Name-Brand Batteries, Always the Best Choice

In today’s turbulent economy, it can be tempting to cut corners with lower-cost, generic batteries. All too often, however, this comes at the expense of quality, reliability and safety. Though they may incur a higher price, name-brand batteries’ superior capacity, load carrying, charger options and safety mechanisms ultimately make them the best investment for the long run. A brief assessment of these features, applicable to today’s two main battery varieties, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion (Li-ion), reveals why.
The main difference between name-brand and generic batteries is quality. Cheaper generic batteries are usually crafted from standard cells purchased in bulk from wholesalers, employing cheap housings and basic electronics. Name-brand batteries, on the other hand, are built from premium cells purchased directly from a leading cell manufacturer, and come pre-tested with cells matched for balance, enabling longer life. They are made with precision tooling in clean rooms, and feature housings designed to spread impact. Their on-board electronics include quality components and sophisticated software. They cost more because more time, labor and care are put into making them higher-quality, longer-lasting systems.
Beyond manufacturing, a battery’s capacity, or run-time, also tells the story of its quality. All batteries, even the best ones, will start to lose life at some point, but the top systems last longer before the power starts to decrease. What’s more, they include displays depicting remaining run-time at a current run-load in hours and minutes. Many of these batteries also feature access to a test charger, which can cycle the battery and document the results, allowing precise estimates of battery life expectancy, a feature generic batteries rarely have.
Before you start reviewing capacity options of different batteries, calculate a solid estimate of the average load carried by your equipment and applications. For example, if your camera draws 45W and your light 35W, the load will be approximately 57W (fill lights are typically used a third of the time). Lights feed off power taps, and if your camera cannot regulate this, you should add about 25 percent to your estimate, changing your light load from 35W to 43W. Also, make sure to factor in any other piece of equipment that will need battery power, such as on-board monitors and wireless transmitters. With these estimates in mind, look for an average run-time of at least two hours. This avoids multiple unplanned battery changes, especially in ENG and production applications.
Keep in mind that with batteries, the initial start-up draws a spike in power. So if you run a 45W camcorder, a 35W light and 10W accessories, your continuous load is 90W. If the battery you are researching states in its specs that the maximum continuous load it supports is 73W, you’ll need a battery that supports something higher. That is why it’s important to estimate your load and find a suitable battery. Many generic batteries don’t provide these maximum load specifications, leaving your power supply to chance.
Another major component of a good battery system is the charger. If well-designed, it can last for up to 20 years. If the manufacturer of the battery you’re considering claims that it can be used with any type of charger, you’re not looking at a sophisticated design. There may even be potential safety hazards. Instead, look for a charger that has two-way communications with the battery and the ability to test and calibrate. It should also have temperature channels, and the ability to be upgraded for future algorithms, as technology develops.
Of all the components of a battery to spotlight when looking for the right one, safety is the most important. While NiMH batteries generally pose no safety issues, Li-ion batteries are another matter. The Li-ion electrolyte has a low flashpoint, low tolerance to overcharge, and increased volatility if over discharged. If the battery is generic, it may have poorly designed and manufactured cells, which are dangerous because one could ignite the entire pack. In 2007 more than 100 incidents of this occurred in the U.S., leading to a total ban on transporting Li-ion batteries over 160Wh and limitations on hand luggage and check-in for Li-Ion batteries between 101 and 160 Wh.
To counteract these measures, the top manufacturers have been developing more safety features for their Li-ion-based batteries. Anton/Bauer, for example, has developed a new mechanical construction specifically for safety purposes and subsequently increased battery life). This design resembles a honeycomb, where each individual cell of the battery is contained in its own housing. This way, if the battery is dropped or abused in any way, the cells that are damaged won’t affect undamaged cells, as the heat thermal transfer is minimized. More important, it helps prevent fuel leakage, protecting the person handling the battery.
Generic batteries can be cheaper than name-brand ones, but they often scrimp on the features that will help your production run safely and reliably. This often leads to having to purchase more batteries, as the poor design of generics means they malfunction or start dying much faster than name-brand batteries. In the end, they canincur greater costs than their higher-priced, high-quality counterparts. Don’t take that chance. Battery power is the most likely cause of irritation, unforeseen costs or failure to capture a crucial shot. The choice is a name brand battery every time.
Martyn Sly-jex is the EMEA and Russia Regional Sales Manager for Anton/Bauer.

Tags: anton bauer | iss049 | batteries | grey import | name-brand batteries | N/A
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