Digital camera batteries at altitude

Digital camera batteries at altitude

Joined: January 21st, 2004, 6:08 am

September 19th, 2005, 4:08 pm #1

Has anyone else experienced bizarre behavior from their digital camera batteries at altitude?

I had some quite new batteries in my Canon PowerShot A70 when we made the summit of Whitney on 8/25. They died promptly after I took a shot of my name in the summit regsiter. The old batteries that I had replaced only a few pictures ago - on the same trip - were still in the camera case, so I figured I'd try...and they worked! They're still working, for that matter. Since I've been home, I checked the power on the short-lived set and they read full also. Could this be an altitude effect?
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Joined: August 2nd, 2001, 8:13 pm

September 19th, 2005, 5:21 pm #2

I have used my Nikon 990 with various brands of Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries on a number of highpoints including Whitney and Elbert without adverse effects.

This summer, I carried my newer Nikon 4500 that uses Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries to Philmont Scout Ranch. There, we were never above 12,000' (Mt. Philips at 11,711' was our highpoint) but spent quite a bit of time above 10,000' and again, no problems. (I carried four batteries that lasted me through an 11-day trip, about 1,000 images, total.)

Out of curiosity, what was the ambient temperature when you had the problem? Could that be an issue?
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Joined: March 2nd, 2004, 2:26 pm

September 19th, 2005, 6:41 pm #3

Has anyone else experienced bizarre behavior from their digital camera batteries at altitude?

I had some quite new batteries in my Canon PowerShot A70 when we made the summit of Whitney on 8/25. They died promptly after I took a shot of my name in the summit regsiter. The old batteries that I had replaced only a few pictures ago - on the same trip - were still in the camera case, so I figured I'd try...and they worked! They're still working, for that matter. Since I've been home, I checked the power on the short-lived set and they read full also. Could this be an altitude effect?
I haven't really had any altitude problems with my digital camera (and that includes Whitney, Rainier, Borah, Elbert, Humphreys, Hood, and Wheeler.) I did have problems with the lens cover on Mount Washington. Of course, that was in sub-zero temperatures. I think you may have a bad battery.

steve urbanski
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Joined: May 14th, 2005, 4:39 pm

September 19th, 2005, 7:27 pm #4

Has anyone else experienced bizarre behavior from their digital camera batteries at altitude?

I had some quite new batteries in my Canon PowerShot A70 when we made the summit of Whitney on 8/25. They died promptly after I took a shot of my name in the summit regsiter. The old batteries that I had replaced only a few pictures ago - on the same trip - were still in the camera case, so I figured I'd try...and they worked! They're still working, for that matter. Since I've been home, I checked the power on the short-lived set and they read full also. Could this be an altitude effect?
I'm thinking along the same lines as Alan.  I've had a lot of problems with anything other than Lithiums when the temperatures drop just a bit.  Was it chilly when you were having problems with the battery?

Diane Winger

www.HighpointAdventures.com
NEW: www.Colorado-for-Free.com
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Joined: January 21st, 2004, 6:08 am

September 19th, 2005, 8:44 pm #5

Has anyone else experienced bizarre behavior from their digital camera batteries at altitude?

I had some quite new batteries in my Canon PowerShot A70 when we made the summit of Whitney on 8/25. They died promptly after I took a shot of my name in the summit regsiter. The old batteries that I had replaced only a few pictures ago - on the same trip - were still in the camera case, so I figured I'd try...and they worked! They're still working, for that matter. Since I've been home, I checked the power on the short-lived set and they read full also. Could this be an altitude effect?
When we hit the summit (i.e., when the newly-replaced batteries failed), it was a bright, sunny, almost windless August afternoon. I kept thinking about taking off my light jacket, though I never got around to it.

We spent the night before at Outpost Camp, about 10,300.' I looked at my digital watch/alarm between 4 & 5 a.m. and it was virtually unreadable due to either the cold, dampness or both. The camera obviously underwent the same conditions, but I would imagine that 8 or 9 hours' time and a number of pictures would have cured any lingering effects from that.
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Joined: August 2nd, 2001, 8:13 pm

September 19th, 2005, 9:59 pm #6

Has anyone else experienced bizarre behavior from their digital camera batteries at altitude?

I had some quite new batteries in my Canon PowerShot A70 when we made the summit of Whitney on 8/25. They died promptly after I took a shot of my name in the summit regsiter. The old batteries that I had replaced only a few pictures ago - on the same trip - were still in the camera case, so I figured I'd try...and they worked! They're still working, for that matter. Since I've been home, I checked the power on the short-lived set and they read full also. Could this be an altitude effect?
Well, doesn't sound like temperature was an issue...anything significantly above freezing shouldn't have mattered and it was obviously warmer than that by your description.

It's possible that it's a bad battery as mentioned above, but I've also noticed that brand new batteries, especially NiMH, take a few use cycles before they develop what feels like their full capacity. Now, I have exactly zero scientific evidence for that, just my gut level sense based on 5 or 6 years using them, but I've taken to using my charger/conditioner to run new NiMH batteries up, down and back up a couple of times before expecting full performance.

The Li-ion batteries in the CP4500 don't seem to have that issue. At Philmont, I had two "old" and two brand new batteries, and each one gave me between 2-3 days of careful use. By "careful", I mean having the camera set for a 30-second auto-power-down timeout and keeping the LCD backlight all the way down. (I use a hooded magnifier because I shoot a lot with a wide-angle adaptor, so I can't use the optical viewfinder but when I do, I turn the LCD completely off to further conserve batteries.) I also seldom review/playback photos on the trail...do anything I can to extend the battery life.

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Joined: September 20th, 2005, 2:03 pm

September 20th, 2005, 2:20 pm #7

Has anyone else experienced bizarre behavior from their digital camera batteries at altitude?

I had some quite new batteries in my Canon PowerShot A70 when we made the summit of Whitney on 8/25. They died promptly after I took a shot of my name in the summit regsiter. The old batteries that I had replaced only a few pictures ago - on the same trip - were still in the camera case, so I figured I'd try...and they worked! They're still working, for that matter. Since I've been home, I checked the power on the short-lived set and they read full also. Could this be an altitude effect?
Batteries are sensitive to temp, not altitude (unless they vent or burst) and digital cameras draw high currents for short periods.

The Canon A70 uses AA batts--commonly available in the following technologies:
* Alkaline (nonrechargable): poor high current capability, poor low temp performance, medium weight
* NiMH and NiCad rechargable: good high current capability, medium low temp performance, heavy
* Lithium (nonrechargable): good high current capability, good low temp performance, light weight

I'd hazard a guess that you were using alkaline batts--a poor choice for this application under any conditions. I use NiMH cells most of the time in my camera and lithium cells if weight or temp is an issue. If I am hiking, spare batts are lithium to save weight.

BTW, Lion (lithium ion, lithium rechargable) have good high current capability, medium low temp performance, and light weight. Found in many digital cameras. Not available in AA or AAA form factor.

Doug
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Joined: January 21st, 2004, 6:08 am

September 20th, 2005, 3:08 pm #8

You're right, 4 AAs to be specific. And yes, I was using the off-the-shelf alkalines. No problem with this setup on Wheeler (somewhat comparable altitude, temp not an issue) or Hood (definitely colder, but lower). I guess to be on the safe side I should start using lithium batteries. Thanks to all!
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Joined: January 26th, 2004, 7:00 pm

September 20th, 2005, 4:08 pm #9

You should have rechargable NiMH (at least 2300 mAh) batteries for everyday use of this camera. Alkalines are really a waste of money. I recommend the Maha Charger you can get at http://www.nimhbattery.com/ It's an excellent value and performs like a champ.

I've use my NiMH batteries down to 20 below, and while the effective life certainly is shorter, they still worked fine. I also have a set of lithiums that I carry in winter but haven't used yet.

My new camera has lithium-ion rechargable and it worked find last winter in very cold temps.

-dave-
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Joined: September 20th, 2005, 2:03 pm

September 20th, 2005, 7:51 pm #10

Dave's source is a good one for both chargers and NiMH cells. (Standard disclaimer: no connection--just a customer.)

Just like to add that chargers with individual charging circuits are preferable to ones which charge the cells in groups. Also allows one to charge 3 cells (used by a number of headlamps).

Smart chargers are better than dumb chargers. (Many of the dumb ones are likely to damage the cells by overcharging them.) And finally, if the charger charges the cells too fast, it can damage them by overheating. (The best smart chargers monitor both the cell temp and its electrical state. Most consumer smart chargers just monitor the electrical state.) 1000 mA (2 hr charge) is a good charge rate for AA cells, 2000 mA (1 hr) can cook them. Been there, done that.

The MH-C401FS charger is a good one at either speed (I have one) and the MH-C801D on its soft (slow, 1000mA) setting also looks ok. (The hard (fast, 2000mA) setting looks a little risky to me.)

2000mAh (or greater) cells should be fine. (One can save $$ by buying below the latest and biggest, currently ~2500mAh.)

Doug
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