Which AA batteries last the longest in cameras, speedlights and other gadgets?
As a photographer and videographer, I get most of my power for a host of gadgets and gear from AA batteries. Using standard disposable batteries or rechargeable ones, I use them in devices such as:
- Speedlights (2x Canon 580EX II Speedlight‘s)
- Battery Packs for Speedlights
- Pocket Wizards (x2)
- LED Lighting
- Radio mics
- Zoom H6 audio recorder
When using the AA batteries in my speedlights, I tend to currently use the Energizer (2450 mAh) rechargeable batteries. These last really well and I have used the same batteries for quite a while.
However, even rechargeable batteries have a shelf life and recently, I have had a few go bad on which leaked into my charging units rendering them useless.
Whenever I am on a job, especially weddings, I always have at least 20 Duracell Plus Power AA batteries with me as back up to the rechargeable batteries. This gives me peace of mind knowing “I’ve got the power”!
I was recently watching an unrelated review and the guy mentioned that he always used Lithium AA batteries. Now I use Lithium batteries in my Inspire 1 drone and cameras but have never used the AA type so I did some research.
I found the ones I was looking for and bought a box of 24 for £36.
I thought that was quite expensive but after reviewing them, I think they are superb (see video above for test results in action). It is a false economy to buy cheap AA batteries as you will end up buying a hell of a lot more than if you were to fork out a bit more for high quality AA batteries from the start.
For my tests, I bought a range of AA batteries including:
- Wilko Functional AA Batteries – £1 for 12 (0.08p each)
- Energiser Eco Advanced AA batteries (last 80% longer apparently) – £4.95 for 4 (£1.24 each)
- Duracell Ultra Power AA Batteries (their number 1 battery) – £4.65 for 4 (£1.16 each)
- Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries – £34.89 for 24 (£1.45 each)
To test them, I ran each set of four through my Canon 580EX II speedlight on full power to see how many flashes I got. These are the results:
At 0.08p each, I wasn’t expecting much and I wasn’t disappointed.
The first flash fired and then I had to wait a fair bit before there was enough charge for the second. In all, I got just 20 flashed before the battery was exhausted and by the end, I was waiting for more than 20-30 seconds for each re-charge.
Useless for speedlights and power hungry gadgets but possibly ok for low power things such as your computer mouse.
Energiser Eco Advanced AA batteries – £1.24 each
I love Energizer batteries and rarely have any problems with them other than a “leaky death” after a lot of use when using the rechargeable batteries.
These Eco Advanced batteries lasted for 229 flashes before I hit the 30 second barrier for enough recharge to fire again. Up to around 100 flashes, I had to wait about 5 seconds between each manual flash. Later, it would rise to about 16 seconds when I reached half power and then 30 seconds at the end and counting.
Excellent batteries and very reliable. Good for speedlights and they would be excellent for any less power hungry gadgets.
Duracell Ultra Power AA Batteries – £1.16 each
I prefer Energizer AA batteries for my rechargeable stock for powering my speedlights and Duracell for my back-up or “go to” battery when I need something powerful and reliable for any gadget when the Energizers are not charged or available.
Either the Energizer or Duracell batteries are great for just about anything.
Surprisingly, I got the exact same amount of flashes (229) out of the Duracell AA batteries before I reached the 30 second benchmark for powering up for the next discharge.
Again, excellent batteries.
Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries – £1.45 each
I was expecting big things from these batteries but the first thing I noticed was how light they were and I got worried. After all, the poor, poor, Wilko batteries were very light, almost the same weight as these, and were awful.
The other two, more expensive and powerful batteries were reassuringly heavy and lasted very well.
So, how did they do?
After 59 flashes, they stopped and got incredibly hot so I took them out of the Canon 580EX II.
(Apparently the Canon Speedlights have an internal security system whereby they will shut down in the case of overheating which is cool…pun intended).
I was gutted and thought that was that. I went online to Amazon looking for the supplier so I could get a returns ticket. I was fuming as I had high hopes.
After a while, the batteries had cooled right down so I put them back in the speedlight and continued firing. I got up to 82 and they overheated again. Did the same and got to 124 so I continued…
- …and finally 466
By the time I got to 466, I reached the 30 second threshold so I stopped.
As my office cooled after opening a window, I seemed to get longer periods of firing and got up to 80 flashes in a row before the batteries overheated. After all, I was firing at full power as soon as they had recycled each time.
However, this didn’t happen with the other two sets so I put it down to the fact that Lithium batteries are obviously made differently and react more to high usage.
Because of this, I wanted to check that the other batteries had indeed been depleted so once they had cooled down, I put them back in but only managed a few flashes before they died again., They have now gone into my “reserve PC mouse” box of old AA batteries.
Lithium batteries are well known for overheating when used in an extreme way such as this. It is best not to do what I did and fire continuously at full power until depleted and I suspect that in most cases, photographers do not work this way.
So, for an extra 20% or so in cost, I got more than 100% extra use out of the lithium AA batteries…not bad!
For any other piece of equipment other than speedlights, I would think that overheating would not be an issue so I will monitor all my other gadgets that now use lithium batteries and report back as and when.
Other uses for lithium batteries:
- Pocket Wizards
- Audio Equipment
- LED Lighting
- Remote Controls
- Some Cameras
Advantages for using lithium
- Value – More expensive but last way longer
- Recycle times
- Much lighter
Disadvantages for using lithium
- Overheat quicker
- Will possibly stop the unit working until they cool down