Choosing the Right Camera Batteries

The Camera Battery is No Longer Simple

A rechargeable camera battery.
MousePotato/Getty Images

The camera battery has evolved and it is not as simple as picking up a pack of AAs at the drug store anymore. Many cameras use very specific batteries that can only be found at camera or computer stores.

The battery is the power source for your digital camera and it is essential that you use the correct battery in order for your camera to work correctly when you need it to. Remember, without a good battery, you cannot take a picture!

Proprietary vs. Common Batteries

The majority of cameras now require a certain style of battery for a particular camera. Battery styles vary by both manufacturer and camera model. It is very important to purchase the battery made specifically for your camera model!

Do a search for 'Nikon battery' or 'Canon battery' and you will find many different shapes of batteries even within that particular manufacturer. Some are for point and shoot cameras while others are for DSLR cameras.

The nice thing is that most (not all!) DSLR cameras by one manufacturer use the same style of battery. This is convenient when upgrading bodies because you can (again, in most cases) use the same batteries in your new camera that you did in the old camera.

On the other side, there are a few cameras that continue to use common battery sizes such as AAA or AA. This is found most often in point and shoot cameras.

Some DSLR cameras can be fitted with a vertical grip accessory that holds two of the brand's proprietary batteries and this could also be adapted to fit the common battery sizes.

Check your camera body's accessory list to see if this is possible.

Types of Batteries

Disposable Batteries

For cameras that use AA or AAA batteries, disposables should only be used in an emergency when no charger is available. They are too expensive to use every day.

Try carrying disposable lithium AAs for emergencies.

They are more expensive, but they hold three times the charge and weigh about half as much as standard alkaline AA batteries.

Common Rechargeable AAs and AAAs (NiCd and NiMH)

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries are more efficient than the older Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries.

NiMH batteries are more than twice as powerful, and they also have no "memory effect," which is the effect that builds up if you re-charge a NiCd battery before it's fully discharged. The memory effect essentially reduces the maximum capacity of future charges, and the memory effect becomes worse if repeated.

Rechargeable Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)

These are the most commonly used style of battery in digital cameras, particularly in DSLRs. They are lighter, more powerful, and more compact than NiMH batteries, but they do cost more.

Li-ion batteries come in brand-specific formats, although a few cameras accept disposable lithium batteries (such as CR2s) via an adapter.

Brand Name vs. Generic Batteries

Today's camera manufacturers are also in the battery business. They produce their proprietary batteries under their name so consumers get a battery they can (hopefully) trust. Canon and Nikon both produce batteries for every camera they sell and many other camera manufacturers do as well.

As is often the case, generic brands do exist in the digital camera market. They are the exact size and shape of the brand name batteries and will often have the same output of power. They are also considerably cheaper.

While all generic batteries are not bad, caution should be taken when buying one. Read reviews!

The problem may not be seen immediately with generic batteries, but it may appear in the future. One of the most common issues is the battery's ability to hold a good charge in a year or two. Granted, it is not unheard of for any rechargeable battery to go weak, but it often seems that generics go weaker more quickly than the brand names.

The point is that you should do your research. Consider whether the money saved on a generic battery today is worth the potential problems and quicker replacement that may be required.