What are the best batteries for your camera flash?

There is a lot to think about when preparing for a professional portrait shoot or wedding when you are a photographer.  One of the most overlooked places is finding the best batteries for your camera flash.  Using the right battery in your flash can mean the difference between getting and missing the shot.   Imagine the perfect moment that you’ve hunted for all evening long and there it is.  You release your shutter and your flash fails to fire.  Uggggh.  Happens all the time.

In this article, we will tell you what we use, why we use them and how to optimize your flash battery life so that you will get more shots with faster recycling times.

The Equipment

We shoot with Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlights and typically set up three off camera flashes at any given wedding.   Throughout this article, we will focus on weddings because that is our primary business.  Yours may be different, but the concepts will be the same.

Using the Nikon Flashes and two cameras (each with a flash) means that we are using twenty-five (25) batteries at any given time.  We want and need our flashes to fire each and every time we tell them to via shutter release, so all of our batteries have to perform at their absolute best.

The Batteries 

For our flashes, we use rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries from Sanyo.   SANYO eneloop 4 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries

By using rechargeable batteries, we gain a couple of advantages:

  1. Rechargeable batteries recover faster than typical alkaline batteries when used in flashes for DSLR cameras.
  2. Over the course of a couple of weddings, they will pay for themselves.  Though they are more expensive to buy on a per battery cost, you can recharge them and use them many times over.

We use these because they discharge very slowly when stored.  This means that we can start charging our batteries for a wedding several days prior to the event and not worry about them still having charge when we arrive.

The Secret

The biggest and most important factor in your battery life and performance, is the charger you use.    Most people don’t realize that if they simply use the charger from Wal-Mart, their batteries will not perform as well as they should.

There are several factors that will make your batteries perform worse:

  • Battery memory
  • Discharging power when storing them
  • Errors when charging

The secret is the battery charger.  Using the proper battery charger can and will bring batteries back from the dead, giving you optimal performance and long usage.  This will help you capture the image you are shooting for and save you money over time.

The Charger

The charger we use is the  La Crosse Technology BC-9009 AlphaPower Battery Charger.  It is an advanced battery charger that costs less than $50.  With it, you will be able to refresh and recharge your batteries under the best possible conditions.  Read all about it by clicking the link above.  We use two of them because we have so many batteries to charge

The Method

When you first buy batteries for your flash, it is best to charge and discharge them 15-20 times.  With the La Crosse Charger, you can set it to “Refresh” which will automatically run this cycle for you over the course of a couple of days.  The charger will charge the batteries up to capacity, then discharge them, then repeat that process 20 times.  This gets the battery to the highest possible capacity.

It is the same with an older battery you might have charged with less advanced chargers.  A few days on the La Crosse, and they will be back to performing almost perfectly.

The La Crosse can also test batteries.  Often, the cheaper chargers will give an error when attempting to charge a battery because the battery has developed a memory.  That “memory” will keep the battery from getting charged correctly.  Running a test will tell you if the battery should be kept or tossed.  Most often, you will find that the battery should be kept.

Low Charging Rate

You can charge your batteries almost as fast as you would like, however the best possible setting is to charge them slowly.  This way, the batteries get the optimal charge and the fullest capacity.

Don’t be fooled by the “Rapid” chargers.  The speed that you get today will cost you later by ruining the battery’s ability to be fully charged or fully discharged

Questions or Comments

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