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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New NiZn Batteries Offer Lightning Fast Recycle

As you know, 1.2v NiMH rechargeable batteries recycle most flashes faster than do 1.5v standard alkaline batts. This is because the NiMH's excel at delivering current, which is usually the bottleneck in the flash's recycle rate.

But what if you could combine the fast current delivery of an NiMH with a voltage that is even higher than an alkaline?

You'd have a turbo battery disguised as a AA, is what you'd have.

Sounds great, huh? Well, there is one small caveat …
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Live Fast, Die Young

That's exactly how Canadian wedding photographer Brian Tao (who made the videos below) put it, and I'd be inclined to agree.

The nominal voltage on an NiZn battery is 1.65v -- already above the voltage most AA-based flashes are expecting. But the actual metered terminal voltage is reportedly up around 1.85v, which will pretty much redline your flash PDQ:




As you can see, Brian is dumping full-power shots, one after the other, at very high speed. And that flash is dissipating all of the extra current as -- you guessed it -- heat. Since the SB-900 has a thermal scale built in to the flash, you can actually watch it happen in the video.

Truth be told, it doesn't matter if you run that many, rapid 1/1 pops through a flash via NiZn AA's or an external turbo battery. That current has to dissipate somehow.

So don't think it is the necessarily NiZn batts' fault. It's physics.

Of course, Brian being a guy, he had to see just how long it would take to throw the SB-900 into thermal overload.

Answer: Not very.




For run-and-gun shooters (PJ, wedding, etc.,) NiZn batts might be a good tool for everyday use -- provided you don't redline them like this, of course. But if you are gonna stick them in your flash -- and I am not recommending it, just throwing out some early info -- mind the total energy going through your flash.

Obviously, running at 1/4 or 1/8 power in a typical portrait session would be both safer and blisteringly fast. But still, keep an eye out.

In fact, if you do try them in your flash please hit us up in the comments with the following info:

1. Make and model of your flash
2. Make and model of NiZn batts you used
3. Recycle time at full, 1/2 and 1/4 power
4. How long it took for your flash to explode
5. How many nearby people were hit by flying debris when it did

(And don't forget to wear goggles when you shoot!)

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(Thanks to Jonathan for the tip via the comments.)


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72 Comments:

Blogger watkins.brent said...

am I the only one who got that weird feeling in my gut after the fifth pop and the light came back that fast?
Holy Smokes!

January 05, 2010 11:10 AM  
Blogger aaa said...

ya think mixing a couple of NiZn batts with NiMh would make a performance difference without the thermo-disasterous results??

January 05, 2010 11:20 AM  
Blogger Robert Cristie Photography www.robertcristie.com said...

Hilarious! I'll draw a chalk outline of all the pieces of the flash unit after it explodes and send you all the data. The radius of the explosion can't be that big, right????

January 05, 2010 11:29 AM  
Blogger Jason Anderson said...

My only question is would this same issue be present in other devices? Say for instance you had a P&S camera, or a remote for a TV, or a wireless trigger that took AA's (or AAA's as I am guessing they make AAA's too, although I didn't see any on their product page, but the charger indicates that the AAA variety would be available soon) or would flashes be the only type that would suffer the downside of redline due to excess heat...

January 05, 2010 11:35 AM  
Blogger Virginia photographer said...

Very Interesting and good information since I hate to fry my gear before the 3 -4 years.

January 05, 2010 11:35 AM  
Blogger TC said...

Where can I get me some of that?

In Europa.

Just search amazon.co.uk and ebay for "NiZn" without any (relevant) results.

January 05, 2010 11:41 AM  
Blogger J. Alan Paul said...

Dayum those are fast! And right out of the packaging too!

Do we know if the same rules apply as far as recharging these bad boys? Every charger I'm seeing out there are fast 1HR rapid chargers... I know with my NiMh I slow fill them overnight and they seem to last a good while and will give me quite a long usage time...

I would be curious as to the life and strength of these during an hour or two of portraits?

Any tests or findings on how many full pops they will give before the refresh time slows to a crawl?

January 05, 2010 11:43 AM  
Blogger JS said...

I absolutely will never trust myself with that product. (Might as well come with all-you-can-eat ribs.)

January 05, 2010 11:43 AM  
Blogger RAP said...

Some might want to look at the thoughtful and cautionary note from an engineer at this page, in the review section:

http://www.amazon.com/PowerGenix-ZRPGX-AA8-High-Voltage-Rechargeable-Batteries/dp/B002NJUJ16/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1262708945&sr=8-5

Of interest was that we can't use our beloved Maha smart chargers as these batteries require special chargers. The power they deliver is about the same as an Eneloop. They won't endure as many recharge cycles as NiMH batteries. They lose charge in storage faster than NiMH.

January 05, 2010 11:43 AM  
Blogger Tony Maiello said...

Interesting...i'm thinking of buying these simple because i'm a gearhead.

Anyone know if they can recharge in Nihm chargers or is the specified charger a must have. I ask because i just shelled out $40 bucks on the LaCrosse 9009 a few weeks ago. :)

January 05, 2010 11:51 AM  
Blogger Dean said...

Nope, you're not the only one. I got that feeling in my gut too! Wow.
Don't know if I would use them though. Crazy.
Thanks for the new info David!

January 05, 2010 12:09 PM  
Blogger jeff said...

This is why I have a pile of old 283's and Sunpak 422/433/etc around.... they're worth a bit more than the batteries on ebay, so I'm out some beer money if one of them fries....

January 05, 2010 12:35 PM  
Blogger -MiKe- said...

Being a guy myself, I can say I have a little experience in throwing alternate power-sources at my flashes, and I can't say this is all too dangerous. Well, any more dangerous than other options.

NiZn batteries are great for current, sure, but as mentioned above, they fail for storage and usability.

The extra voltage may or may not be an issue. I am guessing not. The DC to DC converters in use in most electronics nowadays have a usable input voltage that can be quite wide, depending on the combination of tech used (Buck, Boost, Flyback). A properly designed Buck converter could handle an input of 24 volts and still output 3 or 5 volts. And this is something the converter can compensate for on the fly.

Some may say there isn't a converter in use here, but there is.

In this case, the current discharge of the batteries is only part of the speed boost, the extra voltage actually gives a boost as well.

I would not worry myself over it though. The internal limiters will save you from killing the flash.

I do wonder what kind of speed throwing these in a HV booster would net me... Would be epic...

January 05, 2010 12:46 PM  
Blogger rjgreenphoto said...

Interesting, but I rarely just shoot only with AA batteries. I always have a Quantum battery attached. So I wasn't sure about that last statement "For run-and-gun shooters (PJ, wedding, etc." If you're a wedding photographer, who would ever just shoot with AA batteries - be it plain Jane or NiZn?

January 05, 2010 1:05 PM  
Blogger Pewp said...

I got 4 of these and a charger off of amazon for christmas. I have 8 more coming in the mail. These batteries are fantastic. They don't have the same mah as nimh batteries, but they are still pretty damn good and will only get better with time.

January 05, 2010 1:08 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Hey, folks! Thanks to David for picking up my videos. I'm a wedding photographer and I've been using the NiZn batteries only for a couple of weeks so far. I'll do a detailed write-up soon and maybe get David to link to it.

Bottom line: if you want the recycle times of a battery pack, but with just four AA's, these are the batteries you need to get. I have one charger and 16 batteries right now, but another five chargers and 80 batteries are on their way from Amazon.

There are definitely caveats to this system, which I'll cover in my write-up. I'll try to answer some of the questions here in the meantime.

January 05, 2010 1:09 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@watkins.brent: I'm at a photography conference in Mystic, CT right now. Even after a day of casual shooting with about 250 bounce flash shots in a large ballroom, I'm *still* getting 1.4-second full-power recycle times on the SB-900. Pop in a fresh set, and I'm back down to 1.1-second recycle.

January 05, 2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger Jack and Brenda said...

I realize that the thermal cutoff is a good option, but since I've had my SB900 shut off while standing in the sunlight for 10 minutes on a cool day (before the first shots were taken), I've disabled the cutoff on my unit. It'd be nice to know exactly what factors have to be in place before it goes into shutdown. Many have said that the Nikon engineers have it set way on the cautious side.

January 05, 2010 1:25 PM  
Blogger mhakola said...

Okay the first problem is that Wile E. Coyote lit the match on his bum, ensuring early on that things were going to go downhill quickly. (Or up in smoke as the case may be.) Secondly he is using an Acme tripod for his rocket. Sorry, fella- you need stronger sticks with that kind of firepower.

Thanks for pulling together posts such as this.

January 05, 2010 1:28 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@J. Alan Paul: I used the same testing methodology as Nikon (full-power pop every 30 seconds until the SB-900 shuts down). I get 143 pops with the NiZn's before shutdown. By comparison I get 184 pops from 2100 mAh Imedion AA's.

Keep in mind that the PowerGenix AA's are rated at 2500 mWh (milliWATT hours). At 1.6 volts, that translates to about 1500 mAh (milliAMP hours). The capacity is not there yet, but I personally would far rather have fast recycle times than long endurance. I can always pack a couple extra sets for extra-long weddings, etc.

January 05, 2010 1:29 PM  
Blogger pete said...

I've been using them and love them, have not noticed the heat issue but recharges are quick. I have a sunpak flash on my nikon. The batteries have a special charger, kind of funky in it takes 3 slots on a power bar, just huge plug area. Interested in the idea of mixing and may try that next time.

January 05, 2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger JMac said...

To aaa, commenting on mixing NiZn and NiMH batteries.

All that would do is pretty well toast the batteries, most likely both types (the 1.2v would overcharge and the 1.65v would overdischarge, both cause battery failure).

Overcharging the NiMH could also cause some form of catastrophic failure that would also destroy the strobe.

The comments on not mixing battery types in the manuals of all electronic gear is there for a reason.

January 05, 2010 1:43 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@Jason Anderson:

I imagine that low-drain devices (like remote controls or radio triggers) won't care, because they don't draw much current to begin with. But slap 'em into device that will try to suck out charge as fast as it can (speedlight, flashlight, camera motor drive), and you'll see a difference.

I have been shooting with eight NiZn AA's in the grip of my D700 for the past two days. It lasted 910 shots before the camera switched over to the internal EN-EL3e. I have very little experience with using AA's in a DSLR, but that sounds like very good endurance to me. Oh, 654 of those shots were with the Nikkor 105mm VR macro lens, so more power drain because of that. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

January 05, 2010 3:20 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@J. Alan Paul:

NiZn cells have a lower self-discharge rate than standard NiMH ones, although I don't think they are quite as good as Eneloops or Imedions. Note that in the first video, I'm using cells straight out of the packaging. I have no idea how long those cells sat in the factory, in a shipping container, in a warehouse, on a store shelf, etc. Yet their performance has been phenomenal. I don't think this was a fluke either, so I expect NiZn batteries won't self-discharge much at all.

January 05, 2010 3:26 PM  
Blogger Σαρμής said...

That's a strange coinsidence, I just finished modding a YN460 to hav an external DC jack, and I used Li-ION batteries (7.2V) to power it. It works, but not noticable faster or slower that with NiMH. I wonder if there is any wait to to a fair test between batteries...

January 05, 2010 3:30 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@Tony Maiello:

NiMH chargers aren't calibrated to charge NiZn batteries. The internal resistance, terminal voltage, thermal profile, etc. are all different. Even completely drained in the SB-900, my NiZn's report about 1.45 to 1.50 volts, and the BC-900 thinks they are already "full".

There is a way to workaround that if you really want to use the BC-900, but you need to watch it, since it may not know when to properly terminate the charge, and get you into trouble.

The PowerGenix quick charger (avoid the "5-hour charger"!) isn't terribly fancy, but it gets the job done.

January 05, 2010 3:32 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@rjgreenphoto:

Although there are indeed many wedding photographers who use external battery packs, of the several hundred I know personally, very few actually do. Unscientifically, I'd say about half use a pack to increase the recycling rate, while the other half use them for endurance.

The reason why I had a CP-E4 on my 580EX II's (when I shot Canon) was to get the short recycling time. Already, I've heard from at least a dozen full-time wedding photogs who can't wait to ditch their Quantums and CP-E4's and SD-9's, just as soon as their NiZn's arrive in the mail.

The reason why some photogs don't shoot with only AA's is because of the recycling issue. That obstacle has now effectively been removed. I hate shooting with an external battery pack, and now I don't have to.

January 05, 2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger ClovenLife said...

If you could email me the name of the product you're gonna write about a day early so i can buy/sell their stock. Cause I'm sure you just helped sell a few thousand of these suckers haha

January 05, 2010 4:21 PM  
Blogger rjgreenphoto said...

Brian said...

Thanks for the info. I don't shoot weddings but corporate events and have used Quantum battery products for years (for use with my Canon flashes). I will admit that I wouldn't feel comfortable using only batteries in my flash (regardless of the weight), not just for recycle time but for longevity - the number of shots taken on an assignment.

January 05, 2010 4:54 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

I am thinking I am not going to participate in this experiment :)

January 05, 2010 5:38 PM  
Blogger SS Buchanan said...

I wonder what kind of mayhem would be caused by using NiZn's in one of those 8 battery backs you can get?
Your recycle times would be insane, and you could probably blow your flashes up in a matter of seconds!

January 05, 2010 6:21 PM  
Blogger WeddPix said...

Wow, this is great. Can not wait to be able to buy this in Sydney, Australia.

January 05, 2010 7:04 PM  
Blogger John said...

Speaking of exploding flashes, I just found out about O. Wilson Link who did flash photography back in the 1950s. If I'm not mistaken had to replace they flash bulbs every shot and since he was doing shots of trains with many bulbs, this was no mean feat. Some amazing stuff if you want to check it out:
http://www.linkmuseum.org/collection.html#headline

January 05, 2010 7:06 PM  
Blogger Matthew Lovell said...

Question for Brian -

Is your sb-900 updated with the firmware that supposedly helped the flash overheating issue?

That may make a difference on the number of pops you get before the flash shuts you out.

January 05, 2010 8:19 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Nikon SB-24 - full power recycle with the fastest NiMH that I have... about 3.8 sec

The same flash with Powergenix NiZn... about 2.2 sec

Canon 430 EX II - full power recycle with the fastest NiMH that I have... about 2 sec

The same flash with Powergenix NiZn... about 1.1 sec

I can get this kind of performance "right out of the box".
I never bothered to test the lower settings, and I have no desire to test to see how many full power pops I can get on a fresh/full charge. I have been using these cells since October, and have never come anywhere close to running a set down during a shoot.

January 05, 2010 9:08 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@rjgreenphoto:

If I needed both fast recycle times *and* long endurance on a speedlight sitting atop a 13-foot lightstand, I would hang a battery pack off that. You'd want to avoid changing batteries in that situation.

For me, I can get through most of a wedding with a single set of Eneloops, and would swap in a fresh set once the recycle times headed north of 8 to 10 seconds. I don't mind carrying an extra set of NiZn insteads and swapping them earlier in the day, if it means I can have consistent 1- to 2-second recycle times the whole day.

January 05, 2010 9:22 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@SS Buchanan:

I'm wrapping up here at Mystic, but I'll be at DWFC and ImagingUSA next week in Nashville. I'm sure I could convince someone there to lend me their SD-9 or CP-E4 for some testing. ;-)

January 05, 2010 9:24 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

@Matthew Lovell:

I am running firmware 5.02 on my SB-900's, so they should be right up-to-date.

January 05, 2010 9:26 PM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

Seeing Wile E. Coyote at the top of this post told me everything I need to know. Thanks, but no thanks!

January 05, 2010 9:47 PM  
Blogger rsprung said...

This is really interesting. I'm new to Strobist, and have accumulated SB24, SB26, and SB28dx units in spite of rising prices. Having the right batteries charged and performing well is an issue for someone who practices sporadically.

I came across this video by someone calling himself "Nikon Help Hotline" after reading the thread here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWBPnGRY95o

The claim here is that the lower voltage of rechargeables actually causes more overheating than using alkalines. The implication, if true, would be that the even higher voltage of NiZn should reduce overheating issues. I intend to give them a try.

January 06, 2010 12:04 AM  
Blogger Jin said...

The voltage is not the issue. However, flashes can burn out if you pop them at 1/1 many times in short succession. This is explained in the article above, and has also been stated in every manual of Canon EOS SLRs that have built-in flash.

The article is wrong, however, because the heat comes from the light itself, and not the dissipation of "extra current." The flash will be more likely to survive if you keep using it at lower power settings.

January 06, 2010 2:57 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Owh My Gawd
that is fast man!!!!
I really couldn't believe it when I saw it. I read the title and little piece and I thought; well, maybe two secs a flash or something and then Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom they just keep popping!

January 06, 2010 4:23 AM  
Blogger Stuart said...

Interesting, but I'm happy with my 2800 mAh Ni-MH AAs, however they came with a superfast charger, and I know this will nuke them and they would be better off with a gentle slow charge, but looking on Ebay I can only see fast chargers, can anyone point out a suitable slow charger please? Would that require an overnight charge?

January 06, 2010 5:02 AM  
Blogger Stuart said...

Interesting, but I'm happy with my 2800 mAh Ni-MH AAs, however they came with a superfast charger, and I know this will nuke them and they would be better off with a gentle slow charge, but looking on Ebay I can only see fast chargers, can anyone point out a suitable slow charger please? Would that require an overnight charge?

January 06, 2010 5:12 AM  
Blogger Jon Bloom said...

I'm thinking four of these in my SB-800 would eliminate any need for the 5th-battery "wart." The no-load voltage of four of these is less than the open-circuit voltage of five regular alkalines, so I think there would be no risk to the flash on that score. (Of course, I could still full-power-pop the thing into a steaming puddle of polycarbonate.)

Now, if I put 4 of these into the flash and 6 into the SD8a battery pack... hmmm.

January 06, 2010 6:35 AM  
Blogger wmiami said...

Funny, I've read something about this 2 days ago when purchasing new batteries online... since my Maha won't change those I ended up getting eneloops.

January 06, 2010 11:00 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

This reminds me of the time I was shooting with a Pro-7 2400 and a ringlight at full power and 'forgot' that the thing is only rated for something like 9600 joules/minute...after rapid firing for about three minutes you wouldn't believe the sound of the explosion when the flash tube blew apart and sent red-hot shards of pyrex flying at warp speed towards the four models I was shooting...! Expensive lesson....

BT

January 06, 2010 11:46 AM  
Blogger Douglas Urner said...

So many comments, so little time…

Apologies if somebody already brought this up, but on the SB-800 (at least) it seems that these batteries would be roughly the equivalent of using the 5th battery adapter -- so my first inclination would be to think that only good would come of using NiZn batteries in an SB-800.

Any reason to think otherwise?

January 06, 2010 11:38 PM  
Blogger michael said...

I am sorry, but running equipment at unintended voltages is a bad idea. As an electrical engineer as well as a photographer and pro flash teacher, let me tell you.. a) the Nikon flashes overheat AND have way aggressive protection (The SB-800 and SB-900 were just badly engineered, in my opinion. 580EX's do not show this overheating. I can shoot a wedding and flash at high power all day) and b) feeding speedlites with higher-than-intended voltage is not a great idea.

NiMH work fine. Buy a few conditioning chargers (I have three) and you'll be fine. Higher-than-usual voltage batteries is just a bad idea...

January 07, 2010 12:26 AM  
Blogger Jeff Freeman said...

I have a SD-9 for one of my SB900's and it seems to have the added benefit of keeping hot batteries out of the flash. I haven't yet been able to overheat my flash since buying this bad boy, and I'm certain I've had more pops at full power (when testing the back to back recycle speed!) when I first got it. I remember being surprised the thermometer icon didn't bump at all with about 5-6 full power pops, leading me to believe the heat from 4 highly stressed batts was much greater than the actual discharge in the flash head itself--so much so I'm trying to decide between grabbing another Sd-9 vs 2 Sd-8's (so I have one legacy pack for my SB800). The setup rocks!

I guess going to Harvey Mudd was good for something after all! ;)

January 07, 2010 11:02 AM  
Blogger LINK said...

There's no point to using those if you want the flash to just overheat every time???? Yeah not buying these, not interested at all.

January 07, 2010 1:08 PM  
Blogger Antagonist said...

“I am sorry, but running equipment at unintended voltages is a bad idea. As an electrical engineer as well as a photographer and pro flash teacher, let me tell you..”

One dose not need to be an electrical engineer to know this. But as a electrical engineer and as a “pro flash teacher” do you know the intended voltage? Arent flashes capable of running at almost triple the voltage of 4 AA batteries, like the quantum power units, they add a lot more voltage right? I am no engineer but find it strange that people use external power with no hesitation, but as soon some AA’s arrive with %20 more power everyone get very cautious.

“the Nikon flashes overheat AND have way aggressive protection (The SB-800 and SB-900 were just badly engineered, in my opinion. 580EX's do not show this overheating. I can shoot a wedding and flash at high power all day)”

So Nikon flashes overheat more than canon? How? Why? Please enlighten us Mr Engineer. Makes me very curious how you came up with this opinion.

“Higher-than-usual voltage batteries is just a bad idea...”

So all the wedding shooters with their Quantums and other external power units are killing their flashes? Are you really an “engineer” or “pro flash teacher”??????

January 07, 2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger John said...

To the poster that said “Higher-than-usual voltage batteries is just a bad idea...”

My guess is that the most flashes, and especially the SB-800 with the fifth battery option are designed with DC to DC adapters in them to handle the voltage differences between 1.2 volt rechargeables and 1.5 volt lithium/alkaline. In fact based on the fact that the high power external units are delivering hundreds of volts to dedicated terminals on the flash, it is probably a safe guess that the low battery voltages are being upconverted to hundreds of volts to charge the capacitors rapidly.

If the nominal voltage of the NiZn batteries is 1.65v you are probably within the abilities of the DC-DC circuit to deal with things. This is definitely not an issue for the SB-800 where 4 NiZn would be 6.6 volts and 5 alkalines would be 7.5 volts.

As for the "metered terminal voltage" of 1.85 volts, keep in mind that most batteries will read a totally different voltage when actually under load apposed to just across a volt meter.

My guess is that these are probably pretty safe and well tested or the company would be looking at getting sued for all kinds of destroyed electronics by shipping them.

January 07, 2010 6:22 PM  
Blogger john said...

I think the SB900 video posted is alittle misleading or they have a serious design flaw. Last night I read the manual for my 580ex ii and it cautioned that if you take '20'....'TWENTY' consecutive flashes you should allow your flash 10 minutes to rest and if you take more than 20 consecutive flashes you 'MAY' trip the thermal protection circuit and should allow 15 minutes for the flash to rest. It did warn that this 'MAY' effect the performance of the flash. So, to see the SB900 trip its thermal protection circuit after 10 flashes could be a design limitation of that flash. Just note this that the charging capacitor is oil filled and over time overheating and cooling will cause the capacitor to bulge(expand) and release this oil and your dead. If you use these NiZn batteries responsibly you should have a problem, like taking sports car on the highway doing 80mph in a 65 even though your car tops out at 180mph... BTW, I ordered the batteries yesterday, Cheers!

January 08, 2010 8:34 AM  
Blogger john said...

I think the SB900 video posted is alittle misleading or they have a serious design flaw. Last night I read the manual for my 580ex ii and it cautioned that if you take '20'....'TWENTY' consecutive flashes you should allow your flash 10 minutes to rest and if you take more than 20 consecutive flashes you 'MAY' trip the thermal protection circuit and should allow 15 minutes for the flash to rest. It did warn that this 'MAY' effect the performance of the flash. So, to see the SB900 trip its thermal protection circuit after 10 flashes could be a design limitation of that flash. Just note this that the charging capacitor is oil filled and over time overheating and cooling will cause the capacitor to bulge(expand) and release this oil and your dead. If you use these NiZn batteries responsibly you should have a problem, like taking sports car on the highway doing 80mph in a 65 even though your car tops out at 180mph... BTW, I ordered the batteries yesterday, Cheers!

January 08, 2010 8:36 AM  
Blogger Adam M said...

How about modding your flash with some sort of heat sink to make it cool down faster?
Might have to be unreasonably big though, I guess.

January 09, 2010 8:16 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Adam
You cannot mod the flash for heat dissipation, it has to be done at the factory.

The problem is getting the heat from inside the flash/flash head to outside the flash. The plastic case is a great thermal INSULATOR. Shoe flashes are essentially a SEALED BOX, to keep the manufacturer from getting sued when someone gets shocked sticking a paper clip into the flash.

Can you drill ventilation holes in the case. Yes, but you have to disassemble the flash so you don't drill into any internal component. Even with the holes, if the internal is PACKED, you won't get the needed air flow to dissipate the heat.

If you want FAST recycling you need to buy a PRO level HIGH duty cycle flash. Not a consumer shoe flash. The HIGH duty cycle flash is designed for better cooling. Examples:
- Quantum Q-flash, the flash tube is exposed. So the hot air around the flash tube can dissipate. But the exposed tube also makes the flash "fragile." It uses a HV battery pack, to eliminate the heat from the DC/DC step-up.
- Sunpak 611 is a HIGH duty cycle handle mount. But the cost is WEIGHT, because the flash is made of metal.

January 10, 2010 8:45 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Hmmm, well since 4x1.2 = 4.8, and 3x1.6 = 4.95 and 3x1.85 = 5.55 (all still under 4x1.5 alkalines), maybe running 3 NiZn's would over come this problem? of course youd have to wire it up as an external or something.

Or 6 NiZn's in groups of 3 in parallel, and the 2 groups of 3 in series :)

January 12, 2010 7:33 AM  
Blogger photoboothguy said...

Wow, so much misinformation on this.

I really am an electrical engineer...unlike the suspect "pro flash teacher" above. I have taken apart a flash. I have modified a flash. These new batteries are a GOOD THING when used properly.

A flash is basically a transformer, capacitor, and flash tube. The transformer takes the voltage from your batteries (about 6 volts) and ramps that up to about 400 volts, give or take a few. This 400 volts is attached to a decent sized capacitor, usually rated for TWICE the voltage that it normally holds (i.e. the capacitor in the flash is probably rated for about 1000volts or so). When the flash is activated, the capacitor discharges its 400 or so volts across the flash tube.

What I'm saying is, the capacitor is not going to be damaged. The flash tube is also beefy enough to handle a bit more voltage. Your only problem will be heat, which is only generated by the flash tube. So, like stated by a few above, don't go firing it off 10+ full power shots for the hell of it.

From my understanding, these new batteries are capable of producing a lot more CURRENT (due to lower internal resistance), which is the big deal. CURRENT is what is needed to charge the capacitor...the high voltage is only needed to excite the Xenon in your flash tube. So with higher current comes faster capacitor charging, which leads to shorter recharge times. Likewise, when your flash fires, the "Power" rating is actually the amount of current that's going through the flash tube, not the voltage that's being applied to it (that's a constant 400v).

Some might be worried about the internal LCD screens and microcontrollers that run the flash...don't worry...these are all voltage/current protected. As long as you don't go nuts (20+ volts), these guys will probably be just fine.

Ok...lots of information that I just pumped out. Here's the summary:
The new batteries are only charging the capacitor faster than the old batteries. These components are built to handle this. Your only problem will be with heat generated from the flash tube, so watch your flash rate.

January 13, 2010 2:43 PM  
Blogger Allan said...

Here's an article on Powergenix from May of last year in Forbes magazine

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0511/044-energy-clean-tech-building-better-battery.html

January 14, 2010 5:18 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

With the recent dustup over The Independant stealing images, I can't help wondering what terms you negotiated with the estate of Chuck Jones and Warner Bros for the use of the copyrighted image used here. This is a commercial site. You make your living doing this. How is your use different?

January 17, 2010 12:31 PM  
Blogger David said...

Good question, Frank. Here is my standard procedure.

Where possible, I email the most appropriate party I can letting them know that I have included their photo in a blog post. It is debatable as to whether this particular use could be construed as commentary, but that does not enter into my decision to try to reach them via email.

Anyone who posts images in the Strobist flickr group, BTW, has as part of the T&C agreed that there photo can be used on the blog -- credited - as an example. Even still, I leave open the ability to opt out of that arrangement by saying so in the caption of any photo.

Of course, the photo links back to the photog's flickr page.

In the case of non-flickr-group pix, additionally, I link to them with a metric-encoded outbound (in this case, bit.ly) and send traffic to their site.

I use metric links so that I can quantify the traffic I send to them should they not aggregate their own metrics.

In this case, well over 1,000 people have clicked from this site over to the Chuck Jones Gallery.

If they expressed any displeasure whatsoever about the use and inbounds, I would of course immediately remove both the photo and the link.

In the many times I have done this, that has happened only once. And there were no hard feelings involved either way. And I have never had anyone make an issue of a Strobist flickr group pic, but that would be immediately resolved in the same way.

Thanks for asking!

January 18, 2010 1:11 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

David, thanks for posting this great info. As a beginning wedshooter, I really appreciate the info, your site is really shortening my learning curve.
On another note, great response on the 'Chuck Jones' bait. Very professional, but at the same time you took homie to the Octagon!
PS love the minigun!

January 20, 2010 9:53 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

David, thanks for posting this great info. As a beginning wedshooter, I really appreciate the info, your site is really shortening my learning curve.
On another note, great response on the 'Chuck Jones' bait. Very professional, but at the same time you took homie to the Octagon!
PS love the minigun!

January 20, 2010 9:56 PM  
Blogger Emeric said...

anybody knows how can we get these batteries in Europe? Amazon doesn't ship them to Spain...

January 26, 2010 6:39 AM  
Blogger Per said...

Re: Where to find these in Europe?

I couldn't find them in europe, so I ordered from the US (depotEco.com). Their charger has US prongs of course, but it accepts European voltage so all you need is a cheap adapter. Shipping was about 12 USD if I remember correctly.

Having used these batteries for I while, I can say I'm extremely happy with them. They have a much shorter life-span (fewer cycles) than NiMH, so as such they are much more expensive, but it's still a minor cost compared to anything else that's photography-related.

February 06, 2010 3:54 AM  
Blogger jcemt72 said...

Preliminary tests look good.
Tested 3 sets of Powergenix NiZn batteries in recycle time versus new alkaline from Energizer and Duracell,

Here are the results:
Recharge time 1/1 power,

Nikon SB-24 Ener 10.1, Dura 10.2 Powergenix 2.2 seconds.

Nikon SB-25 Ener 10.9, Dura 11.0
Powergenix 2.3 seconds.

Vivitar 285(non-HV) Ener 11.5, Dura 11.9, Powergenix 3.3 seconds.

These tests were on three new sets of each type of batteries, a total of 5 shots which each set of batteries in each flash. The Powergenix batteries were straight from package uncharged. I will post a follow test in the next couple of days as I am shooting a state swim meet tomorrow so I will have additional info on number of shots per charge.

February 26, 2010 1:35 PM  
Blogger jcemt72 said...

A follow up on my tests, I let the magic smoke out of an SB-24 on 1/4 power. These batteries are truly amazing. Be very very careful. Ugh.

BTW on 1/4 power there is no way to count flashes per charge. My now smoldering SB-24 had well over 300 1/4 and half flashes on it during the state swim meet. Today after setting for 2 days recycle time was unchanged from fresh charge at least until the magic smoke escaped.

March 01, 2010 4:53 PM  
Blogger Russ MacDonald said...

Well, it's interesting that there are so many EE's here. I am also an EE, and I used to design chips for flashes.

Anyway, I have never seen so much erroneous information published about any subject until I started reading about which batteries to use in the SB-900 flash. That You-Tube video is so far out in left field, I wouldn't even no how to begin to critique it.

The reason I'm posting is because I just got some NiZn batteries to use in one of my SB-800 flashes. I am now a wedding photographer, and I figured from what I knew about flashes that these new batteries would really speed up the cycle rate a lot.

I was right! It recycled at an enormous rate!! Full power dumps recycled in under 2 seconds! 100 shots into a reception, I thought I had found nirvana.

Then, the flash quit working. It just shut off.

I'm fairly sure the main switching regulator devices in the voltage multiplier were not the failure point. They are so big and heavy duty, I don't think that the extra voltage or current could hurt them. They would just charge the capacitor up more quicly - much more quickly.

I am speculating that the support circuits were designed for 1.5 volts max. However, NiZn batteries jump up to almost 1.8 volts when lightly loaded; like right after the capacitor is fully charged and the switching regulator shuts off.

I think 1.8 volts could 'punch the oxide' in the CMOS clock or uP other low voltage control chips that run the flash.

In any case, my flash quit working and I sent it to Nikon NPS to be fixed. I will ask them to tell me what parts failed.

In the mean time, I won't be using NiZn in any of my other flashes until I find out if my experience was just bad luck, or there really is a significant risk with NiZn batteries.

Russ

March 04, 2010 10:42 PM  
Blogger BarryK said...

I have been using a Quantum Bantam & QB1Compact w/ my SB-800 for several years w/ reliable results. Can an EE here comment on whether 1. If there is no damage using the Quantums, should there be no damage w/ the NiZn? & 2. How should _overall_ performance compare? If I get 300 pops for a given shoot from a single Quantum, should the NiZn's perform the same? & 3. Is it a good/bad idea to use the 5th battery on the SB-800?

Thanks.

March 06, 2010 6:17 AM  
Blogger Russ MacDonald said...

Back in March, I had an SB-800 die on me right after starting to use NiZn batteries. I sent it off to Nikon and they repaired it. I asked them what failed, but they couldn't tell me. They just replaced all the PC boards and that fixed it.

After that, I continued to use NiZn batteries in all six of my speedlights for about six more months without any additional failures.

However, I decided to return to regfular NiMH batteries anyway, because of one thing:

The initial recycle rate with NiZn batteries is fantastic, but after about 50 to 75 shots, the recycle rate slows drastically to where NiMH is faster. This happens because the capacity of the NiZn batteries is so low. I think it is around 1200 mAHr, but it is not spec'd.

The batteries deplete much faster than NiMH, and after about 200 shots the recycle rate has gotten so slow you have to replace the batteries. With regular NiMH I get over 400 shots before they start to become too slow to deal with.

The other thing I found out about NiZn is that they self-discharge very rapidly. I think faster than regular NiMH.

In summary, I have switched back to regular NiMH (LSD NiMH in flashes I don't use often), for better all-around performance for wedding photography.

Regards,

Russ

December 29, 2010 1:13 PM  
Blogger Russ MacDonald said...

Back in March, I had an SB-800 die on me right after starting to use NiZn batteries. I sent it off to Nikon and they repaired it. I asked them what failed, but they couldn't tell me. They just replaced all the PC boards and that fixed it.

After that, I continued to use NiZn batteries in all six of my speedlights for about six more months without any additional failures.

However, I decided to return to regfular NiMH batteries anyway, because of one thing:

The initial recycle rate with NiZn batteries is fantastic, but after about 50 to 75 shots, the recycle rate slows drastically to where NiMH is faster. This happens because the capacity of the NiZn batteries is so low. I think it is around 1200 mAHr, but it is not spec'd.

The batteries deplete much faster than NiMH, and after about 200 shots the recycle rate has gotten so slow you have to replace the batteries. With regular NiMH I get over 400 shots before they start to become too slow to deal with.

The other thing I found out about NiZn is that they self-discharge very rapidly. I think faster than regular NiMH.

In summary, I have switched back to regular NiMH (LSD NiMH in flashes I don't use often), for better all-around performance for wedding photography.

Regards,

Russ

December 29, 2010 1:16 PM  

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