BEST BATTERIES FOR YOUR SPEEDLIGHTS: A SHOWDOWN

Flash Photography today is an area within Photography that has never been easier to enter.

With a vast array of flashes, from top brands that cost hundreds of dollars to knockoffs that are very inexpensive, the choices are great to say the very least.

What I wanted to test for this article is which rechargeable batteries performed the very best in a speedlight flash.  

There are even more batteries choices available to us than there are speedlights brands.

How do we know what is best? What will provide the best performance? The best cost? Or both?

The short answer to the best battery for speedlights is that the Duracell Rechargeable 2500 mAh was the best performing battery in our tests.

It delivered 228 pops of a flash on full power with very fast recycle times.

The Eneloop Pro batteries performed admirably and were close enough to the Duracell batteries that there was little difference between the two.

While the Eneloop PRO batteries were amazing, the regular Eneloops did not perform well.

Battery Types

In this test we focused mainly on the AA nickel–metal hydride (Ni Mh) batteries along with the regular Alkaline batteries that we all are familiar with.  

We included a set of Duracell Quantum AA batteries to represent the Alkaline side.

These batteries are certainly less expensive than the rechargeable Ni Mh batteries in terms of initial cost, but in the long run, the cost is much more.

What about performance? Are the Alkaline batteries better than the rechargeable batteries when it comes down to actual shooting?

Alkaline batteries are rated at 1.5 volts and the Ni Mh batteries are only 1.2 volts. They must be better – right?  NOT so fast!

Testing Setup

The simple setup used for testing.

To assure authentic and fair results, the same flash was used to test every set of batteries.

The test flash in this experiment was the inexpensive but very capable Youngnuo YN-560 iii.

Many readers and podcast listeners of Improve Photography know that these are the chosen flash heads for many of the hosts and a whole slew of fans as well.

At the recent ImprovePhotography Retreat in Phoenix, AZ, it became quickly apparent that this was the overwhelming choice of most everyone there!

The test camera was a Nikon D3200 (could have been anything) placed on a tripod and connected to an Intervalometer.

The intervalometer was set to fire up to 300 shots at full 1/1 power with a 30 second delay between each shot.

This would avoid thermal overload which would negate any results that were being recorded.

When shooting at full power continuously, the batteries and flash can become EXTREMELY hot – so hot that you cannot touch the batteries for long!

I wanted to make sure the flash also was not burned out as well.

Using this method allowed me to record flash recycle times throughout the duration of the testing and also to gather information on just how many total flashes were possible from a set of the batteries when fully charged.

Testing to failure was the goal and it worked very well.

Batteries Tested

The batteries used were as follows:

All links will take you to the product on Amazon

Like any other product on the market, there have been some pretty advanced scientific break thru moments that have occurred over the past few years in the rechargeable battery world.

For many years, rechargeable batteries had a bad reputation because they weren't very powerful and they lost their charge very quickly.

As a matter of fact, just within the last five years there have been some great strides made in the rechargeable battery world.

We will get to that and more below but let's get to the testing!

Testing Methodology

Using the intervalometer to trigger the flash in a very mechanical, exacting way, I used an electronic stopwatch to record the recycle times.

This was very tedious indeed but I can assure you I sampled each shot around the predetermined intervals (10, 20, 50th, etc) to make sure I was getting very specific results.

The recycle time is of utmost importance because when shooting an event where your flash speed is critical, we cannot be standing and waiting for our flashes to be ready for that next shot.

We need speed!

It is very easy to toss the retired batteries into a bag and pop new ones in but to wait every shot with seconds between each one is just not acceptable.

The left side is the recycle time in seconds. The bottom is the flash count. Notice how the Ni Mh batteries actually work better once they warm up and stay very steady throughout their shooting task.

Comparison Chart

Best Budget

Duracell Rechargeable Long Life AA-4 Nimh 4pack 2500/mAh
Best Overall

Panasonic BK-3HCCA4BA eneloop pro AA High Capacity Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries, 4 Pack, Black

AmazonBasics AA High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries 2400mAh (24-Pack) Pre-charged

Panasonic Eneloop Pro 2550 mAH (was Sanyo 2500XX) AA Batteries – Eight Batteries with Free Battery Holder
Runner-up

Duracell Quantum AA Alkaline Batteries – Long Lasting, All-Purpose Double A battery for Household and Business – 20 count

#6 – Duracell Quantum (Alkaline Battery 1.5v)

Number of Full Power Flash Pops: 137

Recycle Time: Horrible

DURACELL Quantum Alkaline Batteries by far were the worst of the group. Alkaline batteries have 1.5 volts versus the lesser 1.2 volts that the Ni Mh batteries have.

You may wonder how these batteries with lesser power not only beat their Alkaline cousins but that they work at all in devices that call for FOUR 1.5v batteries.

The truth of it is most modern devices will work with the Ni Mh batteries despite the lower voltage.

In fact, about 95% of all products today accept Ni Mh batteries in place of the Alkaline type.

The Quantum Recycyle Time went up – and stayed up as the testing went on.

If that weren't bad enough, they also expired much sooner that the rechargeable types tested.

Toward the end of their testing, the recycle times were extremely slow and pretty much not useable in most shooting situations.

#5 – Amazon Basics 1900mAh (1.2v)

Number of Full Power Flash Pops: 157

Recycle Time: Fair

Next up on the list were the Amazon Basics batteries.  

They didn't perform particularly well in terms of recycle time or total number of flash pops, but they are also the cheapest batteries we tested.

Although these batteries did get 16 more flash pops than the Panasonic Eneloop batteries, they can't be charged as many times and thus ranked lower in my test.

They are rated at 1900mAh and 1,000 recycle charges.

#4 – Panasonic Eneloop 1900mAh (1.2v)

Number of Full Power Flash Pops: 141

Recycle Time: Fair

These New Eneloop batteries (not the pro version) have with them an impressive claim that they can be used and recharged an impressive 2,100 times before the battery stops holding a charge.

When you add that up along with their great performance, they are an outstanding value.

The amount of charges these batteries (Any Ni Mh battery) can accept or be given is greatly dependent on how the batteries are cared for – meaning how they are charged.

More on that below.

#3 – Amazon Basic High Capacity 2400mAh (1.2v)

Number of Full Power Flash Pops: 213

Recycle Time: Good

A step up from the 1900mAh “Basic” batteries are these – the 2400mAh High Capacity type. Prices vary over time, but at the moment they are a really good value.

The lower capacity batteries can accept MANY more charges than the higher performance types.

Since the lower capacity batteries here also fared very well in overall performance, it would not be a bad idea at all to make them your go to batteries.

#2 – Eneloop Pro 2550mAh

Number of Full Power Flash Pops: 218

Recycle Time: Excellent

For years now the Eneloop XX batteries were considered the very best – and for good reason!!

They are now called “Eneloop Pro” and they come in a 2550mAh capacity.

These batteries were the first I tested in this test to fire over 200 shots of the flash at full 1/1 power on a single charge and I thought they would be the winner–until I tested the Duracell.

The final results were so very close that you could easily choose these batteries and be more than fine.

They have a very smooth design and they seemed to be the coolest to the touch of the bunch.

However, the Eneloop Pros did not quite get as many flash pops as the Duracell, and they tend to cost more

 

WINNER – Duracell Rechargeable 2500mAh

Number of flash pops: 228

Recycle time: A+

The top dog in this competition was the very plain packaged Duracell Rechargeable 2500mAh Battery

It was extremely steady throughout the entire shootout from the very first frames right up until the bitter end where, like all the other batteries tested, it finally was put to sleep by the power hungry Speed Light.

The remarkable thing about this battery is how it performed right up until that very last flash.

I had the audible alert on the YN560 iii so I would be alerted when the ending was near because you can hear the recycle begin to take a little longer than the previous shots.

It went from shooting pretty much normally right to being expired and out of juice.

It took a whopping 228 SHOTS AT FULL POWER to kill these super cells!!

That is the really neat thing about the Ni Mh batteries.

They pretty much have an on off switch; they are either working or they aren't unlike conventional alkaline batteries.

More on Ni Mh Batteries

Ni Mh batteries are the CLEAR choice for high drain devices and a Speedlight is the epitome of just that.

Alkaline batteries suffer from High Internal Resistance and this makes them a poor choice for this use case scenario.

The best part about the rechargeable Ni Mh batteries is how even they stay in terms of power output right through until they are depleted of their power.  

Even with a flashlight,  conventional alkaline batteries will reduce in power output and you will see this as the light becomes more dim with use.

Nh Mh batteries?

They will work and work and then die – quickly.

It is why you can fire off 150 full power blasts of light from a speed light and see virtually no change in recycle time but at 160 the batteries will be completely drained.

This is good because when they are tired, you know it AND YOU REPLACE THEM!

HEAT

All of these batteries became VERY hot while performing these tests.

The Alkaline Duracell's became so hot that the label on the battery became blistered and cracked.

The others were extremely hot to the touch and I would suggest NOT touching them after excessive use.

New Technology in Ni Mh Batteries Today

For many years, rechargeable batteries got a bad rap from many users because their power output seemed to be very inconsistent.

This thinking wasn't without reason.

Generally speaking, Ni Mh batteries would lose 20-30% of their power after just 24 hours of lying dormant and unused in a drawer.

Each consecutive day would drain these batteries even more.

That has all changed.

L.S.D. – Low Self Discharge

This Chart found over on Amazon shows just how efficient LSD batteries can be!

Technology progresses in all facets of life today and batteries are not immune to these advancements!

Low Self Discharge batteries are exactly what you would think them to be – batteries with low self discharge!!

Some of the batteries tested here claim they will hold up to 85% of their total charge even after being stored in a drawer for a whole year!!

Temperature is a big factor here and if stored, making sure they are kept at around room temperature is a very good practice.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

It doesn't matter what recycleble battery you are using if you are using a poorly made and designed charger.

There are many “QUICK” charges on the market.

Avoid them at all costs.

They will ruin your batteries – plain and simple!

A slow, constant and controlled charge is what works best.

This has to be done by a capable charger.

The EBL Charger pictured below is a great example of a very good charger that incorporates 5 different levels of protection for your batteries.

A super great charger at a great price. Save yourself money and save the planet by using rechargeable batteries!

Disclaimer: Improve Photography is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program among other affiliate programs, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and other websites.

32 thoughts on “BEST BATTERIES FOR YOUR SPEEDLIGHTS: A SHOWDOWN”

  1. Thanks for the rundown. Great info here. Question – Can we use the EBL charger with any of the Ni Mh batteries? Or do we need to use that charger that came with that brand? I currently have the white Enelope and some Energizer rechargables. Wondering if these plus the Duracell’s you recommend can use the EBL charger.

    1. The EBL High Capacity 2800mAh AA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries are the best batteries you will use in your flash. I’m sad that this brand is largely unknown but you will find they far outperform duracels and hold a charge for longer. These batteries are the shit. Use them, you will be amazed.
      But to answer your question, you can use whatever rechargable NiMh batteries you want in the EBL recharger. I’m not the author of this article obvs but I can answer your question. Use the EBLs, and you can thank me later 😉

      1. Just curious, how do you know the EBL’s are better? Not trying to be obnoxious. Was there some kind of comparison done?

  2. Jim is correct. I’ve charged many different types of batteries with this charger. It is an outstanding value and a must have piece of equipment if you use portable flash speedlights.

    1. Glenn A McGrew II

      Brian, when did you publish this article? I can see that it happened after March 2017…

    1. For applications like flash, the Ni Mh batteries are the better choice. Every battery type has its own pros and cons but in this case, you can’t beat the Ni Mh batteries 🙂 Thanks for reading

  3. Do you know how these would compare to the single use energizer lithium ion batteries?

    1. Simply put, the Energizer Lithium is probably the best disposable battery available, but its capacity is about 3300mAH, which means that it’ll last longer than almost any rechargeable FOR A SINGLE USE, and then you must toss it.

      In other words, if you need something to last a long time ONCE and you don’t want to recharge something, and you’ve got wads of cash, it’s great. But if you need high capacity, longevity, reusability, only use rechargeables.

      Frankly, if you hardly ever use batteries, rechargeables aren’t really worth the cost. Figure out how much you’re spending per year on batteries, and then you’ll have an idea…

  4. Thanks for doing this test! I don’t suppose you could make a table showing the best recycle time and the total number of flash pops for each. I’m having a hard time reading the graph.

    1. The way Ni Mh batteries work is that the lower the capacity, the more they are able to engineer them to get more life in terms of charge cycles. Other manufactures put fairly specific numbers but when you see the 2700+ models, it’s a very vague “hundreds” of times. Is that 200? 300? 900? They don’t say for a reason.

      This is why the Eneloop batteries that just came out are a fantastic buy. With a 2,100 cycle claim, they can recharge many more times that ones with larger capacity.

  5. When you stop and think about 500 recharges that is a very long time. Say you use them for times a week. That is 125 weeks. Over two years. Close to two and a half. For the about three dollars more, I would go with the higher capacity battery and replace them as needed. With all that we spend on equipment, why sell ourselves short on what powers our lighting?

  6. Hi Brian.

    Thanks for sharing your tests results. Your comment about EBL charger caught my attention. Any idea about their batteries?

    They are currently priced a lot lower than other brands on Amazon and are rated at a higher capacity too. I am not sure how they perform when it comes to charging, recycle time, durability, etc.

    Thanks.
    Satya

  7. A little curious that the Duracells would outperform Eneloop Pro’s, as they are thought to be (like Amazon Basics HC) re-branded Eneloop Pros.

    There is variance from cell to cell. Were all cells new? Did you charge them on that EBL charger? It uses a low charge rate, 270mA per bay, not actually ideal for 2500mAh NiMH cells.

    AA NiMH cells are actually spec-ed to be charged at 0.5-1C (lower is probably better, so 0.5C means 50% of their mAh capacity: for 2400mAh cells, 1200A. In practice, 1A is good for AA size NiMH batteries. Only a few multibay chargers will charge at 1A per bay. The new Panasonic BQ-CC55 will do 1A/bay for AA cells, and lower for AAA. For a photographer, two 4-bay chargers is probably better than an 8-bay. Can throw one in the gearbag.

    Here is a list from one of the most-well regarded battery charger reviewers, of chargers that will do all bays at min 1A per bay: http://lygte-info.dk/info/roundCellChargerIndex%204s1A%20UK.html

  8. I tried Duracell Quantum AA non alkaline batteries in my Speedlight and it will not even power up… Batteries all test @1.6 volts and are in correctly… If I use alkaline batteries it works fine… Any idea why?

  9. Virginia Bignal

    Can anyone help with a Roberts radio that asks for alkaline batteries. On advice, I bought 2yrs ago an EBL960 charger & EBL NiMH D lr20s 7000mAh rechargeables. We found they ran down fast & were slow to recharge. This is the opposite of what we required! I’d be grateful for advice as it’s been an expensive waste (radio, charger & batts) we can’t easily use…

  10. Have to respectfully disagree with your #1. Tried the Duracells with the EBL charger. They were done after <50 pops in a TT685. This was fresh out of the package with multiple days of charging. Really disappointed.

  11. My findings here aren’t based on my opinions but by tests. Have you fired off other batteries in the exact same manner as you did with the TT685 Under the same conditions? I can understand if you had a bad experience with that combo but it doesn’t alter the fact that this is what these tests produced for results.

    In real world use, all the better batteries are very close and basically the same. If you got less than 50 from them it isn’t likely you’re going to get 100 (double) from another type doing exactly what you did.

  12. I have a pack of those same Duracells that I bought to use with a power-hungry Roku remote I use with headphones. With regular disposable alkaline batteries, I get up to a week out of them. With those Duracells, I get a day and a half. I haven’t done a camera test with them, but for a much less stressful use case, they’ve been a grave disappointment.

  13. Noticed you didn’t review PowerX batteries. I got about 280 full pops in a Canon 600 RT. However, after about 3 years and only 100 recharges, it takes them about 6.5 seconds to refresh in the flash compared to 2.5 seconds when new. My Black Eneloops have been through the same workout, but the flash still refreshes in 2.5 seconds. Does anyone know if this is due to the low discharge aspect of the Black Eneloops, or possibly brand related? I’m about to buy a lot more; I haven’t seen any tests on this comparing low discharge to standard recharge after a couple of hundred recharge cycles.

    thx

  14. Global Imports, Inc.

    Many thanks for sharing such a great info about batteries. I’m sure people would find good stuff here.

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