Learn the Terms > Digital Camera Batteries

Digital Camera Batteries

Whether you choose NiMh or Li-Ion, rechargeable is the name of the game

You pretty much have two choices when it comes to digital camera batteries: rechargeable AA, or camera-specific battery packs.

You can use standard (non-rechargeable) AA batteries in cameras that are compatible with them. The problem is that your digital camera will wear these out in about a week. Unless you want to be purchasing batteries in bulk, rechargeable is the best way to go.

NiMh and Li-Ion defined

Rechargeable AA batteries for digital cameras are called Nickel Metal Hydride (or NiMh for short). These batteries can be recharged hundreds of times with a basic charger that costs about $20.

The other battery type used by digital cameras is typically a Lithium Ion pack. These packs are rechargeable, but usually have a custom charger that only works for that battery type. The packs are also only compatible with certain camera models. You can't use a Sony Lithium Ion battery pack in a Canon digital camera and vice versa.

The batteries on the left are NiMh rechargeable AA with their charger.
The two batteries on the right are packs. The one on the top is for a Canon digital camera, and the one on the bottom is for a Sony.
I have also included the Canon battery pack charger so that you can see how it differs from the AA charger on the left.
Digital camera batteries

Battery types compared

Is one of these types of batteries definitely better than the other? Not really - both have their advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it will be whatever is most convenient for you.

Battery TypeProsCons
NiMh AA Rechargeable
  • Not very expensive — 4 usually cost about $12 to $20
  • If your batteries run out in some remote location you can buy standard AA and make do
  • Recharge in 1 to 2 hours
  • Do not hold a charge for a very long time
Lithium Ion or other battery pack
  • Hold a charge for a very long time, especially with digital cameras that use more battery power
  • Compact — easier to handle 1 battery than 4
  • More expensive — one costs about $50 to $70
  • If you battery runs out you need to recharge it — you will not be able to use AA batteries
  • Recharges in 3 to 5 hours

Some cameras only use AA, some only use battery packs, and others will allow you to use both. When you look at the camera specifications, it should tell you which types of batteries it is compatible with.

You may feel that having to recharge batteries all the time is a problem. Recharging your batteries is not nearly as hard as it seems. If you carry an extra set you will always be covered. And unless you are in a very remote location where there isn't electricity, you can always charge your batteries when you're not using them, so they will be ready when you want to take some photographs.

Many battery chargers today also come with car adapters, so you can recharge your batteries while you are driving in the car. This may be suitable for a long cross country trip where you want to make sure that your batteries are always charged and ready to go.

The Basic Rule of Thumb

Don't place batteries too high on your list of items that will make or break a camera. If you really are concerned about spending a lot of time recharging batteries, get a camera that can use standard AA.

I have used both types of batteries extensively. I find that my NiMh AA batteries tend to run out much more often than the Li-Ion, but they are faster to recharge. I have never had my batteries run out during a prime photographic opportunity, and I use my cameras pretty steadily every single week.

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