SB-800: Lithium Batteries or Rechargeable NiMH?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by t._duane_jones, May 11, 2005.

  1. I shoot weddings with Nikon Digital bodies and SB-800 flash units.
    Up until this point, I have been using Energizer lithium batteries,
    for the fast recycle time and relatively long life. On the downside,
    they are $10.00 for a 4-pack, which gets expensive with 35-40
    weddings each year. Could anyone offer me their advice on using
    rechargeable batteries? Do they recycle as fast and last as long? I
    looked at a Rayovac 15 minute rechargeable unit, with 2000 mAH
    batteries, and it would set me back under $100 with plenty of
    batteries for backups. Thanks to everyone in advance for their help.

  2. I also use the SB-800. I use 2400mAH NiMH batteries. I did a ton of research on these things, and I chose not to get a 15 minute charger. Yeah, it charges your batteries quickly, but it beats your batteries to death because it does it so quickly. I ended up getting a 2 or 3 hour charger. I always bring three sets with me to every wedding but never use them all. I love the NiMH. They are very fast and cost effective.
  3. Same as Todd.

    By the way, you get a heck of a lot of flashes of a set of batteries. I found that out by forgetting to put in a new set!
  4. You can get up to 2500mAh batteries now, maybe even higher. I have a zillion of them
    purchased to run my battery hog Contax N-1. I agree on getting the slower charger, and
    also recommend the kind that also allow total discharge with trickle charge ...

    However I've come to not trust mAh batteries. They discharge themselves pretty quickly,
    and charging is just another thing you must remember to do the night before a wedding.

    Instead I look for bulk AAs (bought two 50 packs of in-date Polaroid brand Super AAs for
    $15. per pack). I've seen the Energizer Liths and Duracell Liths in bulk packs also. Cosco
    sometimes has them. I swap batteries out just before a wedding and then again just
    before the reception ... I keep the used ones to run stuff like my wireless mouse and
    keyboard, and other stuff like that.

    But for pure savings, the nmh batteries are hard to beat.
  5. I use NiMH AAs a lot. I bought the Ansmann "Energy 16" smart charger and have been very happy with it. It handles each battery independently and will evaluate, refresh, and trickle charge up to 12 AAs at once. I've also heard good things about the Maha brand. It's true that they lose charge fairly quickly, so I usually keep 12 AAs "cooking" on the charger until just before a shoot. Sometimes, I let another set go through a charge cycle the night before a wedding. I think they lose 10% (not sure) a day or something like that...
  6. Nadine you selected a good charger. However if your NiMH loose more than 10% per week than you bought poor cells unless this happens when you take them through "bad weather". NiMH should not be charged too fast, at least the ones suited for high capacity. Charging currents of 1/2 to 1 the capacity ( 2000mAh with 1-2 A) should not be exceeded for delta peak charging. A good charger will cost a bit but will be worth it if you use many batteries. BTW: there are still NiCd batteries out there. If the capacity is sufficient take them - these can live 5-7 years (e.g. Sanyo)
  7. I used the Maha brand this weekend for the first time and I was really pleased. I'd had problems with recycling when using the AAs and didn't have a single incident with these new batteries! The ones I use can be switched from a quick charge to a slow charge. I used the slow charge for this weekend.
  8. lb-


    second the recommend for the Maha nimh batts and chargers.

    I'm now using the newee MH-C204W chargers and the powerex 2300 mAh batts for the
    canon ex flashes and they're working really great. the chargers are really small and have
    no "wall wary" power adapters, just a detachable standard cord. I regularly get thorugh a
    whole wedding without needing to change batts (and I'm not shy about using my flash).


  9. Well I checked on the self-discharge rate, and I did read on one website ( that they lose 10% in 24 hours--maybe its the first 24 hours after taking off charge (?). Another place stated 30% in a month. Also the rate varies depending on temperature.
  10. lb-


    wow, spell check!

    that's "newer" and "wall warts"
  11. The modern day NiMh are nothing like the ones from the 80's & 90's.<br>
    If you haven't tried them yet, you must.<br>
    Really... unless you are shooting indoor sports, you really don't need Quantum Turbo...<br>
    I also believe (like the prior poster) that extreme fast charger is not good.<br>
  12. I have been using NiMH exclusively for at least five years. I've probably saved enough
    money in batteries to buy a body.

    The smart way to use NiMH is to have 2x what you need. We have two ten battery smart
    chargers with a trickle charge maintenance mode so that the batteries just stay in the
    charger and are 100% when you take them out, regardless of how long they have been in
    the charger.

    Anytime we leave the studio to shoot, everything that needs an AA get's a fresh swap from
    the charger, that way we know we have consistently fresh power, no questions, and you'll
    never forget to charge your batteries.

    Far cheaper, cleaner, and consistent than even top-quality lithiums.
  13. NiMH recycles pretty fast, is cheap, and holds quite a bit of charge, relative to the models of a few years ago. The trick is to spend a bit on a high quality charger (think $50+) and have plenty in the charger.

    You should definitely get the Nikon 5th battery add-on for the SB-800. It cuts down full recycle time by almost 50%.
  14. The instruction book of the sb800 says that the nimhs recycle faster than lithiums. My experiece proves this to be true. I have found I also get more flashes per charge. I have the 2200 and 2300 mah batts from energizer. Also I have that 15 minute charger that everyone is afraid of. I can't imagine a better set-up that I currently have for my flash.
  15. Quite honestly, I can't even fathom how anyone can even think of shooting a wedding on AA batteries. That's really expensive, inefficient and may catch you with your pants down while you're changing batteries. The quantum batteries are way overpriced, and I've found them to be less than stellar performers. I have found a solution. I use plain lead-acid batteries that you find in computer uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). They're cheap (from $10-$15) and I can shoot two weddings on a single charge with a 4ah unit and I can shoot almost 4 weddings on a single charge with a 7ah unit. Here are the batteries I use: The 12v 4ah battery: 6v 4ah unit
  16. Here's the 12v 4ah battery:
  17. Sorry, posted wrong pic.
  18. If you read the SB-800 manual on page 121, you'll find that using 5 2000 mAh NiMH cells will result in the third highest number of flashes and the fastest recycle time of the various battery options available for an SB-800 using only the accessories included in the box. In fact, the SB-800 recycles twice as fast with 5 2000 mAh or larger NiMH cells than it does with any number of lithium cells.

    For large numbers of flashes, NiMH cells have the lowest cost per flash even when you take into consideration cost of the charger. If you have other equipment which takes AA cells, your effective cost may be even lower.

    I keep three sets of batteries for the SB-800. With one known charged in the camera bag, one of somewhat unknown charge in the flash, and one on the charger, I'm always ready. I own both a rapid charger which I keep in the camera bag and an 8 hour charger I use at home.

    Claims about rapid chargers quickly and permanently reducing battery capacity should be taken with a grain of salt. In many of these tests, the capacity check is done immediately after a rapid charger reports the cells are ready. In the case of many chargers with simple status indication, the charger may report cells are ready after the rapid charging is complete even though a full charge may take two or more hours. Since most rapid chargers which claim a 15 or 30 minute charge actually achieve only around an 80% charged condition during the rapid charging interval, these test results will be horribly skewed.
  19. I also shoot with Nikon bodies(and the Fuji S3), and alternate between the Q flash and the SB800, depending on what I'm doing.

    I use a Maha charger for the AA NiMH batteries and it works well.
    The3 NiMH's have a long life, but changing them is still a pain, whenever it has to be done. So, when I know I'll be doing a lot of shooting, I use the Quantum Turbo Compact. It weighs one pound, and can power the flash and/or the camera. It attaches easily to the bottom of the camera. It frees me from having to worry about missing a moment while I'm changing batteries.
  20. Oops! Don't want to add confusion to this. The "3" slipped in there.
    It doesn't belong ("The3 NiMH...")
  21. Thanks to everyone for their advice and insight.

  22. Shooting with AA's probably isn't the best idea for weddings but unless you're ready to buy & figure out a more advanced system, they work. I have 2300-2500mAh energizers with a duracell 1-hr 4-battery, individual charger. Each cell is charged independently so the instant one is charged, you can pop it out and keep going. It's never burned up a battery but as hot as they get, something much faster would send them past the 150deg safety point. I've used NiMH for a while and have great success with them. They seem to work just fine and keep trucking for quite a long time.
    Charge them all up the night before so all are ready to go in the morning for a wedding or otherwise. A 8 pack costs $16 at walmart, charger was $24. I want to build/buy a charging cable for my truck so I can do that, too.
    The fall-down of NiMH is their self-discharge. Don't let them sit for a month and expect to just pick them up and crank - you won't. Prior planning prevents poor performance.
  23. Sold my Quantum Turbo--the rechargeable 2300 mAh AA ~ are great. 12 batteries and charger for $25 >>> runs my 580EX flash -all day- for fill. Have a T4 Quantum for speed/key light day~~~But rarely need.
  24. << charging is just another thing you must remember to do the night before a wedding. >>

    If you use a quality charger you can leave the NiMHs in for extended periods of time without damage. The unit will trickle charge the batteries, keeping them fresh, and you simply pop them out of the charger before you leave.
  25. Alexander O.<br>
    You have no clue. Oh well...
  26. Derek C:

    Using a 6v SLA battery wired to the GND and +6v pins in the SB-800's 3-pin power connector will result in a slightly less than 3 second recycle time (the fastest possible with the SB-800's internal power supply) and a pretty decent number of flashes per charge. If you can make the required cable or a battery substitution block, it's a good way to save money over an off-the-shelf external flash power supply provided you can deal with the longer recycle times.

    With the capacity of NiMH cells steadily increasing though, the gap is closing and it starts to make less and less sense to carry around a big hunk of lead. After all, a very heavy 7.5AH SLA battery has only 3x more energy than a set of 2500 mAh AA's...

    Of course there's still reasons to use an external battery with integrated power supply. Most of these will output high voltage to the third pin in the SB-800's 3-pin power connector, resulting not only in a high number of flashes between recharging but also in very short recycle times.
  27. "Derek C. , may 12, 2005; 11:45 p.m.
    Alexander O.
    You have no clue. Oh well..."

    Dear Dereck,

    What ever lack of clue I have or don't have comes from having shot over 600 weddings. I've never found the NiMH batteries to deliver stated capacity. Just as I've never found Quantums to deliver stated capacity.

    Is a lead acid big and bulky? Yes. However, I can easily shoot 2 weddings on a single charge. During the height of the weddings season, it's not uncommon for me to shoot 2 weddings in a day. There's no time to recharge the batteries, so knowing that I can do 2 per charge is priceless to me. Furthermore, given that I shoot the entire job double lit, I have to worry about my slave light's battery as well. This way, I don't have to.
  28. I used to use rechargeable AA Ni-Cads. Back in the late 1970's I built a D cell pack for my Vivitar 283 using a couple dollars worth of parts from Radio Shack and switched to alkalines. D cells cost about double the price of AA calls but have 8 times the capacity. When you shoot a bunch of photos in a short span of time those AA cells get very warm. The heat destroys them quickly. D cells will stay nice and cool. Since then I just buy alkaline D cells when they're on sale.

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