[Cdt-l] digital cameras and lithium batteries

Terry Norton terry.norton at msubulldogs.org
Sat Mar 7 09:57:45 CST 2009

Hi All,

Being a battery geek (I have designed battery systems for laptops & mp3
players.), I have to point out a few things.  We need to make a distinction
between the AA/AAA disposable lithium (aka: photo/flash) batteries and the
rechargeable lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries.

The AA/AAA disposables are wonderful for running cameras and GPS units.  In
these high demand applications they can last 2 - 4 times longer than
alkaline batteries. They are also less sensitive to cold than alkaline.
They also have a low "self-discharge rate" which means they lose their
charge slowly if they are not in use.  (i.e., take them out of any device
for long term storage)  On the PCT, I usually filled a 1GB memory card
without a problem with a fresh pair of AA Lithiums with my Canon Powershot
A500 series.

The rechargeable lithium batteries are a different beast.  They are very
sensitive to cold, and lose storage capacity over time (~20% per year).  On
the other hand, they charge quickly and are fairly reliable. (I will ignore
the problems of self-immolation seen with earlier laptop batteries.)  Most
modern compact digital cameras can get 200 - 400 photos with a freshly
charged lithium battery. (The tests assume flash on, LCD on, but no video
mode or photo viewing.)  If your battery is over a year or two old, consider
getting a new one for the journey.

Alkaline batteries are still more than adequate for headlamps, etc. When I
was on the PCT in 2006 there was an assumption that disposable lithium
batteries were somehow more environmentally friendly than alkaline
batteries.  The major concern with alkaline batteries used to be the mercury
content which has been removed from modern battery chemistries.

I have to add a disclaimer here for those who use batteries in life saving
equipment.  Use only the battery type specified by the manufacturer.  As an
avalanche safety instructor, I am seeing issues with using lithium batteries
in avalanche beacons.  Although the beacon may transmit correctly on
disposable lithium batteries, I have seen multiple cases of receive/loacate
issues with lithiums.

OK, I am dropping out of geek mode and returning to the comraderie of the
Rockies Ruck.


On Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 8:29 PM, Rod Belshee <rbelshee at hotmail.com> wrote:

>  Lithium lasts forever. I had resupply boxes shipped to me with the
> assumption of new batteries every few weeks, and soon found myself carrying
> multiple spares and periodically shipping them home. For the entire CDT I
> used three sets, and even then none actually ever went dead, I just changed
> them to be sure. I kept about a thousand photos, took even more.
> Steady
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