As professional photographers, it’s no secret that we like to flash. A lot. And when we travel our light source of choice is the simple flash strobe. This means we also need to pack a lot of AA batteries.
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I kind of enjoy the geekiness of prepping gear for shoots, but still get a bit nervous calculating how many batteries to charge and pack. So it comes as no surprise that finding reliable battery chargers for our arsenal of favourite rechargeable AA batteries has been a priority for years.
I’ve tried “brand-name” options that have literally melted batteries right into the charger spewing toxic fumes in the air (sounds like bacon frying but smells much worse). I’ve bought expensive German-engineered chargers that are reliable but have excess bulk and weight and charge at higher currents that make the batteries run hot. I also own geeky chargers that I love, but have more buttons and features than most need and require big and bulky power adapters that make me pass them over for travels.
After thousands of dollars and decades of charging AA batteries, I’m pretty excited that AA chargers are getting smarter and smaller (if not cheaper) all at once.
Here are my recommendations for the pro and civilian AA-battery consuming individual.
Recommended AA Rechargeable Battery Gear:
Eneloop Pro AA Rechargable NiMH Batteries
- the best battery that lasts the longest even in high-drain devices (like camera flashes)
All Recommended Battery Chargers Feature:
- World-Travel power ready – 110 and 220 autoswitching power supply
- Smart charging (negative delta v voltage termination)
- Slow (500mA or less) charge rate (to extend battery cycle life and reduce heat)
For the heavy AA-battery user:
Titanium 16 AA battery charger
- slow-charge (400mA charge rate) keeps batteries from overheating
- includes compact 2-prong universal travel adapter
- simple “refresh” function (green button) which drains battery before charging (Note this is not a “deep” refresh feature as seen on the Lacrosse model)
- slim profile 16 AA battery charger includes 2 USB charging plugs – perfect for travel
For the everyday AA user:
- Good basic charger for everyday use
For the neurotic geek (like me):
Lacrosse BC700 Battery Charger
- Advanced charge rates, discharge and refresh options keep the uber-geek happy
- Be warned: Refresh cycles can take days to perform but can bring life to what seemed like a dead battery
Some Amazon reviews of the Titanium 16 AA Charger report bad units out of the box or failure soon after purchase. This makes me question the company’s quality control. But my experience of purchasing 3 units 6 months ago has been great so far – I’ve travelled internationally with them and all work as expected and remain relatively cool during the entire charge cycle. To be fair, I’ve had expensive “brand name” units fail in extreme ways as well. But if you purchase using the links here from Amazon, their customer service is solid for returns/exchanges.
Safety tip: In the video review below I recommend creating a charging cabinet to prevent damage to your home. Since my previous “burning battery” incident I also don’t leave chargers running when I’m not around to (literally) smell for trouble.
Tips for Happy Charging:
Thewirecutter continues to be a great resource and their battery charger article includes some great advice. In particular:
- don’t store batteries in the charger – take them off within 24hrs of charging
- for AA batteries, choose “slow” or “gentle” charge rates of 500mA or less
Travel tip for the ultra-paranoid like me: when traveling for multi-day shoots, whenever possible I pack multiple chargers of various brands in case of failure – when the show really must go on.