Power. Where would we be without it? Like every other person in the modern world, portable power enables most of my electronic, digital life. In an attempt to save a few dollars over time and some space in my garbage bag, I recently decided to upgrade to rechargeable batteries. Yes, they make AA (and other popular sizes) batteries that you do not have to throw away every couple of weeks. The only problem is a quick Google search returns an endless list of brands of these reusable wonders. How do you decide?
Of all the research I’ve done, and believe me I have read more about batteries in the past week than I ever thought possible, everyone seems to agree on these two statements:
- The Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable batteries are as good as they come. These used to be branded as Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries.
- Rechargeable batteries are only as good as the charger used to recharge them.
Let me give you a bit more background. These batteries will be used primarily for powering my Canon Speedlite 580EX II flashes. Here’s my Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable batteries review, but first let me share what I’ve learned about rechargeable batteries and chargers.
Low Self Discharge
One of the features users rave about with the Panasonic Eneloop batteries is their ability to hold a charge for extended periods of time, even while not in use. This is known as low self discharge. Many modern rechargeable batteries share this feature. It simply means that once the battery is fully charged, it can sit in your camera bag (or wherever) and maintain the majority of its charge until you are ready to use it. For me, this means I can expect on-demand power when I need to change the batteries in my flash for that perfect shot, even if the batteries have been sitting idly for weeks. Panasonic claims an Eneloop battery will maintain 85% of its charge after one year of non-use when stored at room temperature. Most real-world testers have agreed with that claim.
Choosing The Right Charger – A Smart Charger
So how does one refill these mini marvels of electricity? The most agreed upon argument made by long-time rechargeable battery users is, “Buy a good charger!” Most well-known battery manufactures produce rechargeable batteries and include a charger with purchase. The problem with these budget chargers is how they charge the battery.
Let’s imagine you load up some rechargeable batteries with varying amounts of power left into your budget charger. The charger starts filling up the batteries, usually very quickly, but has no way to regulate the amount of juice being added to each individual battery. When the light turns green, you may be left with four batteries with unequal charges. This is neither good for the batteries nor for the equipment they intend to power.
The better, albeit more expensive way to handle this is a smart charger. One that will monitor the amount of charging each battery needs and receives. A smart charger also gives the user multiple options when it comes to how fast the batteries are refueled. Extremely fast charging, like what is found on the budget chargers mentioned above, can actually shorten the life of a battery. Slow and steady wins the race in the rechargeable battery world. A smart charger has varying speeds for recharging as well as options for “refreshing” batteries that may suffer from any memory effects.
Panasonic Eneloops & The La Crosse BC-700
After gathering all of this research, I purchased an eight pack of Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable batteries and a La Crosse Technology BC-700 Alpha Power Battery Charger. The batteries come with a charge on them already, so I loaded one set into the flash and the other set onto the charger to begin the “fill up” process.
I am eager to see how they perform over the coming months and years. At a combined price tag of around $50, this does not seem like an easy way to save money. So here’s to hoping the batteries and charger live up to their name. If I have to buy a single AA battery in the next few years, my cash to electron ratio is going to be off the charts. I must say, all of this new found knowledge is rather … empowering.
Update – They Changed Their Name, And They’re Still Going
I originally published this post on March 22, 2011 when the batteries were known as Sanyo Eneloop. As of November 2014, my Eneloops and La Crosse charger are still going strong. In fact, I’ve purchased another pack of the batteries to power an additional flash. I’ve also purchased a pack of Energizer brand rechargeable batteries to power a small iPhone stereo. Since I use the two different brands of batteries for two different purposes, it’s tough to compare them side by side. That being said, I am confident the La Crosse charger with it’s ability to charge each battery independently is allowing me to squeeze every drop of life out of these batteries.
Thanks for reading my Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable batteries review. If you purchase the batteries or the charger from Amazon.com via the links above, I’ll receive a small commission. Thanks in advance. If you’ve been using these batteries and charger or other brands, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.