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BATTERY SURVEY

INTRO

Spare batteries are usually at the top of most camcorder owners shopping list of accessories so we've put together the most comprehensive camcorder battery survey yet published, to see how they rate in terms of performance, and value for money

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Nickel-cadmium batteries have become something of a hobby-horse for us at Video Camera, since we ran our revealing in-depth guide to rechargeable batteries last year. Your continued response to that article confirms our belief that nicads are a major source of concern for many camcorder owners, alarmed by the fact that a new battery can be rendered almost useless with as little as six months use.

We showed that the problem lies mainly with the fast-chargers

supplied with camcorders which cause the build-up of the capaci­ty-draining memory and cell imbalance effects. In past months we've dealt with battery-care products, like dischargers and slow chargers but now we think its about time we adressed the batteries themselves.

To keep it as simple as possible we've only tested third-party accessory batteries, rather than manufacturers own replacements, and we've concentrated on the popular 6-volt NP-style battery, the type that fit most Sony, Sanyo and Fuji machines; similar types, with different contact and retaining lug layouts, are used on JVC, Panasonic, Hitachi and Canon palmcorders.

As there are so many different capacities (measured in ampere­hours or Ah) direct comparisons are difficult so we've devised a simple formulae, we call it the pounds per ampere-hour factor, or PPA. In other words it shows how much each ampere­hour costs in pounds. This is calculated by dividing the suggested retail price by the stated capacity. Obviously this is not an infallible way of assessing value for money, but it is a good general guide and as you will see lower capacity batteries, (1-1.2Ah) -- the same as those supplied as standard with most machines --  tend to look like a relatively poor

deal and clearly they have the shortest running times. This reflects camcorder and battery manufacturers marketing poli­cies, they're the ones dealers tell us they sell the most of...

One potential problem we've uncovered in the course of this investigation is that some of the cheaper nicad batteries fitted with low-grade cells cannot cope with repeated fast­discharging and after only a few cycles may suffer reduced capacity. This problem has only recently surfaced with the growth in popularity of self-powered video lights; these batteries are normally okay when only used to power a camcor­der. There's no easy way of telling which sort of cell is in a particular battery without pulling it apart, though one or two battery manufacturers helpfully mention the make of cells used on the packaging or in the instructions.

If you're thinking of using your spare battery to power a light our advice is to avoid unmarked, unbranded or suspiciously cheap batteries. As a general rule we recommend getting the

largest battery you and your camcorder feel comfortable with but be warned, some of the higher-capacity types weigh almost as much as some palmcorders!

Before testing each battery underwent two complete char­ge/discharge cycles and was then re-charged on a standard 1.3A Sony charger. The one exception is the DSM UH1 which has a 7.2 volt output, DSM recommend that to achieve full capacity it should be charged on its own slow-charger. The figures show charge time from the discharged state, and how long each battery lasted when used to power a Sony V6000 camcorder in the record mode. We chose the V6000 as the test bed for it's high power consumption (12 watts, roughly twice as much as most palmcorders) to give the batteries a really thorough workout. Continuous running times on smaller machines will be proportionately longer.

Several of the batteries we tested had built-in power-level indicators, we found them to be fairly vague, not much better in fact than the power remaining indicators on most camcor­ders, though they could be useful for quickly telling what state a battery is in, without having to connect it to a machine.

THE RESULTS

MAKE/MODEL                 CAP  RRP  PPA  CHG  CRT       COMMENTS

                                                  A/h    (£s)   £/Ah    mins   mins 

Bandridge VB466C                                    1.8     30      16.6                 85                                    42                                                   

Bandridge VB866C *                                    1.8     30      16.6                 80      43   

Bandridge VB866E *                                    2.4     40      16.6    130      66        top performer        

Camlink CB77                                    1.8     30      16.6                 75     26

Cam Plus SBC 5220 *                 1.8     25       13.8      85     41        good value

Cullmann 8160 *                                    1.2     30       25.0     62 23   

Cullmann 8164 *                                 2.4     47       19.5    118     53   

DSM H1                                 2.0     25       12.5    110     44        star buy            

DSM UH1 ****                                 2.0     39       19.5   14hr     65        worth considering

Ever Ready BP77                                 2.4     33       13.7    115     45                         

Hahnel 2400 ***                                 2.4     58       24.1    118                                 55       accessory shoe

Hama CP405                   1.0     30       30.0      55                   22       expensive     

Hama CP407                   2.0     40       20.0    120                   50                            

IQ NP66i **                   1.7     25       14.7      85                   38               

IQ NP77i **            2.2     35       15.9    105            38   

IQ NP88            3.3     50       15.1    155            48   

Keene NP77H            2.4     35       14.5    130       64       star buy

Keene NP77L            3.3     50       15.1    180       76                 

Optronix OP-1SN **            1.5     30       20.0      75        35                   

Optronix OP-2S  **            1.8     33       18.3      78        38   

Optronix OP-3S  **                        2.2     44       20.0    105        42                                    

Sunpak RB-55H                        1.1     18       16.3      58        22   

Vanguard BP-101/18            1.8     30       16.6      60            39

Vivanco BP3306            3.3     50       15.1    152            74   

Vivanco BP4506            4.5     70       15.5    225     116      top capacity

KEY

CAP -- capacity in ampere-hours

RRP -- guide price in ££s

PPA -- pounds per ampere-hour

CHG -- charging time from flat, in minutes CRT -- camcorder running time in minutes

**** 7.2 volts, price inclusive of slow charger

*** built-in accessory shoe

** power level indicator

* dual fitting (ie Sony and JVC/Panasonic)

 

CONTACT ADDRESSES

AICO INTERNATIONAL Aico House, Faraday Rd, London Road Ind Est, Newbury, Berks RG13 2AD Telephone (0635) 49797

BANDRIDGE LTD, Premiere House, 18 Deer Park Road, Wimbledon, London SW1 3TU Telephone 081-543 3633

CAMLINK -- see Lamba

CAM PLUS -- see Philips

CULLMANN UK, 9 Moorbrook, Southmead Industrial Park,

Didcott, Oxfordshire, OX11 7HR. Telephone (0235) 511527

CZ SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS (Optronix) PO Box 71 Ripon Way Borehamwood Herts WD6 2AR Telephone 081-953 1688

DSM VIDEO LTD 404 Clipsey Lane, Haydock, St Helens,

WA11 OSX Telephone (0744) 451222

EVER-READY BATTERIES Ever-Ready House 93 Burleigh Gardens

London N14 5AQ Telephone 081-882 8661

GUARDFORCE Unit 13 Thame business Centre, Wenman Road, Thame, Oxon OX9 3XA Telephone (0844) 213667

HAHNEL -- see Aico

HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF Telephone (0256) 708110

IQ -- see Jessops

JESSOPS (IQ) Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ Telephone (0533) 320033

KEENE ELECTRONICS Unit 9 Old Hall Mills Business Park

Station Road, Little Eaton, Derbyshire DE21 5DN. Telephone (0332) 830550

LAMBA plc Albion Mills, Albion Road, St Albans, Herts AL1 5EB. Telephone (0727) 840527

PHILIPS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS  City House, 420-430 London Road, Croydon CR9 3QR.   Telephone 081-689 4444

SUNPAK -- see Keene

VIVANCO Unit C ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead

HP2 7SS Telephone (0442) 231616

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(c) R. Maybury 1993 2502                  

 

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