Request From Strobe Makers – We Want Better Batteries!

If you are using hot shoe strobes (like I am) you’ve probably noticed the exponential growth of AA batteries living in your drawers.

And it is not just the number of batteries that can drive you crazy it is the fact that you have to tag them all, keep an eye on them all, use them in the same batches that you bought them in and in general managing those huge lots of rechargeable AA batteries can be quite a headache.

Pledge To Strobe Makers - We Want Better Batteries!

I was wondering why don’t strobes get the same treatment as cameras – using their own dedicated batteries. I know that there are some hurdles down the road on implementing those, but I know what I’d like to see.

The Problem

While AA batteries have been with us for as long as I can remember, and have served us (me) well, they are a hell to manage. If you wanna do it right, you have to keep track of which ones were bought together, and make sure you charge/discharge them together.

You have to manage x4 batteries per strobe per load and those can accumulate pretty fast. Using 4 strobes at an event assuming you will need two sets per strobe is 32 batteries.

The Vision

My vision suggests fine tuning batteries for strobes. That means that each strobe gets one battery. It could be smaller. It could be better tuned for high recycling times It could be tuned to charging time that fits a session so you can use one/charge the other as you shoot. It will last longer!

And most importantly it will remove clutter. All those batteries that roll in your drawer. All those batteries that you keep finding in your bag long after a shoot is done.

But AAs Are Awesome

Yes they are. here is why:

AAs are probably the most commonly used battery in the world, it means that it gets heavy research from big budget companies that we can enjoy in our strobes.

AA are always available. does not matter if you are shooting down town or far away in a desolated island. chances are the kiosk will have a set of AAs. (right next to a Coka cola can) Maybe not the most fancy ones, but something to get you going.

(BTW, the camera market clearly made the moveover. Almost all the point and shoot cameras started with AAs. Still…)

This is why I suggest a

Two Phased Solution

Here is the “genius” idea I came up with. Make a new battery that is strobe optimized. but put it in a retractable case that looks like 4 AA batteries combined. It will probably look something like those cheapo battery containers, only it will be tighter to resemble 4 batteries and have electrical contacts.

Pledge To Strobe Makers - We Want Better Batteries!

The inside of the strobe does not change. this is really the fun and clever part.

Now you can really enjoy both worlds.

Want a super dedicated and tuned battery for your strobe? got it! Use the new battery and place it in the case. Place the case in the strobe, TADA! you have dedicated power with only one fine tuned, kickass battery.

Wanna keep using AAs? Can do. remove the case and use old AAs instead.

Best of all, if any new amazing double A technology comes to life, it can still be used in the strobe.

Conclusion

I am really not a batteries engineer, so I wonder if such a dream can come to life. By finishing the post, I also realized that I was not actually pitching for a new strobe, and it does not take new amazing technology to make this happen, just a good battery and a clever battery case.

  • Robert Bond

    This manufacturer is on the right track. http://flashhavoc.com/godox-v850-lithium-flash/

  • user

    True words… I like the idea of having the option to choose freely. Just like those battery grips that will hold either AAs and camera specific batteries.

    • Tel

      indeed

  • Sakari Nylund

    How about this: 1) Tape 4 cells into one packet. 2) saw off the little tabs inside your flash. 3) Do adapter to fit them into your battery charger so that they will be charged inividually. 4) Now that wasnt hard, was it?

  • Mark Berry

    I agree with this if there really is any technical advantage to be had by fine tuning batteries to flashes, but it’s not a pledge to the manufacturers (A pledge is a promise, and you’re not promising them anything), it’s a demand/request. I hate to be pedantic, but grammar’s one thing; completely changing the meaning by using the wrong word is another!

    And before anyone takes me too seriously, this is aimed pacifically (sic) at helping the writer :) ;)

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      haha. how embarrassing. I fixed that :) thanks

  • Andrew

    what about heat?

    Won’t faster pops lead to melting issues???

    I thought we’re already testing the limits of flashes, the sb900 for example.

    Not to mention modifiers getting melted.

  • http://profiles.google.com/bogorad bogorad

    This is so misguided it’s crazy! Instead of uniformity and standards you propose total havoc. I realise Li-Ion is better than NiMh (and NiZn), but why even suggest custom batteries?! There are a lot of standard Li-Ion batteries, like 18650. Why not advocate for the use of those! They are standard, uniform, cheap-as-dirt, and quite capable.

    • Mark Berry

      Did you not read the “two phased solution” part of the post?

      I agree that interchangeability is desirable, but it should be possible to have the best of both worlds, surely?

  • Peter

    There are already external battery packs available which can be connected to the HV ports of hotshoe flashes. If somebody made one with a built-in charger and swappable batteries, you could essentially use that like a power pack on a studio strobe. And if you really need to use AAs from your desert kiosk, you could always have one of the already existing AA battery packs with you or put the AAs directly into the flash. One could even build a battery pack with more than one output so you can run multiple flashes off of one pack. Most of the off-brand flashes have an HV port that is compatible with Canon or Nikon HV ports, and some, like Yongnuo, even make their own much cheaper battery packs.

  • captain capacitor

    I would like to see supercapacitors in strobes; they charge in seconds and can deliver much higher currents and have a longer lifetime than batteries. Only their capacity is currently lower than conventional batteries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercapacitor

    http://www.ohgizmo.com/2007/10/01/coleman-flashcell-cordless-screwdriver-recharges-in-just-90-seconds/

  • Rick

    All I really need is a charger I can drop the 4-bundle battery holders I already have into. Start at this end and then convince the flash makers to follow.

  • Greg Easton

    Wouldn’t this be a request TO strobe makers?

  • $48565746

    No, really just no. It’s really really easy to handle AA rechargeables, the last thing I need is yet another proprietary standard to get special equipment for. Especially since a new form factor will probably not cut down on the size much.

    And don’t forget, a standard to fit only strobes is bound to cost a LOT more. We do have brilliant batteries by now (I prefer Sanyo’s Eneloop or Sony’s Energy Cycle). The fact that they use the ubiquituous AA format everybody uses allows them to produce them in much higher quantities.

    As XKCD puts it in his usual observational brilliance:
    http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/standards.png

    Now what I can get behind, though, is a pledge to strobe makers to include an external battery port on their lower-tier models. For example, Canon’s 430EX is a perfectly capable strobe for most occasions, but a power port only comes with their top-tier 580EX model. If you really want to convince me of a solution that doesn’t involve established standards, go all the way and don’t bog it down again by limiting the format to what will still fit in the strobe case.

  • Kay

    Egads, I wish I could use AA and AAA batteries in my camera, cellphone, mp3 player, etc. Li-Ion 18650′s could do that but nobody aside from flashlight manufacturers seem to be supporting them.

    • Rick

      18650s are 3/4″ longer which would make them impractical for direct installation into flash units as the units would have to be upsized substantially to accommodate them.

  • Mike Burch

    What we really need is High quality, mass market AA chargers. I think NIMH is a better battery for high current draw and high heat. Last thing I want is batteries not interchanging between my different flashes.

  • Morgana

    I love my rechargable batteries. Hold their chrage well and last for ages. I use them in both my Pocket Wizards and my speedlights without a problem. But I wouldn’t say no to camera batteries designed for speedlight :)

  • eyeandpen

    I am a big fan of rechargeable batteries.

  • Knegge

    Cant you just use beltcliped Powerpacks ? nealy all high end flashes offer a dedicated port you can use to power the flash … problem solved i guess ?

  • kslsdj

    only idiots use alkaline batteries.

    use AA rechargeables.

  • jrconner

    I’ve never had a problem managing AA batteries. Or AAA batteries. Or batteries of any size or kind. The last thing I need is another dedicated battery that costs a small fortune and isn’t readily available in the small towns that I visit. With all due respect, your cure is far worse than the disease.

  • Chris

    what about hink? http://www.hinkpro.com all lithium all the time!