've tried a week-long camping trip in a photogenic environment... but still, can't go wrong for 1/5th the price of OEM. :)
     
  12. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    I don't think thats a truely an apt analogy either.

    I believe the olympus charger and the chip in the olympus oem batteries are partly there for additional safety features (e.g. temperture sensor, etc). There is more to it than just capacity of the battery.

    While I don't like to fear monger, there are instances of li-ion batteries overheating, melting and catching fire. I'm thinking more in the case of laptop batteries, but the issue can also be extrapolated to li-ion camera batteries.
     
  13. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    Happens in OEM batteries too - Nikon users may remember the recall of the EN-EL15 OEM Nikon battery:

    http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Service-.../EN-EL15-Battery-Recall-Service-Advisory.html

    The really bad news for Nikon was that the first replacement batteries they sent out to cover the recalled ones had exactly the same issue :eek:.

    It took awhile to get everything sorted out.

    Regards,

    Jim
     
  14. silver92b

    silver92b Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 7, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    I purchased the Wasabi batteries and charger for my OM-D, and so far they work just fine. The OEM battery is obscenely expensive and even if lasts twice as long as the Wasabi battery, it still costs more than 4X.... I have used non-brand batteries before on other cameras and some where total crap. However, the original batteries were total crap as well (in my old Sony P&S). The Porsche analogies are not applicable. Unless the Wasabi batteries exploded or caught on fire (and they don't), I think they are still a good, price effective option to the OEM product.
    BTW, I still have no-brand batteries in my old Kodak P&S as well as in my Nikon, so far they do a creditable job of powering the cameras.
     
  15. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Note the Wasabi batteries are not decoded.
     
  16. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Yes, so if there are issues that arise with oem batteries... can you image the cr*p that is out there that doesn't have the same quality control standards and probably wouldn't bother with recall?

    I'm happy for people to use generics. I use them myself at times. So long as you are aware of what you are getting into, that you may be forgoing some safety and quality control standards. I usually charge my questionable li-ion batteries in a non-flammable styrofoam box. I'd rather be extra cautious than have my house catch fire.

    I feel there should also be more focus on the generic chargers vs oem chargers as well. The battery is just one side of the equation. A dodgy charger could overcharge your batteries and cause issues as well.

    The fact that the generic charger I received, failed so quickly (and I believe you mentioned you had one fail as well), doesn't leave me with much confidence. I'd hate to bring the generic charger with me on my travels and have it break on me.
     
  17. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    I can imagine, but prefer not to. Keeps me up at night :biggrin:.
    ...

    Yep - I had one charger dead on arrival, which Blue Nook replaced ASAP. The only issues there were (a) Blue Nook was temporarily out of the chargers and I had to wait a few days and (b) I couldn't use the OEM charger to charge the Wasabi cells so they sat discontentedly waiting on the workbench for the replacement charger to arrive.

    ...

    I don't travel to too many out of the way places, and take multiple, previously charged batteries with me when traveling, so I'm fairly comfortable in taking the Wasabi charger. Should it fail I can have a new charger over nighted to wherever I'm staying, or have one sent from home.

    But as you note - them as ain't comfortable using 3rd party gear probably shouldn't. Even if it never, ever fails one would spend one's time being concerned. And if it should fail one would damage one's hand (by slapping it violently against one's forehead :biggrin:).

    BTW - The Wasabi car adapter (which came with the batteries and charger) works well in my Jeep; it's a very handy thing to have on trips.

    ...

    My question would be, does Olympus actually manufacture their own batteries? Or do they farm the job out? Even if the camera manufacturer (such as Nikon) specifies tight tolerances to the out source manufacturer one is still at the mercy of "the lowest bidder" syndrome. Not all camera manufacturers make their own sensors (a firm grasp of the obvious, I know) so can we expect them to make their own batteries?

    That's it, I'm finding all of this too stressful. I'm going to start a new, safer, and cheaper hobby. Like collecting previously owned nuclear warheads... :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

    Regards,

    Jim
     
  18. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Yup, I doubt they manufacture their own batteries... they'd probably outsource it to another company to make. But I'd hoping with what they charge for their batteries, they'd at least outsource it to somewhere that does a decent job.

    :)