NiMH vs Lithium-Ion batteries

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by void, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. void

    void Guest

    Could you experts please enlighten me on the differences between NiMH and
    Lithium-Ion batteries? For example, why does the Canon PowerShot A-series use
    NiMH batteries, but the Canon PowerShot SD-series use Lithium-Ion batteries?

    Will lithium-ion batteries eventually replace NiMH batteries? Or will both
    types continue to be used well into the future?
    void, Nov 30, 2005
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  2. void

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Li ion batteries can be made in arbitrary shapes while NiMH batteries
    are usually cylindrical. In the SD series, the thin rectangular
    battery helps make the camera smaller. Li ion batteries also
    weigh a lot less than NiMH batteries for the same amount of stored

    A lot of the time, though, the advantages of li ion aren't that
    important, and manufacturers use specially made incompatible li ion
    batteries in order to sell additional expensive stuff to the customer.
    There is finally starting to be a backlash against that. A couple of
    years ago, most digicams used proprietary batteries and needed. Now
    most of the manufacturers have cameras like the Powershot A-series
    that use AA's, and customers understand why they benefit from that
    (able to use the same NiMH batteries and chargers in several cameras,
    I hope not, at least under the current scam.
    Yes, probably.
    Paul Rubin, Nov 30, 2005
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  3. void

    salgud Guest

    They both have advantages and disadvantages, most of which are listed
    in the post above. I don't see any "scam" here. Li ion batteries
    usually cost more initially because they're lighter and hold a bigger
    charge. The camera companies charge more for them because they're made
    to fit the camera, and they can get away with it. When you consider the
    overall cost of a new digital camera and all the accessories needed,
    batteries, charger, memory card, card reader, etc., it isn't very much.
    And if it's a reasonably popular camera, a replacement battery will be
    available within months of the camera's release into the market at a
    much lower price.
    When I bought my new camera a couple of months ago, I researched the
    battery question carefully. I came to the conclusion that I didn't care
    whether the camera I bought used AA (standard size) or a proprietary Li
    Ion battery, the cost would be roughly the same, after I bought the
    batteries, recharger, etc. Most of the cameras that come with
    proprietary batteries, usually Li ion, come with a recharger. If you
    buy a second battery, which is a good idea, you don't have to buy a
    recharger, unless you need to recharge outside the camera. Whey you buy
    the rechargeable AA's or AAA's, you have to buy a recharger. While
    cheap ones are out there, I heard enough horror stories here about the
    cheap ones that I srpung some extra cash to get a high quality charger.
    So it cost me more than a second Li ion battery would have cost even at
    inflated dealer prices.
    The only serious advantage of the NiMH's in standard sizes is that in a
    serious bind, with no charged batteries handy, you can run to the store
    and get Alkalines to get you through. Expensive, considering how long
    they'll last in a digicam, but will get you the pix.
    If you do a little online research and figure out how much the standard
    size NiMH batteries and charger will cost, then compare it to the cost
    of a spare Li Ion for a particular camera, you can make an intelligent
    choice based on your own needs.
    Hope this helps in your world.
    salgud, Nov 30, 2005
  4. That "much lower price" won't come anywhere near the $8.50 for a set
    of 4 2300 MaH AA NiMH cells. And I'll still have an additional
    charger to haul around. And that charger may well not be
    international, and very probably doesn't work from a car lighter
    plug (all of which my existing NiMH charger already handles).

    And that battery may not be available *late* in the life of the
    camera; they may have stopped producing it due to low demand. In
    which case being unable to get a new battery (or a replacement
    charger) may be what forces end of life for the camera.

    As to cost, it depends. For a Fuji F10 at $320, paying an additional
    $35 for another battery is about 10%. Doing that *every three years*
    (which I hear is the average life of a Lion bettery) adds up over the
    life of a camera even higher.

    All of which means I may well end up buying a Canon A610 instead, and
    sarificing the low-light performance of the Fuji F10. (The memory
    card format is also somewhat of an issue, but *neither one* supports
    compact flash, and neither does any other decent competitor. So I'll
    spend probably as much as the camera costs buying new memory media in
    some new format, and have to carry both around (all pro-level cameras
    use CF, and look to continue to do so for the forseeable future
    because there's no reason not to; the size isn't an issue in a DSLR,
    and the capacity is important)).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 30, 2005
  5. void

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    I do. Most manufacturer-supplied Li ion batteries are way overpriced.

    One thing nobody has mentioned so far is that NiMH batteries have
    a higher self-discharge rate than Li ion batteries. So if you go for
    long periods without using your camera, it's best to get Li ion.
    Bill Tuthill, Nov 30, 2005
  6. void

    Paul Allen Guest

    You've just outlined the scam, such as it is. Were the camera makers
    thinking, "We can force people to buy expensive batteries from us,"
    when they went to proprietary batteries? It most likely occurred to
    them. Fortunately for customers, the market is fairly good at filling
    voids like that with less expensive replacements.
    All this frenzy over smart chargers is amusing. I use two dumb-as-a-
    rock chargers hooked up to a timer that's set to turn on for 1/2 hour
    a day. I have three sets of batteries. One's always in the camera,
    and the other two are normally getting trickle-charged in the chargers.
    When I go off on a shoot, the charged spares go in the bag. When I come
    back the depleted batteries go in the chargers with the timer set to 18
    hours. (Approximately a full charge for these cells and these
    chargers.) Once things are back to steady-state, I'm back to two sets
    being trickle-charged and one in the camera. It's so dumb, it's
    incapable of producing a horror story. :)
    Yup. Even figuring that Li ion batteries die in three years or so
    regardless of use, the cost of batteries is a small factor in a camera
    decision. I prefer AA's, but the camera I'm pinin' for uses a
    As do I.

    Paul Allen
    Paul Allen, Nov 30, 2005
  7. void

    Paul Allen Guest

    So many tradeoffs! The self-discharge problem is avoided by keeping
    your spares on a trickle charge. The batteries in the camera may
    discharge by the next time you use it, but the spares are always
    fresh. And Li ion batteries self-degrade over time even when they're
    not being used. Which is worse? A battery that predictably loses 1%
    of its charge per day, or one that degrades to the point of unusability
    after a few years? I dunno. I think the quality of the glass and the
    ease with which I can get the camera to take the picture I see are
    more important than the power source.

    Paul Allen
    Paul Allen, Nov 30, 2005
  8. void

    eawckyegcy Guest

    eawckyegcy, Nov 30, 2005
  9. void

    ASAAR Guest

    I skipped replying to your other message where you suggested
    trickle charging NiMH batteries. Actually (and I think I got this
    from some battery manufacturer's white paper, not sure of the
    source, possibly Energizer) trickle charging is fine for NiCD
    batteries, but not good for NiMH, so many NiMH chargers don't
    trickle charge. But I do use your timer trick to keep some
    appliance chargers going, though with two 1/2 hour charges/day.

    I use enough AA NiMH batteries in devices other than cameras so if
    I need a freshly charged set I usually have one or two available
    that were charged no more than a few days earlier. I normally use a
    fairly slow "smart" charger (more than 4 hours), but if I were to
    quickly need a charged set but none were available, I also have a 30
    minute charger, so the low discharge rate advantage of lithium
    rechargeables isn't as significant as it might have been years
    earlier when the time required to charge NiCD and NiMH batteries was
    much greater. As many people here are aware, there are also several
    15 minute chargers available, so it's not like the bad old days when
    many chargers needed 13 hours (or more) to finish charging, and if
    you needed to charger two sets of batteries . . .

    You've avoided the biggest risk, having a temporary power failure
    while using fairly fast, high current "dumb" (timer based) chargers.
    And even with those, horror stories wouldn't be very likely. Just a
    slight reduction (possibly not even noticeable) in the battery
    capacity. The horror stories are greatly overrated, but assuming
    the worst, since they're only NiMH, it'll only cost a few dollars to
    get a new set, and a set that's probably higher capacity than the
    ones they're replacing. The *real* horror stories (involving smoke,
    flame and worse) almost always occur when recharging lithiums, and
    fortunately, that's fairly rare.
    ASAAR, Nov 30, 2005
  10. void

    ASAAR Guest

    Usually. But there's nothing that prevents NiMH or alkaline or
    manganese or carbon zinc from assuming arbitrary shapes. Sony's
    small, thin "gumstick" rechargeable batteries are available in both
    NiMH and Lithium versions. Not replaceable, as their voltages are
    quite different. I haven't examined the lithium versions closely,
    but I assume (hope) they're constructed to make it impossible to be
    inserted in equiplment that uses the NiMH gumsticks. And of course
    the super thin batteries used in greeting cards for over a decade
    weren't lithium. Caveat: another assumption. :)

    Lithiums do weigh much less, but in such small cameras, the weight
    of small non-lithium batteries would hardly be objectionable. My
    old not-very-efficient Canon Powershot uses a battery pack
    containing 3 AAA NiMh cells. Considering the great efficiency
    improvements cameras have made in the intervening years, only two
    AAA batteries would provide much greater battery life per charge in
    a new, smaller camera. Two of these AAAs could fit in an extremely
    small camera, wouldn't weigh very much, and I'd consider getting one
    as long as it had some manual controls. But I wouldn't get any that
    use lithium batteries, not because they'd cost more, although in the
    long run the additional cost would be significant, but because
    someday replacement batteries probably won't be available. I'm not
    a big fan of planned obsolescence.
    ASAAR, Nov 30, 2005
  11. void

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Whether it's inherent in the batteries or due to the protection
    circuit, I'm not sure, but li ion batteries also self-discharge.
    Leave you li ion powered digicam unused for a few months and you'll
    need to recharge it.
    Paul Rubin, Nov 30, 2005
  12. void

    salgud Guest

    Paul wrote:
    All this frenzy over smart chargers is amusing. I use two dumb-as-a-
    rock chargers...
    Didn't realize I'd gotten "frenzied"! :)
    For the price of your 2 "dumb as a rock" chargers and the timer, I got
    a smart charger.
    salgud, Nov 30, 2005
  13. void

    SMS Guest

    The NiMH versus Li-Ion Debate
    Manufacturers of cameras, camcorders, cell phones, PDAs, notebook
    computers, high end bicycle lights, etc., moved from NiMH to Lithium-Ion
    batteries for a number of very good reasons, but there are also some
    advantages to the older technology, at least when the NiMH batteries
    were AA or AAA size cells.

    Advantages of Li-Ion Batteries/Disadvantages of NiMH batteries (AA/AAA)

    Self-Discharge Rate
    Li-Ion batteries have a self-discharge rate of between 1-3% per month
    (when installed in a device, the self-discharge rate may be a little
    higher). NiMH batteries have a self-discharge rate of between 40-50% per
    month. For devices that are used only occasionally, NiMH batteries are
    not a good choice, unless the device is always plugged in when not in use.

    Energy Density
    Li-Ion batteries have a much higher energy density. This means that you
    can fit the same energy into a smaller space, or more energy into the
    same size space.

    Protection against Incorrect Insertion
    Li-Ion battery packs are keyed to prevent insertion incorrectly (with
    reverse polarity).

    Li-Ion Batteries are more convenient to Swap and Charge
    It is much easier to swap a single battery pack than to fumble with a
    bunch of individual batteries. It is much more convenient to snap a
    single battery pack into a charger than it is to insert individual cells.

    Devices with Li-Ion Batteries are Usually More Reliable
    The more battery contacts in a device, the less reliable it is. Battery
    contacts get dirty. Spring loaded contacts suffer from metal fatigue.
    Plastic battery doors that must put pressure against the batteries in
    order for the batteries to make contact, eventually break.

    Limited to Low-End Products (for Digital Cameras)
    For the most part, only lower end digital cameras use AA batteries. The
    manufacturer does this do save cost, since they do not have to supply a
    rechargeable Li-Ion battery, or a charger, with the camera.

    Of course for camcorders, cellular phones, PDAs, etc., there are no
    longer many devices using NiMH batteries.

    Disadvantages of Li-Ion Batteries/Advantages of NiMH Batteries (AA/AAA)

    Li-Ion Batteries are Proprietary
    Each manufacturer has its own battery pack design, and charges a lot of
    money for extra packs. For the less popular products, there is no
    incentive for third-party manufacturers to offer after-market batteries,
    so the user must pay high prices for spare batteries. However,
    after-market versions of the popular models of battery packs can be
    purchased very inexpensively (see

    Cannot Buy Proprietary Li-Ion Batteries in the Middle of Nowhere
    For AA powered devices, if you are in the middle of nowhere and your
    batteries go dead, you can get by with some AA alkaline cells. This is
    somewhat valid, though this advantage is overstated. First of all, you
    are much less likely to have your batteries go dead in the first place
    if you are using Li-Ion batteries. Second, you can always charge your
    batteries from any 12-15V source, including solar panels or a pack of
    ten or twelve AA batteries. Third, for popular digital SLRs, the
    optional battery grip can often use AA cells.

    NiMH cells can be charged much faster
    There are NiMH chargers that can fully charge four cells in 15-30
    minutes. Fully charging the same capacity Li-Ion battery pack will take
    several hours.

    Myths About NiMH versus Li-Ion Batteries

    NiMH cells are Cheaper than Li-Ion Batteries
    This is only true in the rare cases when after-market Li-Ion packs are
    unavailable. You can purchase very high quality NiMH batteries (i.e.
    Panasonic or Sanyo) for around $2.25 each. So for a camera that uses
    four AA batteries, you can have a replacement set for around $9. But
    wait! I can purchase a replacement Li-Ion battery pack for a Canon S500
    for $9. A replacement battery for a Canon digital SLR like the 20D is
    $12. A battery for a Nikon D70 or D100 is $10.

    You can purchase lower quality NiMH batteries for very low prices, often
    around $1 each for 2000mA rated cells that have an actual capacity of
    around 1800mA. These lower quality cells are usually sufficient,
    especially with the faster chargers.

    A Seperate Charger is Required for Each Li-Ion Battery or Li-Ion Powered
    This used to be a big issue, since someone with a PDA, cell phone,
    digital camera, camcorder, etc., would have to carry around a charger
    specific to each device. Fortunately, this is no longer an issue; there
    are universal chargers available, that can charge nearly every type of
    Li-Ion or NiMH battery. See and
    SMS, Nov 30, 2005
  14. void

    SMS Guest

    So you think that the manufacturers of cameras, camcorders, cell phones,
    notebook computers, etc., didn't expect that there would be a booming
    business in after-market Li-Ion batteries, that would preclude them from
    making a fortune in camera batteries?
    SMS, Nov 30, 2005
  15. void

    Paul Rubin Guest

    That's a ridiculous exaggeration unless the nimh cell is defective.
    3-5% a month is about typical for NiMH. In fact with the new Sanyo
    Eneloop nimh cells, self-discharge is a few percent per YEAR.

    Li ion self-discharges as well. Maybe not the raw cells, but all
    consumer li ion packs contain a protection circuit which consumes some
    power even while the pack is sitting. If you've ever left a digicam
    unused for a few months you will have experienced the self-discharge
    even with li ion cells.
    Nonsense, just recharge it if needed.
    False, crunch the numbers for yourself. Li ion uses roughly the same
    amount of space as NiMH for the same amount of energy. What is true
    is that the li ion cells holding that space WEIGH less than the
    equivalent NiMH cells. Li ion can sometimes utilize space better
    inside the camera since they're usually rectangular instead of
    cylindrical. This mostly matters for the very smallest cameras.
    I don't know of any NiMH consumer devices designed stupidly enough to
    be damaged by reverse polarity. At worst you take the batteries out
    and put them in again. Not that many users are stupid enough to be
    unable to put the batteries in the right way either. And one can of
    course always put the NiMH cells into a cartridge as is done with many
    There is nothing that prevents putting removable cells into a battery
    pack as is done all the time with NiMH packs. I have an Icom walkie
    talkie which uses six AA cells in a holder that snaps onto the radio
    just like a lithion ion pack pops into a camera. It's not rocket
    science. The reason cameras usually don't use those is because the
    benefits aren't great. Most people don't mind spending an extra 3
    seconds at battery change time.
    Yeah, tell that to the thousands of people with dead Ipods because
    they couldn't easily replace the crapped out batteries.
    Actually they are doing it because consumers are wising up to the
    lithium ion scam and *demanding* AA-powered cameras. If you look at
    digicam advertising of a year or so ago, they always touted li ion as
    an advantage. If they used AA, they didn't mention it, or just listed
    it factually. Now they list AA as an advantage.
    Maybe there will be a backlash like there's been for digicams.
    Let's not forgot also that you typically can't charge your lithium ion
    packs AT ALL unless you have a separate charger for each one. I just
    got back from a trip where I carried a digital audio recorder (Marantz
    PMD660, AA powered), an MP3 player (Archos Jukebox, AA powered), a
    laptop computer, a pocket digicam for snapshots (Nikon 3100, AA
    powered), a bigger digicam for fancier shots (Olympus E-100RS, AA
    powered), a cell phone for personal calls, and another cell phone for
    business calls. That's maybe an above average amount of crap but not
    extreme in the least. The laptop and the two cell phones were powered
    by lithium ion (I couldn't find AA powered ones) EACH needed their own
    charger. The other stuff, I carefully selected at purchase time to
    use AA's. Result is I brought along a box of AA NiMH cells and ONE
    fifteen minute charger and that was enough to keep all the AA stuff
    running. The path of least resistance would have been to get an iPod
    instead of the Archos, and lithium powered cameras instead of the
    Nikon 3100 and Olympus. Three more battery types (one not removable
    at all) and three more chargers. No thanks.
    Let's go by the Energizer 2500 mAH cells which are $10 for 4 at K-mart
    or Target. These are Sanyo HR-3U's with the Energizer logo, the best
    cells you can get. 2600 mAH Sanyo cells supposedly exist but I don't
    know where to buy them.
    The S500's pack is 3.6 volts 1200 mAH which is 4.32 WH. That's the
    equivalent of a little more than ONE of those 2500 mAH 1.2 volt AA
    cells, not four. So replacing it would cost $2.50, not $9. (The
    comparable AA camera would be something like an S400, which uses two
    Dunno about Canon but Nikon just made sure that the D70/D100 battery
    is incompatible with the D200. The D200 battery is physically the
    same but has a hard-to-duplicate computer chip and costs $39.95.

    And don't forget about spare packs. Suppose you shoot with an S500
    and a D70. You need at least two D70 batteries in case one goes flat
    while you're shooting. And you need at least two S500 batteries in
    case one of THOSE goes flat. But having both go flat at the same time
    is unusual, so if you have two AA-powered cameras, you need only one
    set of spares since it will fit both cameras. Taking this to
    conclusion, if you have ten different AA devices, just get one box of
    identical NiMH cells and you have plenty of spares to power
    everything. If you have ten different li devices you need separate
    spares for them all.

    Finally, it's easy to buy NiMH cells at local stores. Even my local
    all night supermarket has them. Buying a D70 battery at a camera
    store is $30 or $40. Buying them for $10 requires getting them from
    some online mail order dealer and usually paying $5 or more postage,
    having yet another transaction to keep track of, etc. And if you have
    a few cell phones, laptops, etc., you find yourself having to buy
    weird special batteries for them online all the time (I need a few
    right now).
    I think that's what you have to compare those $10 D70 packs to as
    well. When I buy a pack like that, I'm happy if it works at all, but
    I generally don't expect it to work as well as the manufacturer's
    Those things are bulky to transport, slow to charge the batteries,
    weigh a ton, and are a big pain in the neck to operate (you have to
    put various clips and sensors onto the batteries). They're a pretty
    distasteful alternative to using chargers designed for a specific
    battery type, like AA's.

    Conclusion: you're spouting li ion manufacturer propaganda. I wonder
    what your interest is.
    Paul Rubin, Dec 1, 2005
  16. void

    Paul Rubin Guest

    They do what they can to thwart the aftermarket. When an aftermarket
    developed for Sony lithium packs, Sony made its camcorders not work
    without the InfoLithium chip. That preserved their monopoly for
    several years. Eventually the aftermarket apparently developed
    compatible chips. Sony has been changing its battery form factor with
    every new generation of camcorders since then, where it had previously
    stuck with basically three sizes of battery (small, medium, large).

    Nikon is doing the same. The D70/D100 battery will not work in the
    D200 because the D200 insists that its battery have a special chip.
    Paul Rubin, Dec 1, 2005
  17. void

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Oh yes, and these days, a Microtrack instead of the PMD660. That's
    FOUR more chargers.
    Paul Rubin, Dec 1, 2005
  18. void

    SMS Guest

    "NiMH batteries will self-discharge if left unused. Generally, within 30
    to 60 days, batteries will become completely drained."

    Incorrect, see reference above.
    The problem is that people expect to grab a device and have it work,
    especially a device like a digital camera. They don't want to have to
    wait two hours to charge the batteries.
    This is due to poor design by Apple, not because of the batteries.
    There has been no backlash in digital cameras. The low-end cameras use
    AA cells, and the higher end cameras use Li-Ion batteries. What we have
    seen is a huge increase in the number of low-end cameras. Cellular
    phone, camcorder, and PDA users would never tolerate going back to NiMH
    or Lead-Acid batteries because the drawbacks are so huge. The only
    reason we still see some NiMH digital cameras is because they eliminate
    the need for the manufacturer of the camera to include a battery and a
    charger, which is a big savings when you're selling a sub-$200 camera.
    Not true.
    The S400 and the S500 use the same battery pack, so not sure what you're
    trying to say.

    You have a lot to learn. Nearly everything you wrote is completely wrong.
    SMS, Dec 1, 2005
  19. void

    SMS Guest

    You can bet that an after-market battery will not be far behind. The
    chip in the battery pack has a specific purpose, it's not there solely
    to prevent after-market batteries.

    I can use the same inexpensive Li-Ion batteries in my Canon G2, my Canon
    20D, and my Canon camcorder. It's a much better solution than dealing
    with a gazillion AA cells that self-discharge in 30 days.
    SMS, Dec 1, 2005
  20. void

    Paul Rubin Guest

    They are wrong. I've used NiMH cells long enough to know this from
    personal experience. See also the Eneloop cells:
    It is wrong. I've used NiMH cells long enough to know this from
    personal experience.
    1) have some charged cells on hand (much easier when your devices all
    use the same batteries so you only need one kind); 2) use a 15 minute
    charger; 3) you have to do the same thing with li ion batteries.
    Every device using special batteries is susceptable to that, not just
    non-removable ones.
    Of course there has been. Look here on the ng, people care about this
    much more now. Look at the ads and press releases that the
    manufacturers run.
    Cell phones, small camcorders, and PDA's are generally trying to get
    in the tiniest packages that they can, so they use prismatic cells.
    Although, if I knew where to buy an AA-powered cell phone I would do
    so. Larger camcorders are expensive and cumbersome enough already
    that people put up with specialized crap surrounding them.
    Right, like the $180 vertical grip for the $1700 Nikon D200, which
    takes eight AA cells.
    You compared the cost of an S500 battery to the cost of four NiMH AA
    cells, when the energy that the S500 battery contains is only equal to
    about 1.4 of those cells.
    You are the one who is completely wrong about almost everything. I've
    had tons of lithium powered devices, I know exactly what their good
    and bad points are, and I'm bloody sick of them and the rip-offs that
    accompany them. It's unfeasible to avoid them totally but these days
    I'm selecting AA devices whenever I can.
    Paul Rubin, Dec 1, 2005
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