Why batteries are something you want to buy original (even at exorbitant pricing)

Sep 3, 2016

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Why batteries are something you want to buy original (even at exorbitant pricing)

Sep 3, 2016

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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One thing that really irritates me is the price that camera makers put on their batteries. I mean an original battery for a sony A7II costs about $53, the same battery from a third party costs about $13, that’s quite a difference isn’t it? For the price of one original battery, you can get four after market ones.

And it’s not just Sony, Canon’s popular LP-E6N are $62 vs $15 and the same goes for Nikon. It gets worse as the batteries get bigger. Sony’s original NPF970 is $128 vs, a $16 off brand. And the list goes on….

Now, why is getting a good battery crucial? Because batteries explode if they are bad.

Now, I am not saying that Wasabi or any other brand is providing bad batteries, but  I am saying that you’d better make sure you are getting your batteries from a reliable place.

YouTube video

A few days ago Samsung issued a recall for over 2.5 million phones. When was the last time you saw a phone company do a massive recall? Apple did not do it for the iPhone 4 antenna issue. Samsung did not do it for the snapdragon 800 series heating issues. So why did they recall the Note 7? because 35 of its batteries exploded. And this is not a good thing.

Ok, forget Samsung, how about Dell, do you remember any recalls from Dell? 10 years ago Dell recalled 4 million batteries. That’s enough batteries so a laptop never have to go AC again. for a thousand years. So why would Dell go through this? Because explosions, that’s why.

OK, back to the camera industry, when did Nikon ever made a voluntary recall? I mean the Chinese government had to twist their hands to recall the faulty D600 before they made any real attempt at fixing them. But with batteries, they made a recall even before any customers reported the issue. Why? Hint, it has to do with loud noises and fire.

Lastly, remember that flaming Black Magic camera? Guess who was at blame here? Probably the internal battery.

Before becoming a full time blogger, I was working for a big electronics company in their R&D dept. One of the things my team did was designing the battery charging mechanism for some devices. And let me tell you, that thing is scary! if you go a bit out of temperature, out of capacity, out of anything, the battery can turn into a small 4th of July fireworks display.

So, does it feel good to pay extra for an original battery? Probably not. Does it feel good to pay really low for a third party battery? Only if you are 100% sure that those batteries are coming from a reliable source.

What can you do?

  1. Buy from big retailers like B&H. If a recall notice comes their way, they can let you know.
  2. Make sure your battery maker has a name. Even with third party accessories and batteries, not all manufacturers are equal. Some have been their for a long time, have english sites and customer service. Some have really no name at all, and zero webb trace.
  3. If you can register your battery, do so! This mostly applies to bigger batteries that come with a serial number. Registering your battery will ensure that in case of a recall, you can get a notification

A call to the big guys

Hey Canon, Nikon, Sony, I know you need every bit of margins you can get, so its OK to charge more for batteries. But at current prices you are practically pushing us into the hand of third party battery makers.

I know I would love to use original batteries for all my gear, and I can assume that most people are the same. What if you only went 50% over the third parties. Heck go 100% over. But not 4 times over.

I will surely spend twice the money to feel good, spending 4 times the money, I may consider the risk here. And a battery exploding in your gear, even if not your battery is bad news for the industry.

What batteries do you use?

[lead photo by CTBTO]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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35 responses to “Why batteries are something you want to buy original (even at exorbitant pricing)”

  1. David Di Natale Avatar
    David Di Natale

    I have 2 batteries (canon BP511) for my Canon 50D and are at end of life. Buy Canon ? out of the question too expensive! But what brand replacement take? If you could enlighten me! Thank you for this article ! Regards

  2. Sean Avatar

    Other issues I’ve had. Have 4 batteries that were interchangable with the D300 and D700. On day I was shooting with the D700 and it kept getting the notorious “ERR” message. Turned out it was the batteries. Two of the four worked fine in the D700, other too not so well…was sudden too..always worked before. All work flawlessly with the D300. Wierd. So I had to mark them so knew which was which. Funny thing…ONE was a third party and the other was a Nikon factory battery. Go figure.

  3. David Schöppe Avatar
    David Schöppe

    Bullshit. The cells are what matters. If the thrid party uses good cells nothing is wrong with skipping originals batteries.

  4. Michael Carpenter Avatar
    Michael Carpenter

    The main thing the thinking one should take from the article – PAY ATTENTION! I had batteries failing on me, but never pushed it to catastrophic consequences. If the battery heats a lot and swells to the degree when it is hard to push or pull it from battery compartment why persist with use? Otherwise in most cases batteries do not just explode with no warning. This comes true with both brand name and aftermarket stuff. Consequences warranty-wise will be different, true. But again – pay attention! Or buy genuine only , count on the maker to pay your burn therapy , and good luck with that!

  5. North Polar Avatar
    North Polar

    Why Batteries ARE… not is. *facepalm*

    1. J.L. Williams Avatar
      J.L. Williams

      Also, I think you mean “exorbitant” pricing, not “exuberant.” But I agree with what you’re saying. Third-party battery fans tend to be extremely militant, and they’ll probably flame all over this, but my kick with third-party batteries is that you never really know what you’re getting. Sure, that last battery you bought from Joe’s Battery Co. on Amazon was great. But Joe orders those batteries from a no-name OEM, which has them put together by a contract assembler, which orders the cells and the all-important protection circuit from other OEMs, which have the components put together by other contract assemblers, etc., etc. And the reason Joe can sell those batteries so cheap is that EVERYBODY in the supply chain was the lowest bidder. Next time, somebody else might be the lowest bidder, so even if Joe thinks he’s ordering the same product from the same OEM, the battery you get might have completely different guts.

      The third-party battery boosters will now say that camera-brand batteries also are made by third parties, and that’s likely true — but I’ll bet they exert a lot more control over the supply chain. And I suspect that if a genuine Fuji battery swells up and damages my Fuji camera, the odds of Fuji doing something about it are higher than if the camera were damaged by a third-party bargain brand.

  6. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    I’ve got plenty of third party batteries and all of them work fine. The recalls above demonstrate that the big guys are just as vulnerable to these kinds of failures as OEM. The only difference is that you’re more likely to hear about a recall from the big guys and thus get rid of your batteries, that probably aren’t even effected by the issue.

  7. redhed17 Avatar

    The price of manufacturers batteries are way over the top for what they are as mentioned in the article, and because of that I have been using 3rd party batteries in addition to the battery that came with each camera for over 10 years. The only problem I have encountered has been some of the batteries stop working after awhile, but they have been so cheap I have bought two when one has died, and so always had more batteries than I needed. I’ve had three DSLRs that have used the same battery, which has been very good. :-) I’m not sure I have heard any stories of 3rd party batteries exploding
    or bursting into flames btw, and it has not been my experience. So far.
    ;-) .

    I recently bought a Nikon D500 which on the face of it took the same battery as some previous models, (which I didn’t have) but it quickly became clear that Nikon had changed the design of the battery so as to make the users who owned the previous battery not work properly. Eventually they did offer to replace the batteries for anyone who had their previous model of batteries (well done, eventually), but why they didn’t they say that this was going to happen, and just give the battery a new model name to stop the confusion as they have done in the past, I can only surmise the reasons for that. :-/

    A side effect of their choice is that at the moment their are no confirmed 3rd party options for the new battery. :-( I have to make the decision as to whether to fold and pay Nikon’s exorbitant prices, or buy a Grip (which are a fifth the price of the one Nikon sells btw :-() for a similar price to one of their battery’s and use AA batteries in it, which I already have, and again are a fraction of the cost of Nikon’s batteries should I need to replace them.

    Some people are still having problems with the battery performance in their D500s even with the proper Nikon batteries, either giving consistently poor performance, or even more confusingly, random returns in performance. Not sure how widespread that is, but shows that even the manufacturers own batteries may not work as they should, or that some people have ‘dodgy’ cameras. :-/

    You may be taking a slightly bigger risk in buying 3rd party batteries, but as long as you are saving enough, and are aware of the risks, that is the choice we all have to make.

  8. Oleg Olegov Avatar
    Oleg Olegov

    Missleading title, but i agree with the actual arguments in the article. Don’t buy low volume no name batteries – sticking with high volume reputable 3rd party brands should be fine.

  9. pincherio Avatar

    I use a lot of gadgets and a lot of spare batteries would entail a huge cost if I had to stick to OEM batteries, so I don’t. I also don’t have time to wait around on batteries while they’re charging so I just leave them charging overnight. And, sometimes, I forget to take them out the next day. The 2 times I’ve had batteries pop on me while charging were both OEMs, one for a Nokia N95 and one for a Godox TT V860c. Considering my main criteria for buying spare batteries is cost, I’ve been pretty lucky. I’m not here to convince anyone that generic spares are safe – they’re old enough to make that decision for themselves.

  10. Andrew Stagg Avatar
    Andrew Stagg

    You could of course use 3rd party batteries from a respected manufacturer such as Hahnel – about 2/3rds of the cost of the oem equivalent.

  11. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar

    Calling on “The big boys” to cut down on battery prices, isn’t that a TAD hypocritical?
    So you are not tepted to go to the competition?
    What if your clients ask you to lower your rates to match craigslist photographers?

    “Hey Udi, this dude on craigslist say’s he’ll do my shoot for $85. What if you charged only 50% more than the dude? Heck go 100% over. I’ll pay you $170. But not 4 times over.

    See? Not that simple, is it now?

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      well, I see your point :)
      that said, the question is how much more value is there there in an original battery vs. an aftermarket battery.

      If they are 4 times as awesome, then sure. I am not sure this is the case here, so I am not sure the analogy holds.

      If a gear maker is super innovative (see Edelkrone for example, or Kesseler cranes or Custom SLR, or many many others) they have the right to charge premium, but if they are selling a commodity and only putting the price up for a name sticker, they are hurting the entire industry, and exposing us to unneeded temptation. A branded battery has very little innovation, and very little extra value.

      a good photographer has a significant style and a ton of value.

      1. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar

        Very nice of you to answer in person :)
        While my analogy isn’t exactly right, you can’t compare a subjective art form to a battery, I stand by my point; Quite a few Photographers seem to spend half their time complaining that their equipment is too expensive and yet the other half of their time complaining that their customers think they’re too expensive..

        I believe OEM batteries have the “right” to be sold at a ‘premium’ price because after all they have invested time, money and resources into developing, engineering and testing the battery.
        (Like how a GOOD photographer spends time and money to hone his craft, develop a style and reliably deliver a service)

        After market companies simply buy a few OEM batteries and reverse engineer/copy the design and often put ‘generic’ cells inside that may not be to the spec the camera requires.Therefore their price can be much lower.
        (Like how a BAD photographer copies a popular look but doesn’t have the right gear or knowledge to consistently pull it off.)

        1. udi tirosh Avatar
          udi tirosh

          yea, I see the point :) just don’t whole heartily agree. I do promise though that if I ever make battery-using gear, I will make it so it can use a whole lot of variety or batteries :)

      2. photomanayu Avatar

        I don’t know if they are 4 time as awesome, but at least you’re not kill by a explosion in your face.

        1. Whatdoyknow Avatar

          Right. Tell me how many actual records are there for “exploding in your face”?? Its purely a scaremongering exercise from the OEM manufacturers. I buy all the time 3rd party batteries and some of them perform better then the original. Name brands are overpriced and a rip off.

          1. photomanayu Avatar

            It’s sarcasm man…=_=” Anyways, the worst case is that the battery swell up in the battery camber. It happened to me, during a day of shooting a wedding video, one of the 3rd party battery (one has a pretty good name too) for my B Cam swell up. I got lucky with some violent shaking I’m able to get the tip of the battery out so I can use tools to forcefully put it out. Otherwise it would require almost full dissamble of the camera to get it out. And the swelling process doesn’t take long, it can happen during one charge/discharge cycle. Plus, just google up note7 battery and you’ll know my sarcasm is not unreasonable. And it sucks that I’m Canadian too. Our legit batteries cost double USA, and I have 6 EN-EL15 and 5 Sony W batteries.

  12. Michael Goolsby Avatar
    Michael Goolsby

    Logically, I would suppose that the problem is more about counterfeit branded batteries. I’ve used many scores of Sterling Tek batteries going back to the original Canon D30 in 2001. (Those old bodies really ripped through power.) Never once have I had a problem. And I trust Sterling Tek more than branded batteries precisely because, being inexpensive already, they are not likely to be counterfeited. There’s no profit! Meanwhile, I’ve had several counterfeit “Canon” batteries over the years. Given the high cost of them, the potential for profit by a counterfeiter are great. Would I trust a brand-X third party batter? No. For me, Sterling Tek is both reputable and affordable, as well as being far less likely than OEM to be fake.

  13. chrisfmdotcom Avatar

    I’ve used a lot of third party batteries. I buy them because they’re cheap but if I start to crunch the numbers the 3rd party battery value are maybe equal in cost when compared to OEM. Factoring in the lifespan and operating time they’re really best as back-ups and spares. The laptop I”m typing on now will spontaneously shut down thanks to the very inexpensive 3rd party battery. When it starts discharging too fast, which will be sooner than later I suspect. I’ll put in fork over the money for an OEM battery again, the first OEM battery lasted almost 5 years of heavy use and wouldn’t shut down randomly.

  14. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar

    I used to do QC as a holiday job to pay my way through college (yeah,
    students are doing QC…) for an OEM manufacturer (automotive electronics parts).
    The way it worked was that they were making/assembling a specific electronic
    component for a big brand car manufacturer. Not even sure what it was, didn’t really care…
    Anyway, every single component had to be tested. That was my job. Plug
    in thingy, push button, note score, apply stickers, bag, next. Got a seat, got a radio. Good boring job in an aironditioned factory with a very nice cafetaria.

    Now here’s
    the interesting part.

    Components scoring:
    97-100 would get re-tested and a “Brand”
    original part” sticker and a QC stickers.

    90-96 would get a branded OEM sticker for a
    well-know auto parts store. Kwik-fit, Halfords etc.

    84-89 would get a white label, no branding, just a parts number. “For… ”

    Items below 80 would be scrapped. Unsafe. Fire hazard.

    So what about the 81-83 bracket?
    Well, if you claimed to drive a matching car (no one checked, hell you could claim to have 20 and no one cared…) you could buy these, cash. And sell them on eBay and Craiglist. Very good profit. But there always was a dodgy dude in the parking lot who’d pay you more than eBay and save you the hassle of selling them. Word was, he worked for an OEM supplier..

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I only ever buy “original” batteries

  15. Vanitas Foto Avatar
    Vanitas Foto

    I think you are making quite of a blanket statement, while it is true that there are shady 3rd party manufacturers who don’t put the proper measures to deliver a safe Li-Ion battery I assure you there a others who do it.

    Patona, Duracell and Wasabi come to mind who have a clean track record, I have been using camera batteries from these manufacturers for a long time now with zero issues. All bought from Amazon.

    Now if you buy your batteries from an obscure source and are no brand that’s different.

    Here it is a thought: Mirrorless manufacturers could drop down the prices of their dinky powered batteries, I am not happy to pay premium price for a battery that has low capacity when compared to higher capacity OEM brand batteries from other manufactuerers with similar price tag.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar

      “I think you are making quite of a blanket statement, while it is true that there are shady 3rd party manufacturers who don’t put the proper measures to deliver a safe Li-Ion battery I assure you there a others who do it.”

      The difficulty is knowing who is who. Duracell are a good name, sure, but they were almost as expensive as the official Nikon batteries anyway, last time I looked. If I’m going to spend that kind of money, I might as well just spend the small extra and go with the Nikon anyway.

      1. Vanitas Foto Avatar
        Vanitas Foto

        In Amazon spain Duracell´s BP-511 batteries are 20,30 euros (OEM are very hard to find now) The LP-E6 is 22,99 vs 72 euros for the OEM. As for Nikon batteries Duracell’s version of the EN-EL15 is 36,34 euros vs 52 euros for the OEM Nikon battery. Each one of these batteries are available with next day delivery with Prime.

        As a sidenote this is what pisses me off from mirrorless manufacturers… the OEM NP-FW50 is 69 euros vs higher capacity batteries like the OEM EN-EL15 which is 52 euros… same for most mirrorless camera’s batteries

        1. Kaouthia Avatar

          Sony have always charged a fortune for their batteries. Economies of scale seem to mean nothing to them. :)

          1. Vanitas Foto Avatar
            Vanitas Foto

            true that!!!

        2. Johan Thole Avatar
          Johan Thole

          Be aware please that Duracell gave the name in license to “PSA”, so chances are very high that they don’t contain Duracell cells or overheating circuit.

    2. Whatdoyknow Avatar

      Very true and keep in mind that the higher capacity batteries are more likely to blow up then the low capacity ones. But as I said before it is scaremongery nothing else.

  16. photomanayu Avatar

    try buy spare genuine batteries in Canada, Canon LP-E6N and Sony W battery cost $120CAD, Nikon EN-EL15 is consider to be way better deal at $90CAD

  17. Motti Bembaron Avatar
    Motti Bembaron

    When looking for extra battery for my old D300 I did not want to pay for originals and instead bought a generic brand. It was less than a third in price. That was over 6 years ago, I gave my D300 with this battery about three months ago. Still working.

    I had three original batteries for my D3 and naturally, after a few of years they started to drain after a few hundred shots. An original was around $150 CDN, so I bought Neewer. It was $41.00. It has been over a year and it works beautifully.

    But the best experience is with my D750. When buying the camera I also bought an original Nikon battery. It was not terrible at $55 CDN. When looking for a battery grip I chose to buy the Meike. It was then $90 CDN and came with a remote wireless trigger and two (!!) batteries. I was skeptical about the batteries and the remote trigger but for $90 I thought that whatever extra they give, it’s a bonus. Well, those batteries have been in the camera almost constantly. Each can yield about 1600 shots. They are amazing. The wireless trigger is another winner, it is a must when photographing young children. I love it.

    In the old days you could not have that luxury, you had to buy originals. Simple fact is, things are changing. Technology is so good and available that many companies can produce quality goods. Since just about everything is made in China, technology is available to a wide variety of companies there and they do a great job producing better product every year.

  18. Motti Bembaron Avatar
    Motti Bembaron

    Most Camera brands do not manufacture their batteries but subcontract third party companies that are battery specialist.

    Nikon (for example) decides and design the shape of the battery to fit in their camera. They then submit case design, power specs and budget requirements to the battery company. Some companies like Godox order battery cells (from “Great Power”) and assemble the batteries themselves. Other camera and flash brands order the complete battery.

    The development and technology of batteries are not with Nikon or Canon. It is the battery specialists that deserve that credit. Those companies then make the same batteries for others like Neewer, Wasabi etc.

    Celltech in Zhongshan is one of those companies. They make the batteries for Profoto for example. Godox batteries are made by a company called “Great Power”