Feature: Every digital camera and camcorder is on a tether - how long the batteries last
Idea: Some of the latest trends and what that means for photo and video hardware
The diagram on the left is a look at one of the key factors driving the battery market - the second generation of Lithium ion batteries, in this case using LiFePO4 - Lithium Iron Phosphate as the cathode material in batteries.
There are other competing rare-metal doped methods as well - many involving several exotic rare metals. I could go into the details and interested readers should go here and then here for an overview. But the bottom line is the following general improvements in batteries:
1)closer to delivering the best possible charge per weight ratio in known batteries;
2)ability to withstand high operating temperatures up to 400 degrees C;
3)much reduced secondary effects hazards such as depletion or explosion;
4)better life cycle with reduced tendency to lose recharging capacity;
5)less environmental danger of disposed batteries.
All of these characteristics are very positive for current battery users. Already battery life has more than tripled for digital camera users in the past 1-3 years. For example, on my first Canon Rebel I could get about 200 images per battery charge; now I can get easily over 700. True this is a combination of better batteries and less power usage in the newest Digital Rebel. But safer batteries with longer cycle life are simply very welcome features.
Now much of the research on these batteries by companies like A123, Compact Power, and PhosTechLithium has been done for the burgeoning interest in pollution free battery powered cars (see the Economist Technology Briefing, the March 8-14th, 2008 issue). But the application of the technology has quickly spread to portable tools and electronics.
And digital camera and especially camcorder users (the latter have much higher power requirements than digital SLRs and other cameras) can welcome these developments. The batteries charge faster, and to greater battery life and can endure many more recharging cycles. Menawhile camera designers ahve more delivey options: batteries either can be much lighter. Or for the same weight deliver longer power production, 3-8 hours are estimates for some camcorders depending on the nature of usage.
Form Fit as Well
However, there is more good news on the power front for digital video and photo enthusiasts. New technologies allow the batteries to be shaped quite radically to form fit into tight designs. This means that novel, hand fitting designs, or ultracompact and light cameras are in the offing. The Sanyo Xacti line of camcorders is an example of a handfitting design. But with such radical forms, the battery more likely stays within the equipment and has to be recharged that way ; however longer life between chargings and faster recharge time are compensations.
Also, there are now more breakthroughs on bendable and stretchable circuits and wiring. The importance to photo camera and camcorder users are again high. The latest trend in both devices is to rotatable and swivel Live Action Viewer screens (2.5 to 3.5 inches diagonal with bright screens)for use during recording - especially in tight spots. Because high luminance TFT screens can be viewed in almost any lighting conditions, users' eyes do not have to be stuck to the cameras eyepiece anymore. And one of the critical enablers is flexible circuitry.
Battery Trends Summary
For users of digital cameras and camcorders who have been tied to their source of battery power, the news is likely to be very good over the next 3-5 years. Vendors will take advanatge of the technologies to deliver cameras and camercorders that are lighter, more resilient, and yet deliver more usability for longer periods. Coupled with the breakthroughs in storage devices, and camcorders, with their large power demands, look to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new battery and power delivery technologies coming to the image and media world.
(C)JBSurveyer Home Plugin Overview Gallery of PhotoFinished Images