Nikon blocks 3rd party batteries on the Nikon Z8

Jun 2, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Nikon blocks 3rd party batteries on the Nikon Z8

Jun 2, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Nikon’s recently released Nikon Z8 (buy here) has proven quite popular. With lots of pre-orders getting into people’s hands now, though, a dirty secret has been revealed. Nikon is actively blocking 3rd party batteries from working with it. Reports were posted to Reddit and social media from users who’ve received their cameras and found that it doesn’t work with their 3rd party EN-EL15C batteries.

While this is something Nikon has been known to do in the past, this time, it caught the attention of Right to Repair campaigner Louis Rossman. While Louis typically slates companies trying to force customers into compliance, he takes a pretty fair and objective look at the situation. Ultimately, however, he believes it’s not in Nikon’s best interests to continue doing this.

[Related reading: Why batteries are something you want to buy OEM (even at exorbitant pricing)]

YouTube video

Blocking 3rd-party batteries isn’t something new for camera manufacturers, particularly Nikon. Quite a few customers have reported that their third-party batteries suddenly no longer work after updating firmware on their cameras over the years. This includes one user who found that his batteries suddenly stopped working on his D500 (buy here) and D7500 (buy here) bodies. There was also another user who noted the same on their D3300.

Louis’ take on the situation is actually pretty well-reasoned. He looks at why Nikon would implement this restriction – in the name of user safety – and then calls it out for what he believes it really is. And as far as he’s concerned, it’s a solution looking for a problem in the name of greed and profit. It’s to force people to pay way camera manufacturers more than they need to for OEM batteries instead of buying 3rd party batteries at half or a third of the cost.

The user safety issue he mentions is the battery overheating. After all, these are lithium-ion batteries, and we all know what can happen to those. They can very quickly run into an unstoppable force of exploding fire. We’ve seen massive recalls from Samsung, Dell and others in the past over battery fire risks. Not to mention Samsung phones actually exploding on people and in planes (twice).

[Related reading: Nikon recalls popular batteries over potential heating & melting issues]

There is a bit of a difference here, though. As Louis points out, there’s no epidemic of cameras exploding in users’ faces while shooting a photo. Smartphones and laptops are continually charged and discharged throughout the day. With camera batteries, the typical usage doesn’t put the batteries under the kind of stresses usually required to cause such an event to happen. Sure, it occasionally happens, as it did with this Blackmagic camera, but it is extremely rare.

Lithium-ion batteries from most camera (and smartphone) manufacturers contain temperature sensors to detect battery overheating. They use what’s known as a thermistor, which adjusts its resistance based on temperature, to determine how warm the battery is. Once it hits a certain limit, the camera shuts down. This is why, with some overheating cameras, simply swapping out for a fresh battery (albeit in a hacky way) will fix the issue.

These thermistors are sometimes (but usually not) replaced in 3rd party batteries by a simple standard resistor. This essentially provides the camera with a temperature reading that never changes, regardless of how warm or cool the battery is. Here’s a video that explains a little more how that works using smartphone batteries, which contain a similar technology.

YouTube video

It’s these unscrupulous third-party manufacturers that don’t accurately report the temperature which Nikon sees as the threat. They can’t regulate third-party batteries, so they force you to use their own OEM batteries. This would be fine if OEM batteries actually came with a reasonable price tag. Nikon isn’t alone here. OEM batteries from Sony, Canon, Panasonic and every other camera manufacturer are all ridiculously overpriced for what they are.

But, again, it’s a problem that doesn’t really exist. Even third-party batteries that do have simple resistors in them instead of thermistors aren’t randomly exploding in peoples faces. And as Louis points out, it’s entirely possible for camera manufacturers to add safeguards into the camera to overcome the problem of third-party batteries that misreport their temperature. And, well, it’s not like Nikon hasn’t had melting battery issues of their own in the past.

But as he also points out, this isn’t great business for Nikon (or any other camera manufacture). They’d be paying money to have their customers go to spend money elsewhere on batteries. Of course, as noted right at the beginning of the video, preventing the use of third-party batteries is going to prevent customers from buying their cameras in the first place. So, who really loses out?

Do you use third-party batteries with your camera? Have you ever had one explode on you?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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10 responses to “Nikon blocks 3rd party batteries on the Nikon Z8”

  1. Michael Elliott Avatar
    Michael Elliott

    Well that’s just rude of Nikon.

  2. Michael Elliott Avatar
    Michael Elliott

    Well that’s just rude of Nikon.

  3. Libby Sutherland Avatar
    Libby Sutherland

    I never quite understood why someone would spend $3k on a camera and then complain about paying $20 more, for example, for a manufacturer’s battery. Same guys will cheap out on memory cards then scream when all of their photos get corrupted.

    1. kj Avatar
      kj

      I don’t think you have ever priced a canon LP-e6 battery. A genuine battery from Canon directly is listed for $80 (‘discount’ price on Canon USA website). Wasabi LP-e6 batteries are available in a three pack for $44 . I typically carry 6-8 batteries with me on a shoot using 3 cameras. That is NOT an insignificant difference in cost. The Wasabi and Kastar batteries I have used for years have never had any issues and always outlast the Canon original batteries.

      The battery manufacturers for Canon cameras also make the same batteries for the aftermarket that sell under other names. At one time there was a Vititar branded battery that came off the same line as Canon. The Vivitar branded ones were less than half the cost.

      The biggest issue I have with a camera manufacturer eliminating the 3rd party battery is the fabrications they make up about camera safety being the reason. I have never had any battery blow up or cause any damage to a camera at all. (I have had one Canon battery swell) Asking other photographers results in them saying the same thing. Everybody has a story about a guy they heard about who’s camera was ‘destroyed’ but nobody has ever talked to that person they heard about. I am not going to say it has never happened but i find no actual evidence beyond “I heard about a guy …” . The scare lies about safety are my issue. Just admit you want more money …

      1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
        Libby Sutherland

        My recently purchased Leica battery was $275. Have about 12 batteries floating around here for various cameras. And I buy dual bay chargers when I can. The photo game can be pricey. I buy mfr batteries when I can. Learned my lesson years ago when an off brand replacement wouldn’t fit one of my cameras. It was just a millimeter off and it wouldn’t latch. Having to return then buy name brand just wasted my valuable time when I had little to spare. Was shooting commercial at the time. Busy days.

  4. Tunes Firwood Avatar
    Tunes Firwood

    I use dummy batteries extremely frequently. Not one of them has ever exploded on me: not even when the external power supply it was attached to failed.

    But then, Nikon’s video quality is rubbish, so I wouldn’t be using one of their bodies for that anyway.

  5. Ron Packer II Avatar
    Ron Packer II

    Nope. I’ve used aftermarket for years and never had an issue

  6. Craig Pifer Avatar
    Craig Pifer

    I’ve used aftermarket batteries with no issues. The only OEM batteries I have are the ones that came with the cameras. Haven’t seen any noticeable difference other than the extra money in my bank account.

  7. Richard Szőke Avatar
    Richard Szőke

    Another reason not to buy the Z8… 🤔🤷🏻‍♂️

  8. Peter Vines Photography Avatar
    Peter Vines Photography

    Had numerous third party ones with no issues for both Canon and Fuji. Their longevity has been good too.