High-Speed + High Power = External Battery

UPDATE: Someone dropped a pretty good test of various relative battery recycle performance times into the comments of this post.

I prefer using Ni-MH batteries in my speedlights. Especially the "pre-charged" ones, because they hold their charge for much longer between uses.

They do a full-power recharge in less than four seconds in most flashes, which means that at, say, 1/4 power, you can shoot away with almost no regard for recycle time. As long as you are averaging about one shot a second, you are fine for moderate bursts.

But what if you want to shoot fast at 1/2 -- or full -- power?

I am a big fan of the Lumedyne rechargeable, high-voltage battery packs. They are not cheap, but they give you the ability to shoot quickly when you need to on higher power settings.

They can charge your flash in as little as 0.7(!) seconds for a full-manual power shot. If you are shooting in fluid situations, and your paycheck depends on those flashes being ready, they are worth their weight in gold.

But you have to be careful -- these batts can deliver enough manual flashes, quickly, to overheat your flash. So work in bursts -- don't just turn on the garden hose or you will pay the price.

The Lumy's I have used (since back when the earth was still cooling) are big and clunky compared to the sleek little ones they have out now. Lumedyne has started a video channel on YouTube, and one of the videos gives a basic run-through on their new, smaller "cyclers".

To use these (or any other hi-voltage batt packs) your flash needs to have a high-voltage socket. I do not use them very often (not shooting to much hoops these days). But when you need them, they are golden.


:: Lumedyne YouTube Channel ::
:: Lumedyne Cyclers Info ::



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Anonymous christian nam said...

what a cheezy video, but what an awesome product.

June 20, 2008 2:22 AM  
Anonymous Mario Moschel said...

Yesterday, I received my long awaited Lumedyne UltraMegaCycler, which is advertised by Lumedyne to be the fastest external batterie available.

I wanted to know exactly and made a little speed comparison betweeen some external flash batteries.

I used a Canon 580 EXII, loaded with 4 fully charged Sanyo Eneloops (2000mAh), set on manual full power (1/1), fired by hand. C-Fn 12 was set to "1", which means the flash was powered by external battery only. The in flash batteries only powered the flash's electronics and display, not the capazitator.

Then I stopped the time from firing until the flash's ready light was lightened again (manually, with a normal wrist watch).

So, this is NO SCIENTIFIC test, it'll only give you a hint of speed for several external power sources.

I made 10 measurements with every fully charged power source and then calculated average value for every battery.

And these are the results:

4 AA Eneloops in flash only, no external battery: 3.053 sec

Quantum Turbo, set to "fast": 2.141 sec

Quantum Turbo, set to "ultra fast": 1.569 sec

Quantum Turbo Z: 1.981 sec

Quantum Turbo SC: 1.965 sec

Canon CP-E2 (6x fully charged Eneloops): 3.776 sec

Canon CP-E3 (8x fully charged Eneloops): 2.131 sec

Lumedyne UltraMegaCycler: 1.118 sec

[b]Conclusion 1[/b]: If speed matters, the Lumedyne UltraMegaCycler is really the fastest of all my external batteries. Lumedyne says, it is made for speed (be careful not melting your flash!), not for perseverance. Adorama.com writes: "We recommend these extremely fast Cyclers only when the speed of the recycle is the main concern."

I guess the heavy'n'bulky Quantum Turbo gives you more flashes per charge, but not as fast as the Lumedyne UMCycler.

Some details from Quantum:


Some from Lumedyne:


Conclusion 2: Both manufacturers advertise the recycle times in an optimistic way.

Quantum says:

Turbo Battery Turbo Slim Compact Turbo Compact Turbo 2x2 Turbo AC

Shoe flash 1.0 sec. 1.4 sec. 1.4 sec. 1.0 sec. 1.3 sec.

Handle flash 1.25 sec. 1.8 sec. 1.8 sec. 1.1 sec. 2.0 sec.

Qflash 2.5 sec. 3.0 sec. 3.0 sec. 1.9 sec. 2.8 sec.

In my test, I never reached 1 sec with the Turbo!

Lumedyne says 0.7 sec for a full recycle with the UMCycler. My hand stopped times are not far from this, but 0.7 sec isn't the same as 1.11 sec.

Conclusion 3: Canon's flash power packs really aren't Speedy Gonzalez. They provide you more flashes and longer shooting without changing batteries, but they really don't speed up your flash. But: The results may be different with different types of AA batteries used (Alkaline, Lithium, NiMh, NiCd, different mAh ...), I guess.

Conclusion 4: Sometimes, Canon's CP-E2, loaded with 6 Eneloops, can be slower than using just the 4 AAs in the flash itself!!! (???)

3.776 sec vs. 3.053 sec!!!

(Could this really be???)

Conclusion 5: The recycling times I measured for every single battery are close, which means: For the Quantum Turbo (Fast), I stopped times from 1.98 sec to 2.20 sec, for the Lumedyne, I stopped times ranging from 1.01 sec to 1.15 sec. Greatest difference in each row was about 0.46 sec (CP-E2): 3.56 sec to 4.00 sec.

Please feel free to continue this test row with other batteries like Al's Black Box, DigitalBatteries, other Lumedyne or Quantum stuff.

Thanks for reading.


June 20, 2008 2:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just asking.
What if connect a 6v 4Ah rechargeable sealed lead acid battery? is that ok? those are pretty cheap and seem to work fine, dont know if its really safe.

June 20, 2008 2:56 AM  
Anonymous roman makhmutov said...

Well, i must mention what Nikon, for example, do not recommend use fast shooting on full power. On their SD-8a battery pack (which contains 6 AA addition to flash 4 or 5 AA) you can even read about 10 minutes! of waiting after such flash rush, or flash lamp may overheat and it lifetime will be shortened.

Any thoughts about that?

June 20, 2008 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow.... I think I found a new hobby.

WTT..All my photo gear for one mini gun, a pickup full of ammo and a dozen cases of Budweiser.

June 20, 2008 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Michael Tapes said...

Hi David,

Recently became a confirmed Strobist. Thank you so much for all you give!

On the power packs, while I have a Quantum SC and Turbo 2x2, I recently bought a few Nikon SD-8A power packs for my new SB-800s. What I like over the Quantum is smaller, lighter, and can pop in the MiNh AAs that I already have. I think it is a winner. Similar recharge times as the big packs. Any specific reasons why you did not mention them. Joe McNally seems to be a fan of them, also.

BTW...Scott Kelby posted a link today to a video from the USA Today Tech Writers. Right at the get-go one of them says that you and Scott are the must go-to web sites each morning. Here is the link:

Thanks again for all the knowledge, inspiration and fun!

Michael Tapes

June 20, 2008 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Richard Cave said...

Cheers David, I noticed that my power was getting depleted too quickly with my rechargeable batteries. I will be investing in these battery packs.



June 20, 2008 6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to using a sealed lead acid battery as a power source I see no reason why it should not work (Provided your flash uses 6v; that's what the external battery packs use. You could build a set of "batteries" from some dowels, would screws and wire to insert into the flash and run it out to the battery.

Considering a battery and charger runs around $25 each it might be a cheaper, if less elegant solution.

Here's one link to such a setup:


June 20, 2008 10:22 AM  
Blogger Carlos Ocegueda said...

IF you need the speed, then these battery packs will help out. The main thing one needs to be fully aware is that they can overheat internal components and can cause permanent damage to the unit.

IF you are looking for a pack that gives you a large number of full charge flashes, you can go to Al Jacobs ( http://aljacobs.com/index.htm ). It has some good information as to what you need to be aware of when using external battery packs on speed lights.

June 20, 2008 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, is there a piece of equipment out there that would allow you to set up, say, four speedlites and have a different flash fire for each shot, thereby reducing the risk of overheating? You could even go nuts and have a dedicated battery pack for each flash. I would call this "flash pooling" but I haven't seen anything that would allow you to do that. ~ Mark

June 20, 2008 11:15 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

I'm with those who like the SD-8A for Nikons. I use two of them for hoops -- one with an SB-800 and the other with an SB-25.

Nikon is very conservative about the shooting rate. I usually run them at full or half power (I like to leave the ambient in the dust) and will shoot 4 or 5 shots within 10 or so seconds. I've done this a number of times and no sign of meltdown yet.

It's possible to add an external 6V battery, but that doesn't give you nearly the recycle time improvement of the external high-voltage pack. The low voltage still has to be converted by the internal flash circuitry to a high voltage for charging the flash's condensor, and that's one of the main things that slows recycling. The high-voltage pack bypasses that by using circuitry in the battery pack.

June 20, 2008 12:12 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

A friend of mine turned me onto Al Jacobs (http://www.aljacobs.com/), who hand builds lead-acid battery packs. It's a beautiful product and he provides the right information to keep these things running for five years.

One of the tidbits of info he makes sure to pass on is the heat build up issue. The AA's heat up quite quickly when they discharge, adding a fifth battery, with it's insulating cover, worsens the heat problem.

The SB800's use the MKZ3 cable, used with the battery door removed; letting the heat discharge easier.

June 20, 2008 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Mario- Canon's current battery packs are the CP-E4. The CP-E2 is two generations old and was made for a prior generation of flashes, so I'm not sure how meaningful it is to test it with a 580EX II.

June 20, 2008 12:59 PM  
Blogger alan said...

A couple of folks here mentioned using 6V packs. What the Lumedyne and Quantum packs are generating are high voltage, which is connecting through the high voltage connection on the front of the flash units which, in turn, connects directly to the capacitor inside the flash unit. While the 6V batteries will give you more flashes per charge, they won't give you the faster recycling times talked about in David's article and the comments following it.

June 20, 2008 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Mike Allebach - Philly said...

I recently fell in love with the SD 8a. It's cheap like 1/4 of the price of the others and I use it with 5 batteries in the flash for a total of 11 rechargable batteries. It charges pretty fast.

Mike Allebach - Philadelphia

June 20, 2008 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Tarjei99 said...

You may want to read about what Al Jacobs writes about battery packs. Not the easiest web site to navigate, but he's site is an entertaining read. I've enjoyed a lot of his writing.

He makes and sells a battery pack called The Black Box.


About flash (see the Redneck Light Spear Mk II)

June 20, 2008 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good video David, but, whadaf... was this link from "turn on the garden hose" ???
A bunch of idiots, spending "daddy's money" in ridiculous waste in huge an overpowerfull shotguns? Why they don't try to feed children instead destroy things?
Professional shooters: don't get me wrong.
I know the real sport is an art, but this one was RIDICULOUS!
And the last one: "Look honey, how big, hot, full BUT FAST my gun is...". "Yeah ... I WILL ... SAW ...".
Well, let's get back to photography ...

June 20, 2008 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Tracy said...

Are these better than the Quantum series?

June 20, 2008 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Nasir Hamid said...

I've built quite a few battery packs from sealed lead acid (SLA) packs for my SB600's, SB800's and Vivitar 285's and they work a treat. The real bonus is the discharge rate is not even noticeable if I don't use them for weeks compared to NiMH's.

There are lots of tutorials online and on Flickr.


June 20, 2008 3:40 PM  
Blogger MikLav said...

Interestingly I was just thinking about an external battery for my Sigma EF-500DG Super a few days ago, and I found that shutterburg link mentioned above; and I ordered by 6V battery yesterday on eBay.

The point is that high-capacity high-power external low-voltage battery does improve charging time, and not only provides higher capacity. It is probably not as efficient as high-voltage packs, but some flash units (like mine) don't have a high-voltage connection.

The external low-voltage batteries we are talking about are high-current ones (4-4.5A), so flash can drain power faster than from usual AA-batteries.

June 21, 2008 5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the SB-800 I would recommend the Nikon SD-8a... best price/recycle time relation on the market. But beware of not melting your flash!

Addenda: The only flaw I have ever seen on this great site: that dumb video of guns and very intelligent shooters... lets keep on photography David!


June 21, 2008 12:15 PM  
Blogger photographer said...


For low voltage, this may be a good start. $45usd and then rig the battery compartment. They use high capacity 5Ah batteries.

June 21, 2008 1:22 PM  
Blogger David said...


Little secret:

The easter eggs aren't designed to please everyone. And if that video is the only flaw you've ever found on this site, I'd like to welcome you as a brand new reader!

There are hundreds, nay, thousands more flaws awaiting your discovery...

June 21, 2008 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

I'll cast another vote for the 6V SLA battery. I've gone around the use of fuses or other odd things to fill the battery pack and just soldered wires that connect to the battery into the side of the flash using an inexpensive HH extension cord. This way, if I need to revert to my AAs, I can just disconnect the SLA battery and shove the batteries into their places. It also allows three flashes to hook onto the same 6V battery. I'm getting recycle times that are just silly with a 5ah Werker brand battery.

June 21, 2008 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Mario Moschel said...

"Anonymous said...
For Mario- Canon's current battery packs are the CP-E4. The CP-E2 is two generations old and was made for a prior generation of flashes, so I'm not sure how meaningful it is to test it with a 580EX II.

JUNE 20, 2008 12:59 PM"

Yes, and that's why I tested CP-E3 also. CP-E3 and CP-E4 are the same in technology, CP-E4 just has some dust and rain seals.

June 21, 2008 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Brad Vautrinot said...

Nice Easter egg, David. When it all comes down I want to be in the middle of those guys & gals. My D3 only shoots pics, not bullets, so it won't be much help if I need it. I've been to one of those shoots in the southwest and they are a blast. I've never been a fan of Mountain Dew but they do have some fun commercials.

I'm anxiously awaiting the second edition of your Strobist Lighting Seminar DVD. Great site and keep up the excellent work. I have a lot to learn. In the meantime, I'll sight-in my Barrett .50 cal.

"Political Correctness" is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

June 21, 2008 4:12 PM  
Blogger jasphoto said...

I prefer HV packs over 6v options - My favorite are the Digital Camera Batteries - www.DigitalCamerabattery.com.
While they are comparable to the Lumedyne on recycle time. DCB's have more storage capacity (their small unit -about the size of the Lumedyne mini does 1400 full power shots on a SB 800 compared to 350). The voltage circuitry is in the cable allowing the same battery to also power Laptops, printers, cameras, Uni400JR's anything you can get them to make a cable for. So you can carry fewer different backups - just extra cables.


June 21, 2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Tony Claxton said...

I don't mind the occasional detours from photography into other areas. As someone who enjoys shooting guns as well as cameras I really enjoyed the video. I can't imagine shooting a few thousand dollars worth of ammunition in just a few minutes, but it looked like fun to me!

June 21, 2008 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a HV pack user from WAY WAY back. Back when the best AA battery was a 500mah NiCd.

Currently I use both a Quantum Turbo and Lumedyne MegaCycler. Which one I use depends on which one I feel like using, no real difference to me. I use a HV pack almost every chance I get, just for the FAST recycle time. Invariably when I don't bring the HV pack, I run into shots where I am stuck w/o being able to do a fast follow-up shot...and I'm fussing waiting for the ready light to go on. Usually the fast shots are just 2 or 3 shot bursts, not 10+ shots in rapid sequence. And the majority of the time is that fast follow-up 2nd shot.

Let me tell you...FAST recycling is an addiction. Once you get used to it...you almost can't live w/o it.

The cost is both $ and bulk (the HV pack hanging from your shoulder). Even used/reconditioned HV packs are expensive.

One thing to remember, when you put the camera down, you also have to put the battery pack down...or you will drag the camera crashing to the floor when you walk away (with the battery pack still on you). :-(

Whenever I buy a flash, one of my criteria is that it have a HV jack that I can plug in my HV pack.

a spoiled HV pack user

June 21, 2008 6:58 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Dave, Great post as usual, but Wow - this got censored quick smart.... I agreed with the original post...

Noone gets jokes these days? And really - you mess up on a pro shoot - you do want to E.A.G. CENSORED

Seriously - this is a fun site - and I thought America had freedom of speech and expression? Guess not... Weird...

June 21, 2008 10:32 PM  
Blogger Addison Geary said...

What's next for overclocked strobes? Cooling fans? Heat vents? Freezer packs? Seems like an great opportunity for some entrepreneurial stobist.

June 21, 2008 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Chris Thorp said...

The thing is, the 580 EX II is a fairly fast cycling flash on the internal charger. The electronics are designed such that with 4 AA in the flash, and 8 AA in a CP-E4, that all 12 will be depleted at the same time when you run off combo power -- power from both the internal and external batteries. That gets your cycle time down under 2 seconds.

June 22, 2008 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Madelien said...

I was interested, until I saw the price. Soooo expensive, and I'm beginning to doubt the sense of letting 500 euros (PW and Lumedyne) dangle off a 75 euro strobe.

But I'd be interested in reading a similar article about Quantum, which seems a lot cheaper and similar in results. I don't think that a lot of people feel the need for a 0, 70 second recharge, not to mention the fact that most strobes are not up for it. But 2 seconds with the Quantum system seems peachy!

June 22, 2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous ToddHibbs said...

Happiness is a warm belt-fed weapon.

Oh... and I was wondering what that connector was on my SB800.

Let's see... Owner's manual.... strobist.... Owner's manual.... aw heck... I'll just wait on Strobist to cover it.

June 22, 2008 3:00 PM  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Could have used one of these Lumidyne battery packs yesterday on a dance shoot I had. One flash, on the catwalk, 1/2 power manual, shooting from the back row with a 300/f4. I shot around 300 frames before I noticed the recycle time dramatically increasing, and by 350 the batteries were so toasted my recycle was 30 seconds plus. Had to bump to 800 ISO and shoot with stage lighting at that point.

Cycle 61 Photography

June 23, 2008 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Mario Moschel said...

I just tested the Lumedyne UltraMegaCycler along with a Nikon SB-800 (manual, full power, loaded with 5 fully charged Sanyo Eneloops): AMAZING!!!!! between 0.5 and 0.8 sec for a full recycle.


June 23, 2008 2:46 PM  
Anonymous hoover said...

I like some of the others of you, have had great results from the Nikon SD-8a. For paid jobs I use 5 Energizer Lithium's in the SB-800and 6 in the SD-8a. Super fast recycle time and more than enough "pops" to get the job done. For personal work I use Duracell "Procell". I don't do much indoor sport shooting so I have not had the need for the big bucks boosters. I also heed the Nikon warranty warning's about third party boosters that use the high voltage socket on their flashes. Over load it and that's going to cost you.....


June 23, 2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous CJW said...

I met the Lumadyne guy at WPPI. I don't think he EVER buttons up his shirt.

What's cool about their gear is that they will rent it to you directly for a week at a modest $50 or so.

June 24, 2008 5:23 PM  
Blogger MikLav said...

I can confirm now what I said above, and what's said at http://www.shutterbug.net/equipmentreviews/accessories/0699sb_howto/

I have bought 6V 4.5Ah lead-acid batter (about $20). It charges my Sigma EF-500 DG Super for ~1.5 sec at full power (vs ~6 sec from AA batteries). My old manual thyristor National flash also charges much faster than before (around 3.5 sec). However my Sunpak 4000AF didn't show any improve - I suppose it has a current limitation circuit, so it still takes about 9 seconds to charge...

July 01, 2008 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Dell laptop batteries said...

Hey guys!
i just started blogging not that long ago and running across this blog it seemed a bit too interesting to only read the first paragraph. I kinda got confused in the middle of it but the end just made it all go together like a puzzle. Please, who ever wrote this, keep me updated!

November 22, 2008 7:15 PM  
Blogger William Elvin said...

hi fellow strobists!

I need help from Lumedyne users. I recently found a Lumedyne Ultramegacycler in a local Camera Flea Bargain store. The problem is that it does not come with a charger. I find it expensive to order in the US and have them shipped to my country. I was wondering if anyone could post the specifics of the charger (CQ1Z). output voltage and amperes would really help a lot. thanks and more power to strobists.com

July 22, 2010 4:44 AM  

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