I receive many questions about the batteries that I use in my Speedlites. Here is the exact gear that I use to keep them well fed and happy.

Batteries

Eneloop AA Rechargeable Ni-MH Batteries—If you’re a power Speedliter, then rechargeable batteries are the only way to go. I use Eneloops because their chemistry–low-discharge, nickel metal-hydride (Ni-MH)–means that they will hold their charge for an extended time. Regular Ni-MH batteries (like Powerex) will discharge over time when not in use. The last thing I want is for my Speedlite to not fire if the batteries I have in my bag have not been charged for a couple of weeks. If you cannot find Eneloops, other brands of low-discharge Ni-MH batteries often have pre-charged, rechargeable on the package.
Eneloops on B&H
Eneloops on Amazon

Regular Alkalines—If you are not a power Speedliter, then regular alkaline batteries are fine. So grab the Energizers and Coppertops when you need a fresh set of batteries.

Avoid Lithium Batteries—Lithium has the ability to hold onto electrons for a very long time. You may have noted that the Use By dates are often a decade away. However, under heavy loads, such as a Speedlite firing again and again, my tests have shown that lithium batteries get extremely hot. In one test, I measured their temperature at 165ºF!

Remove the Batteries—If you are not going to use your Speedlite for a few weeks, remove the batteries to protect against random battery leakage.

Battery Charger

Maha MH-801D Charger—There’s no point in having the right rechargeable batteries if you have the wrong charger. The dirty secret about batteries is that they may look the same on the outside, but they don’t discharge at the same rate. So, you want a charger that treats your batteries as individuals rather than as clones. I use the Maha MH-801D because is has eight individual charging circuits. Chances are that the free charger that came with your batteries has only one (or at most two) charging circuits. If you feel like your rechargeables are wearing out, toss that cheap charger and buy the Maha MH-801D.
Maha MH-801D on B&H
Maha MH-801D on Amazon

Battery Caddies

PowerPax Battery Caddies—I rely upon PowerPax battery caddies to keep my 100+ Eneloops organized. I load freshly-charged batteries with the tips down and used batteries with the tips up. So, at a glance, I know which batteries are ready. PowerPax come in a range of colors, capacities, and battery sizes.
PowerPax on Amazon

10 Responses to What I Feed My Speedlites

  1. Martin says:

    I’ve been using Eneloop batteries for quite a few years, and can definitely recommend them too!

    I bought a Maha MH-801D last year, and am loving it too. Being able to charge 8 batteries at once, and knowing that the charger is applying some individual tender loving care to each battery helps me sleep at night ;-)

  2. Nick Pulos says:

    After purchasing Syl’s Speedliters Handbook, I took Syl’s advice and finally converted to Ni-MH batteries for all my Canon 600 EX-RT’s and ST-E3 Transmitters, Canon CP-E4 and Bolt Battery packs.
    What took me so long you say?
    I now have two Maha MH-C801D chargers which were supplied with 8 each of the Powerex Batteries. I also purchased multiple sets of the Imedion and Eneloop Low-Discharge Ni-MH batteries as well. Even though I charge all of my Powerex batteries the night before any event, it is nice to know that the Low Discharge Imedions and Eneloops are ready to go even if I did not charge for an extended period of time. Even better is the faster recycle time that Ni-MH batteries provide for all of my Speedlites.
    I highly recommend the advice Syl has given to me and to you as well.

  3. Geoff Penn says:

    This is excellent advice, Syl.

    I have been using Eneloop batteries for some while. I was getting hacked off with having to continually charge ordinary rechargeables, knowing that if I didn’t, they would be useless when I needed them to perform.

    I use the 4-battery storage cases – cheap on Amazon – to keep them in. A 12 battery container would be too large for this wedding photographer to carry in a suit pocket!
    To distinguish charged from discharged batteries, I align them ++++ when charged and +-+- when discharged.

    Thanks for the advice on the charger, Syl – I have just ordered one!

  4. Jim says:

    Switched to Eneloops after the NiHM’s always seemed to be dead when I actually went to use them. I get my batteries from people who have been in this business for years. Batteriesamerica.com carries a complete line of rechargeables. Had quite a discussion with their VP regarding rechargeable 123 batteries that I use in the Radiopoppers. There IS a difference in battery quality. Good article!

  5. [...] What I Feed My Speedlites | PixSylated | Syl Arena's Photography Blog on Light & Imagemaking What I Feed My Speedlites | PixSylated | Syl Arena’s Photography Blog on Light & Imagemaki… [...]

  6. JC Dill says:

    Tip for storing rechargeable AA batteries – store unused batteries all in one direction (just as they come off the charger), and used batteries mixed ends up (just as they come out of your devices). This way you don’t have to remember which “end up” means what or worry that someone helping you doesn’t remember – it’s very intuitive that “all in the same direction” means ready to use, and it’s much easier to put your used batteries back into the case if you don’t have to flip them to any specific orientation.

    I used 4-pack cases, so that each pack holds one strobe’s worth of batteries. If the case has 2-up and 2-down, they are used batteries. If the case has all 4 facing the same way, they are unused. This also makes it easier to pull the used ones out of my bag for recharging and leave the unused ones in my bag, ready to roll.

  7. Marc says:

    Syl, will you be trying out the Eneloop XX batteries?

    • Syl Arena says:

      Marc – I have a set on Eneloop XX in a trial that I’ve just started. The trial will take 3 months as it has to do with power loss of various types of batteries in storage. My knee-jerk reaction of Eneloops vs. Eneloop XX is that the 25% increase in stated capacity costs 100% more. So, I’m not sure they are a bargain. We’ll see. Maybe there are other advantages.

  8. I TOTALLY agree! I started using Eneloop batteries mid 2012, and haven’t looked back since. They truly are a reliable investment. In fact, my camera’s battery grip has a backup caddy which takes 8AA’s. Knowing that I have Eneloops for both my flash heads AND as backup power for my camera, feels great.

    Thanks for sharing the other accessories like the charger and carrier. I could use a charger with a battery meter.

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