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Universal Li-Ion Battery Chargers for Digital Cameras

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GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL CHARGERS FOR LI-ION BATTERIES 

Lithium Ion Batteries are rechargeable batteries mostly used in Digital Cameras, Camcorders, mobile Phones and PDAs.

Li-Ion as they are called in short form has provided a huge relief to the Battery guzzling Power Hungry Cameras that the users have been facing in recent times. It is not an exaggeration to say that Batteries have taken the number one spot in terms of cost of  consumables for Digital Cameras. Li-Ion Batteries come to their own in terms of cost and reliability. Li-ion batteries can be recharged over 300 times. I have calculated a savings of 2400 £ in the life of a single Lithium Ion CR-V3 Battery.

Li-Ion battery needs to be charged using a Mains or Car charger. Many modern cameras have built in chargers but need a power adapter cable to be capable of being used. The manufacturers usually sell them as Camera accessories in order to minimise cost and increase profit through the sale of accessories. Hence you find the adapter cable to be very expensive.

You will need an external charger if::

  1. Your Camera has no external mains power connector
  2. The power cable is unavailable or lost or broken
  3. You need an additional charger to keep the availability free. Keep using the camera while charging a spare battery on the charger.


The design Challenge


Chargers need to be matched with their partners Batteries. As you would be well aware, there is an infinite variety of Cameras followed by their own battery designs and hence the bewildering variety in the shapes, sizes and technical specification of the chargers. Being connected to the Mains power also means they need to be sturdy and safe.

Chargers work by keeping constant supply of voltage & current to the battery until charge is complete. Most common type of Li-Ion battery used in Digital Cameras, Camcorders, Mobile phones or PDA is either 3.7V or 7.2V capacity. So a charger needs to match::

  • The type of mains supply Voltage: 110v – 240v
  • The shape or the adapter plug 3 pin used in Auk or 2 pin type used in Europe
  • The Voltage output 3.7 or 7.2 V
  • The shape of the battery.

Here are some examples of different type of chargers. Notice the shape of the charger particularly location of the charger pins.

 

CR-V3 CHARGER                                FUJI  NP-60                          CANON NB-1LH

 

Universal charger tries to provide a simple solution to the problem of difference in shape of batteries.

First method: 

Changing Battery Plates

This illustration shows 2 types of plates (including the base plate). There could be other types of plates that can be configured to be the base model.

Most Universal Li-Ion battery chargers I have seen provide a variety of plates that cater to the most common shapes of battery. Typically the product may have 5 plates giving the capability to charge a larger number but limited range of batteries capable of being charged. Some suppliers only provide 2 plates, selling the other plates as an optional extra.

For example the Jessops Cam Charger Costs £49.99  provide 4 plates free. If the provided adapter plates are unsuitable for your camera they allow one additional plate free of charge.  You need to call for support asking plate for your type of camera. 

The Uniross brand of Universal Charger is compatable with  Li-ion batteries 3.6V, 3.7V, 7.2V, 7.4V and gives you 5 plates. It is possible to charge  about 100 different type of batteries from these 5 plates. Covers most popular type of batteries. This costs about £25/-


Second Method
Adjusting the contact points and battery held in place by a spring mechanism

 

Under this method the contact points can be moved around the match the contact points of the batteries so as to be in touch with the battery when the charge is in progress. The battery is held in place using a widget with a spring mechanism. The microprocessor controlled charger senses polarity i.e. Positive or Negative and also the battery type if it is 3.4v, 3.7v, 7.2v or 7.4v. Processor also controls the time for charging and protects from overcharging or short circuits. The single most advantage of this type is that you do not have to worry about the type of plate needed or whether the plate will fit your type of battery. This type of charger is most suited in case of unknown brand of battery or you do not know compatibility of the battery for which there exists a standard plate. The second advantage is that you are not required to carry many types of plates that is prone to damage or loss while being stored safely. This type of design charges most type of Li-Ion batteries used in Digital Cameras, Camcorders, Mobile Phones and Pads.

Summary

The universal charger that does not need the use of Adapter plates is the only charger your will ever need in your life. It stays and works reliably, safely through your life changes of Cameras and their associated batteries.

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