The dull thing that haunts my head all the time is that we have to charge everything in this life, our cell phones, our camera, our cars, our flashlights, and all our electronic devices batteries.
When it comes to keeping the juice up in your speedlites however, there any many choices. AA batteries come in all chemicals sorts, power, and colors. Speedlites are juice thirsty devices and many hazards come along with using the wrong type of batteries and even chargers.
Many elements come at hand when using batteries for a device that you highly depend on in events, parties, and weddings. Those elements are cost, capacity, availability, charging speed, discharging speed, shelf life, heat, and environmental impact.
One-time Use Batteries
Those non-chargeable batteries are available everywhere. You can find them on the road in gas stations, retail stores, supermarkets, etc. They are relatively cheap on one time basis but become expensive on the long run if you are only using them as an option. You can use those safely if you have forgot to charge your speedlite batteries or you can use them as backup. I always keep a dozen in my camera bag.
Pros: inexpensive, widely available, and have long shelf life (if not used)
Cons: single use, slow recycling time, excessive heat, non-environment friendly
These batteries are hard to find but if you found a dozen just buy them and throw them in your bag because they last a long time and they have a tendency to maintain juice. However, under the demanding speedlite power needs, those lithium batteries are reported to not perform quickly as they should be i.e. they are reluctant to release their juice.
Pros: long shelf life, lightweight, can tolerate a long range of temperature
Cons: relatively expensive, excessive heat
Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)
Those are the go-to batteries for standard rechargeable AA these days. These batteries have a high capacity and provide a rapid recycling time for the speedlite. BEcause they discharge quickly in idle time, you have to make sure you charge these not more than 24 hours before your shoot.
Pros: high capacity among other rechargeable batteries, and fast speedlite recycling
Cons: discharge quickly when not used
Low-Discharge Nickel-Metal Hydride (LD-NiMH)
These guys hold their juice for up to a year and more without having to recharge them. However, in terms of capacity, they are 20% or more less than regular NiMH, so it's a tradeoff...
Pros: good shelf life, fast recycling
Cons: lower capacity than regular NiMH
There might be other types, like the Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) in the market however those were reported to short circuit and damage your speedlite so stay away from those. But what is the conclusion of all of the above? Well, as you might have deduced, there is no best battery. It all depends on the situation that you are in and if maximum power or shelf life matters the most to you. When finding them matters, any Alkaline AA will do but make it a habit to check their expiry dates before you buy them as the longest the expiry date the fresher they are.
- Keep extra Alkalines in your bag
- Avoid mixing batteries and battery types in the flash unit
- Charge them together
- When the juice is exhausted bundle them using a rubber band so they stick together in their batch
- Write the purchase date on each battery and replace them after 1 year max
- Carry more than two sets of batteries and label them per set and date
- You don't need all that speedlite power 1/1. So start with 1/16 and increase / decrease as needed. This will guarantee a prolonged capacity and quicker recycle times
- When charging batteries, make sure you have a good charger and don't mix empty ones with half empty ones as inexpensive charger don't have dedicated circuits per battery and usually they charge in pairs so if one battery is full it will stop charging the rest
I hope that shed a small light on your speedlite power strategy. If you have additional tips and want to contribute to this article, you are welcomed to do so.