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.
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!
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.
The batteries used were as follows:
- AmazonBasics AA High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries (2400mAh)
/?tag=improvphotog-20″ target=”_blank”>AmazonBasics AA Rechargeable Batteries (1900mAh)
- Eneloop Panasonic AA NiMH Batteries (1900mAh)
- Panasonic BK-3HCCA4BA Eneloop Pro AA High Capacity Ni-MH Batteries (2500mAh)
- Duracell High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries (2500mAh)
- Duracell Quantum Alkaline Batteries (1.5v)
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!
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.
#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.