Like other portable consumer electronic devices digital cameras use batteries as their power source. All batteries have one major drawback: they only last for a limited time. In this article we will explain what camera features consume the most energy and how you can squeeze more life time out of your digital camera battery.
There are many types of battery. Your digital camera might be using disposable batteries or maybe it uses rechargeable ones. Rechargeable batteries use a variety of technologies such as nickel cadmium, lithium ion or lithium polymer. Battery technology has advanced in the last years but batteries life time is still considerably short. It is very frustrating to come across a great photo opportunity just to find out that you have run out of batteries.
When it comes to power consumption not all digital camera features are equal. Some of the digital camera greatest features are high energy consumers. By knowing which features consume the most energy you will be able to avoid or minimize using those features save energy and get more life time from your batteries.
The biggest energy consumers in a digital camera are the LCD screen and the motors that move the mechanical components of the camera such as the lenses when focusing or zooming. Digital cameras allow viewing of photos that were just taken on a small LCD screen. Some of them also allow shooting photos using the LCD instead of the traditional viewfinder. An LCD screen consumes relatively a lot of energy. This is the reason why all digital cameras turn off the LCD after a certain amount of time of no usage.
The other big energy consumers are the motors. Digital cameras have motors the move the lenses either to change the zoom or to focus. Motors consume relatively a lot of energy when moving the digital camera optical components. And finally the flash is a big energy consumer too. Shooting photos using the flash consumes more energy that shooting photos without flash.
So what can you do in order to minimize power consumption and get more life time from your batteries?
In conclusion until battery technologies improve to the extent that battery life is so long that it practically lasts forever you will have to be conscious about how you use your digital camera in respect to power consumption. Following a few simple guidelines can significantly improve power consumption and make your batteries last longer.
Turn off the LCD and use the viewfinder: Use the optical viewfinder instead of the LCD for composing your photos. Using the camera menus disable the LCD by turning it off. Since the LCD consumes a lot of energy every time you are using it to take a photo or to look at your objects and compose a photo you are wasting energy. Only use the LCD when you must for example when taking an overhead photo when the optical viewfinder is not usable.
Minimize photo previewing: The LCD consumes a lot of energy. When you preview photos on the LCD you are wasting battery. Only use the LCD to view photos when you need to do so for the benefit of the next photos shooting – for example to check if a composition was right or if the lighting was good. Do not use the LCD to view photos for fun or to show photos to others. Wait until you are on your computer or in your office or home to do that.
Do not use continuous focus when not necessary: Every time your camera focuses it consumers energy. The motors that move the optical components in order to focus consume a lot of energy. You can not avoid focusing of course but you can avoid focusing that is not necessary. For example your digital camera can be set to continuous or single focus. For moving objects such as in sport events continuous focus is used so your can stay focused on the object until you are ready to take the photo. In those cases as long as you press the shutter button half way down the camera will continue to focusing on the object. To save energy minimize that time to the minimum necessary. For example if you plan to shoot a photo of a runner at point A only press the shutter when he gets close to that point. Holding the shutter button down and following the runner for a longer time than needed to capture him at point A wastes a lot of energy.
Do not press the shutter button half way down for no reason: Every time you press the shutter button half way down and do not take a photo you waste energy. When pressing the shutter button half way down the camera goes through a series of processes getting ready to shoot a photo. It focuses the lenses it wakes up electronic components and gets the flash ready if needed. Avoid pressing the shutter half way down when you do not plan to shoot a photo.
Carry another battery: Two batteries have twice the energy as one. Carry an extra battery if you are planning for a long shooting session or if you are not sure how many photos you will shoot and how long you will be away from your charger. Some photographers always carry an extra battery with them – batteries are very small and light and carrying an extra one is really not a burden. One thing to remember when carrying an extra battery is to always make sure that you are carrying an extra battery that is fully charged there is no use in carrying an empty battery. Batteries tend to lose their charge even if they are not used so if you are carrying an extra battery for a few days or more remember to recharge it even if you did not use it.
Recharge whenever you can: Charge your battery (or batteries if you carry an extra one) at least once a day or whenever you are back to your office, home or hotel. Even if you did not take many photos and you think the batteries have enough power in them it is better to make sure by fully charging them rather than to take the risk. You never know how long your next photo shooting session will be and when will your next recharge opportunity will be. Batteries slowly lose their charge even when not used so always recharge your extra battery too even if it was not used.
Plan for battery consumption: The most important thing is to plan for battery consumption. For example if you are leaving your office for a short photo shooting session of an hour you are not going to have any battery issues. In such cases you can ignore all the guidelines and just shoot photos freely in the way that is most convenient to you. If you are going out for a long day of photo shooting in scenarios that require flash and maybe continuous focusing (just as shooting a sports event) – plan ahead for power consumption take an extra battery or maybe two refrain from using features that are not necessary for your session such as previewing photos on the LCD or using the LCD as a viewfinder.
This article was written by our guest writer of the day, Ziv Haparnas. He's a technology veteran and writes about practical technology and science issues. You can find more information about photo album printing and photography in general on http://www.printrates.com - a site dedicated to photo printing.