There comes a time when every professional photographer must replace a camera charger to keep their arsenal of cameras working at its best. Finding a compatible charger can be tricky, though, and many users do not know where to begin when looking for a charger to fit their camera. This guide is designed to provide all the information any professional or amateur photographer requires to buy a charger to keep their camera's battery topped up even when the original charger is nothing more than a distant memory.
Choosing a Compatible Charger
Choosing a charger that is compatible with the camera is of utmost importance for both safety of the user and for the correct operation of the devices in question. Costly mistakes can be made by selecting the wrong type of charger, and so research into the subject of camera battery chargers can lead to substantial savings of both time and money. The guide below is designed to ensure that any buyer has the information required to make an educated choice when looking for a camera charger. The main important points will be investigated in the sections that follow.
Many cameras today are supplied by standard-size batteries such as AAA or, more commonly, AA. While these batteries are incredibly convenient for quick purchase when on the move, they often don't have the same capacity as their more powerful Li-ion cousins. It is the case, though, that these batteries are often the easiest to find chargers for since they have been standardised across the industry, and significant savings can be made when finding a charger of this type when compared to the custom Li-ion batteries or camera docks required by some camera types. Many manufacturers advise users to buy the same brand of charger and battery although some universal chargers boast an ability to charge all brands and sizes of battery.
Custom Li-ion batteries
A lithium-ion battery, or Li-ion battery, is a type of rechargeable battery in which lithium ions are forced towards the negative electrode (the cathode) while the battery is charging, thus storing electrical potential energy, and allowed to move from the cathode to the positive electrode (the anode) during discharge in order to release this stored energy. These batteries are incredibly common since they are able to store a comparatively large amount of charge than their competitors despite their small size while exhibiting no memory effect (the effect by which partially discharged batteries are capable of recharging only to a fraction of their former capacity) and a very minimal loss of charge when not being actively used.
Both of these battery types may make use of external chargers to replenish their charges, but some cameras are supplied with docking stations or chargers which plug into the camera itself to allow quick and convenient charging without having to remove the battery. These types of chargers are discussed in the next section.
Plug-In Camera Chargers/Camera Docks
Combining the functions of a battery charger with that of a camera provides a huge advantage in terms of speedy and user friendly charging, but does require that the camera is out of action while the batteries are recharged. This creates a potential disadvantage for avid users who may prefer not to miss out on photo opportunities while waiting for a set of batteries to charge. While the generic battery types discussed in the previous section often make use of standalone chargers which can be easily replaced, chargers designed to precisely fit the camera in use may not be so easy to find and may need to be purchased directly from the manufacturer.
When investigating chargers of this type, it is important firstly to consider the type of connection that exists between the charger and camera. Connections unique to the manufacturer are often difficult to obtain outside the manufacturer's own website, but standard DC power plugs are staggeringly easy to come by and have become the industry standard. While DC power plugs of the correct size are easy to obtain from any reputable electronics retailer, the values for voltage and current output provided by the transformer are often much more difficult to accurately match. The voltage of the output is the most important specification to get right. The charger can draw only the current it requires from a surplus supply, but the voltage will remain constant, and improperly matched voltages can easily damage the internal circuitry of a camera. It is important, though, to make sure that the charger does not under-power the camera, since charging a battery from a source supplying an inadequate current is much slower and sometimes impossible when compared to the supply a camera is designed to make use of. The final important aspect to consider when choosing the correct charger is the polarity of the pins involved. Many chargers assign the centre pin to be the positive connection and the outside shield to be the negative, but it is worth checking the diagram on both the camera itself and the charger to ensure that the polarity matches in order to prevent damage to the components.
Although the power of a charger is often not such an important feature when charging batteries capable of running a camera, it is still a factor worth some consideration. The capacity of a battery is measured in amp hours, and the charger's charging speed is also measured in amp hours. Some simple calculations can yield the amount of time that a charger will take to charge the battery: a 1 amp hour charger will take 10 hours to charge a 10 amp hour battery, for example. Chargers with a higher charging speed will allow batteries to be topped up to full capacity in less time but will also result in additional expense when purchasing the unit. It is important to find a balance, therefore, between charging speed and charger cost.
Smart chargers are designed to help combat the reduction in battery lifetime associated with overcharging. These chargers are termed smart since they monitor the status of each individual battery, arresting charging just before the battery reaches full capacity. By making use of these devices, batteries can be left charging overnight without fear of a reduction in battery life although they do have an obvious associated extra cost.
Buying Camera Chargers on eBay
eBay can be the ideal place to look for a charger compatible with a certain camera, but knowing which category to select to filter the torrent of irrelevant results can be an issue for some users. This section is designed to give an idea of just where to find the best results, allowing for speedy and efficient selection of the items required. After accessing the eBay homepage, select the Electronics section to the left of the page, and click Cameras & Photography.. Within this section, select Camera & Photo Accessories from the list on the left, and then choose Chargers & Docks from the updated list. Selecting Docks from the list within this category now returns a list of specific camera docks, which can be further refined by manufacturer or by price. For more generic battery chargers, select the All Categories dropdown from the top of the page. Under Sound & Audio, open the More categories list and click the Multipurpose Batteries & Power category. This section now gives a list on the left from which Battery Chargers may be selected. Within this category, the type of battery can be picked for further refinement of results, or searches can be performed, such as that for a 'Smart Charger&'.
By investigating the variety of products on the market, a dedicated user will have no trouble finding exactly the camera charger required to suit their needs. An investment of care and attention into choosing a camera charger compatible with a particular camera will generate returns of safe operating conditions for the user and long battery life for the device. The tools outlined in this guide should kick-start research efforts into the subject of battery chargers and allow for a pleasant experience when shopping for both new and second-hand items.