It's convenient to buy a digital camera that accepts AA batteries, but those little power cells can drain out quickly -- sometimes within twenty minutes of steady use. A pain in the butt for any new owner, to be sure. The friendly folks at CNet provided a few tips for minimizing power consumption and maximizing your battery dollar:

  • Turn off the LCD viewfinder. If you have an optical viewfinder on your camera, use it instead. The LCD screen can eat up as much as two-thirds of your batteries' life.
  • Use the sleep mode. Powering up your camera takes a lot more electricity than waking it from sleep, just like with your PC. Set the time-to-sleep as short as reasonably possible.
  • Set the flash to auto. Running the flash for every shot, even if you don't need it, can be expensive. This may not be worth worrying about for an ordinary film camera, but your digital camera uses its batteries for every single function, and every little bit helps.
  • Keep the batteries afterwards. Many digital cameras can only use batteries that still have 80 percent or more of their initial charge. If the batteries dip below that, the digital camera's CCD won't take the picture, although other components may continue to work. Use the batteries in a flashlight or your Game Boy after that point to extend your battery-buying dollar.
  • Use the AC adapter when downloading pictures to your computer. It's not practical to use it while shooting photos, but keeping it plugged in near your computer is only sensible. Downloading photos to your hard drive is a steady power drain.
  • Use rechargable batteries. Buy two sets, one to use and one to charge. They cost a lot more, but if you're spending the dough on a digital camera, presumably you're going to use it often enough to make a return on the investment.

While mblase has raised some excellent ideas for saving batteries in your digital camera, I think emphasis must also be made on the battery type when purchasing a camera.

When selecting a digital camera, I have seen many people focus entirely on resolution, extra features, capacity etc. All of these are worthwhile of course, but battery type/duration should also be a major consideration. After all, it doesn't matter how many features your digital camera has, if it runs out of power, it is completely useless.

For instance, the Sony CyberShot F505V digital camera uses a Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery. Unlike standard batteries, they are rechargable; and unlike other rechargable batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries don't develop any memory. This means that they can safely be recharged when only half drained without any danger of them losing their capacity.

On top of that, they charge quickly. I have two batteries for my camera. They have an operation time of 80 minutes and can be fully charged within 60 minutes.

So when selecting your next digital camera, take care to note what type of battery you are getting. Sure, those AA powered camera may be cheaper, but they won't be in the long run when you have to replace them every 20 minutes!

If you have a device which uses AA or even AAA cells, you can purchase Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMh) rechargable batteries. They were one of the first kinds of rechargable cell to be hailed as having "no memory effect" (although in reality, this means "less vulnerable to memory effect"). While not as spiffy as Lithium Ion cells, they do hold considerably more charge than Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) rechargables. They can be charged in most existing NiCad chargers, only the charge times will differ (longer).

PS. Follow the NiMh link for information on where you can buy them.

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