Managing your Camcorder Battery

By: Tancecom

Rechargeable camcorder battery can cost $40 or more, so knowing how to prolong the life of your battery and the perils of not caring for your battery properly saves you money as well as heartache from missed shots. First, you need the right battery for your camcorder. This is no big deal when you purchase your camcorder because a battery and charger are normally included in the purchase. The more you use your camcorder, though, the more you'll notice that your battery doesn't seem to stay charged as long as you would like or that it takes too long to recharge.

Now you have entered into the never-never land of camcorder rechargeable battery dilemmas. You ask yourself (because you don't know who else to ask) the following questions:
Is it okay to partially charge a battery before taking it off the charger and putting it back in the camcorder?

Yes - providing you own a newer camcorder, such as a digital camcorder. Newer camcorder manufacturers typically provide lithium ion batteries. These batteries can be partially recharged before reuse. Other batteries - especially nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries - can be damaged by only partially charging them.
Is it okay to recharge a battery when some charge remains?

If it's a lithium ion battery, yes. If it's a NiCad battery, no.
How do you know when to purchase a new camcorder battery?

Battery manufacturers generally consider a rechargeable battery to have reached its useful life when it can provide only about half of its original consumption. For instance, if your battery could originally provide an hour's worth of power, you should replace it when it can provide only a half-hour's worth.

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by purchasing an extra battery or two when you buy your camcorder. That way, you always have a backup in case the primary battery runs out of power. When purchasing batteries for your camcorder, consider the following:
Camcorder batteries have different specifications on how long they last. How much recording time relates to how much battery power?

Most professional camcorder operators tell you that the camcorder battery should be rated to operate for a period of time that's twice that of the tape. Don't assume that the battery that's provided with your camcorder is the best battery for your circumstances. A manufacturer usually provides you with a battery that's good for about an hour of camera usage. Because digital camcorder and Digital8 tape is usually 60 minutes long, you may think you have the correct battery, but chances are you don't. Most people run their camcorders in the nonrecord mode as much as they do in the record mode because you can't look through the viewfinder of a camcorder unless it's turned on. So, if you're using a 1-hour tape, you would be wise to use a 2-hour battery. Besides, a 2-hour battery is good for 2 hours only when it's new. Within a year or so, your 2-hour battery will have become a 1-hour battery due to normal aging factors. This inevitable aging is accelerated if you don't take proper care of your battery.
When buying a new battery, what type should I consider?

Always buy batteries that are made for your charger. And, obviously, always buy batteries that are rated for your camcorder. For example, the Canon GL1 is rated as 7.2 volts DC.

Caring for your camcorder battery doesn't mean that you must have an emotional attachment. But you do need to discipline yourself to certain practices, or you'll waste money and lose valuable shooting opportunities because you'll be tending to sick batteries. Follow these basic guidelines, and your batteries should serve you well:

1. Never expose your batteries to elevated temperatures. The numero uno enemy of batteries is heat. Anton/Bauer claims that heat can accelerate your battery's aging process by as much as 80 percent! Heat can also cause a lithium ion battery to lose its ability to hold a charge.
2. For long-term storage between uses (as in weeks), keep your batteries in the refrigerator. But before you nestle the batteries between the lettuce and rutabagas, put them (the batteries, that is) in a plastic bag to avoid the rare possibility of the battery seeping and causing food contamination.
3. Don't put a cold battery on a battery charger! If you take a battery out of cold storage or out of a cold environment (such as your car in winter), always allow your battery to reach room temperature before charging. Batteries have been known to explode if placed on a charger while cold. Charging creates heat.
4. Don't allow your batteries to jostle around while you're carrying them. Jostling directly affects your battery's life and performance. Also, never use a battery that has been physically damaged. The coating on the battery is supposed to keep the battery acid from seeping out. If the battery is damaged, these chemicals (which can be unstable and dangerous) can leak and cause damage to anything they touch.

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