solar charger

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jules_riding, Jan 26, 2010.

  1. I want to take my Canon 50D on a long hiking trip. Can someone recommend a solar charger for the 50D battery pls?!
     
  2. Is there such a thing?
     
  3. Best Bet would be a cheap Battery Grip from E bay e.g.
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Battery-Grip-...emQQptZBatteries_Chargers?hash=item4ced552358
    I have bought and used one of these and apart from the Canon logo on the front they work exactly the same as the genuine one. Why? well you just need to carry AA batteries which are probably readily available wherever you travel.
    If you need to travel outwith civilisation and charging on the go is essential then solar AA chargers are going to be a much easier option try
    http://www.voltaicsystems.com/
    There are portable aa chargers which are very cheap but in all honesty the charging times per battery and power output wont really be practical to run your camera for any length of time.

    However these are expensive options and the grip with a good supply of AA seems the most ideal option.
     
  4. Here are some options at REI:
    http://www.rei.com/search?query=solar+charger
    Most of them are designed for designed for devices that would normally take charging power from a computer USB connection.
    The problem is that chargers for Canon batteries are relatively high output devices (8.4VDC @ 1.2A), and a solar charger that would produce that is probably a lot larger than you'll want to backpack. As Gary said, the grip/AA battery option is probably the best, although I'd strongly recommend the original Canon grip. Reliability is a very big issue on the trail...
     
  5. I don't know about the 50D but when I had a 5D with the Canon battery pack it came with an insert to use AA batteries. It was a waste of time using AA batteries. Even the instruction manual stated that AA's were somewhat for "emergency use" as the number of shots available was ridiculously low. I recall getting less that 30 shots with known good 2500mh cells. (there was a thread on this several months ago confirming the short life of AA's - try doing a search). I'd suggest just getting a couple spare standard Canon lithium ion batteries. Is this just a day trip or are you going camping for several days? If several days perhaps bring along the Canon battery charger (it's small and very light). You might come across an electrical outlet in your travels.
     
  6. Just buy two or three generic batteries for the 50D and charge them all before you go. Adorama has them for $9.95. I bought one and it lasts at least as long as the genuine Canon. Unless you are taking a million shots or using the camera more than a week, you should be fine with an arsenal of 4 batteries total.
     
  7. I don't know how often you'll be back at the car, but I bought a cigarette lighter to power outlet adapter so I can use my regular battery charger in the car when I'm on trips.
     
  8. This comment is probably totally irrelevant but, in case you won't find a solution that you like for your 50D, I just want to mention that some of Fuji's compact cameras (for instance F30/31) have incredible battery life. Film SLR bodies do too...
     
  9. How long is long and how many shots do you intend on taking? If you're going to be out less than a month or two and are only going to be taking a couple thousand shots then just grab 4 or 5 generic extra batteries and you will be more than fine. It will weigh less than the solar charging kit, take up less room, and be cheaper especially if you already don't own a power inverter or a 12v charger for your battery as solar chargers are DC devices. Also, many of the solar chargers don't output 12V, making the procurement of a proper inverter/charger a bit more difficult.
    If you're going to be out longer than a month or two or plan on taking more than a couple thousand shots then you should probably look into solar chargers. Keep in mind that unless you are in a particularly sunny area (i.e. a desert), most of the affordable (and packable) options will take 6-12 or more hours (!) to charge your battery (they put out between 100-200mAh). As for the unaffordable options (>300USD), I can't really give you any feedback as I haven't really played with any.
     
  10. Buy a 12V charger and a Silva charger
    http://www.sailgb.com/p/silva_solar_ii_12v_charger/
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Still only 350mAh so you're talking a couple hours in absolutely perfect (desert at the equator) sunlight to charge a battery. Might work if you plan on spending half a day in one place or find someway of rigging it to your backpack. $129.00 buys a lot of spare batteries.
     
  12. I don't know about the 50D but when I had a 5D with the Canon battery pack it came with an insert to use AA batteries. It was a waste of time using AA batteries. Even the instruction manual stated that AA's were somewhat for "emergency use" as the number of shots available was ridiculously low. I recall getting less that 30 shots with known good 2500mh cells.​
    From one review on the B&H web site for the BG-E4
    Worst case scenario: You're covering an event for apublication. Your batteries loose their charge (even thoughstrangely, you charged them overnight), you're no where nearan outlet, the one-of-a-kind battery charger that plugs intothe car's cigarette lighter won't work and you have 6 morehours to cover. Luckily, I had this battery grip. We made a run to the gasstation across the street and bought 12 AA batteries and wasable to continue shooting until the end. I got the shot,the editor is happy, and all is well. Was able to shoot 2500images (no flash) on 12 AA's. The grip holds 6, but I wasn'tsure how long they would last. I probably got about 1700images on the first 6. Probably not suppose to use alkalinebatteries in this thing, but it was better than not beingpaid for the job. Moral of the story: Always have back-ups for your back-ups!​
    To get only 30 shots from a set of batteries would require the batteries having a capacity factor below 100mah. Old carbon zinc AA batteries will give 1000mah. Eveready Lithium AA are much higher. Steve, you got only 30 shots because you had a dead battery mixed in with the set. Rechargeable batteries loose charge sitting on the shelf, sometimes very quickly. I think Canon states AA's are only for emergencies because they want you to buy their batteries, not AA batteries made by someone else.
    As for the hiking trip, if your hiking trip is going to be only a week or two several Canon rechargeable batteries should do fine. For anything longer using AA batteries and a battery grip is your best choice. Most solar rechargers I have seen are for cell phones and won't recharge rechargeable AA batteries or Canon batteries. Furthermore you would probably need a rather large panel to recharge them in a day.
     
  13. Gary: I don't see a contradiction. The second link you provided shows the person's findings agree with my experience. Copied here:
    "My only personal experience with this experience is that my Rebel XT with 6 x AA 2500mAh batteries fresh out of the box (factory charge only) shut itself down after somewhere between 20 and 30 exposures."
    Steve F: As I previously stated, all the cells were fine. I tested them in a LaCrosse unit that does a fairly comprehensive test. The cells worked fine in a pair of 580 flashes (before and after using in the camera). I understand that on paper AA's "should" have the ampacity to drive a camera for longer that 30 shots. However, I've seen enough reports on this issue combined with my own experience to conclude that AA's as a replacement for factory lithium ion cells will work but not for a long time. Ironically when I went from film to digital I was using Nikon F4S bodies. These come from the factory using 6 AA cells. I ran the heck out of those cameras and never had issues with short battery life.
     
  14. Addendum to previous post. I checked with a friend who has a 30D and the associated battery pack and he said the instruction manual specs state that battery life with the BP-511A lithiun ion battery is approximately 1400 shots. Battery life with AA cells is 60. Both specs per CIPA rating. There was a note saying battery life will drop when using the monitor and shooting only using auto-focus (?).
     
  15. I got a battery grip for my 20D and used it exactly twice. It ran through a set of new AAs in about 50 shots.
     
  16. I used to have one of these folding solar panels, it took cigarette lighter style plugs. In 2005 I took it to Kenya while I was doing volunteer work there. I don't know if these things have improved, but back then they were useless. It took about 6 hours to charge the battery in my Palm PDA when it was turned off, I imagine the batteries for a DSLR have a much higher capacity, so that'll take even longer.
    Bob Keefer: I've got a third party grip on my 20D, it eats through a set of freshly charged batteries in a few days, if you don't turn the grip off with the power button on the side. You don't even have to take any pictures...
     
  17. Funny, this guy asks for a solar charger, and all he gets are recommendations for batterypacks (extra weight == last thing you want when hiking), using AA's (weigh more, and when you can buy those, you can also find a wall-socket to charge) and other cameras (?!)...
    Jules, check out this article by outdoor photographer Thom Hogan.
    So yes, it IS possible, and it IS effective...
     
  18. There are two types of solar charging cells... a high-output form that uses a stiff (in other words if you bend it kiss it goodbye) cell arrangement, and a low-output form in a flexible unit. The high-output units suffer a severe loss of efficiency if any portion of the panel is shaded. The low-ouput units are more forgiving of conditions. A 0.5 Amp high-output unit is larger than your backpack however. A small, flexible AA charging unit could be set up charging on top of your backpack while you are moving or stopped to get you ready for when the need arises.
    If you look for marine sources you'll find a lot of salt-resistant, water-resistant units available. It's a common theme among boaters.
    As an aside, both my Jeeps have solar battery trickle chargers on them, and the batteries stay in 'like new' condition for a long time.
     
  19. B.J., while I can't speak for everyone who responded, I proferred my advice as the solar panels currently available that could charge your battery in a reasonable amount of time are ineffecient, heavy (why do you assume that these things are lighter than batteries?), bulky, and expensive. 4 to 5 batteries would weigh less, cost less, and be far more reliable for any trip lasting less than a month and involving less than several thousand shots.
    If the OP is going on a trip outside of those parameters, there are many options available, but that is a pretty rare trip to be going on. Then all sorts of other parameters begin to matter. What are the prevailing weather conditions, especially temp and sunlight? How many shots/day? How long of a trip? How much weight is available?
    As for your article, while useful, please keep in mind the author was using porters(!) to drag most of his equipment and this was a professional photo trip rather than a hike. That solar roll he talks about costs over 300 bucks, weighs over a pound (17 ounces + 7 for a charger = ~4 BP511A batteries) , is not easily packable (14x57 inches, even rolled takes up some room), and will still take several hours to charge a battery in good light. Perfect for some applications, not for most typical applications.
     
  20. Craig, you were indeed one of the few who responded on topic. I just thought it funny how few people did.

    As for cost: If you have a 50D, you're obviously not skimping on expenses. Also, a grip for that 50D plus 4 batteries will set you back about the same amount as that solar panel will.

    I'm not saying solar charging is the best option, but it was what the OP asked for, so I gave the information I knew about (though I missed the bit about porters). But a solar charger has the advantage of having the option to charge. Extra batteries will still run flat, it'll just take more time. A well placed solar panel will charge a battery, even if it might take a while, so if all your batteries are empty, you only need to wait.

    Which solution would work better? Don't know. This is exactly the reason why I shoot slides when I go hiking. But the OP didn't ask that :)

    Regards,
    Bernard
     
  21. There is one thing that everyone is over looking. If you use anything else besides Canon batteries and Grip and your camera breaks down or has a malfunction. One of the first things they want to know is all the equipment genuine Canon. And if your equipment is still under warranty and you do not use Canon grip and or batteries. Your warranty now is null and void. They will not cover you on the warranty.
     
  22. I'm 1-series user and 3'rd party chargers are unavailable AFAIK, so I took slightly different route than I will outline here.
    Your problem has two parts.
    • charging device
    • solar panel
    Charging device is not big deal, this one looks fine: http://www.suntekstore.com/Home---Travel---Car-Charger-for-Canon-DV-Battery-BP-511-BP-511A-BP-512-BP-522-BP-535--US-Standard--.html
    Just one thing you should keep in mind - voltage of "12V" solar panel varies widely between 10-25+ Volts. Make sure, your charging device doesn't have "overvoltage" protection, which will render it unusable under good light with strong panel.
    As for solar panel - it is more difficult to get the right one. YOU have to answer question - how you will charge ? Stationary (lunch break) or on the go. For lunch break charging, you need panel with good output to charge fast even under overcast skies. For panels to be used "on the go", portability, possibility to mount it to backpack etc..
    Without going into in depth into battery charging theories, you better have something in range 10W+.
    Brunton Solaris 6, 12, 26 or Solar Gorilla fit the bill well. They are different animals - Solar Gorilla seems to be more sensitive under indirect sunlight (overcast, shadows under blue skies), Brunton packs more power/weight.
     
  23. Would be nice to share with us your experience with setup you've taken after you are back from the trip. Good luck :)
     

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