Bob Johnson of Earthbound Light just posted an article about a source for cheap CR123A batteries.  For many, CR123A may not be a familiar battery type since most digital cameras now take either proprietary Li-Ion rechargeable or common AA batteries. Once upon a time though, many film cameras and accessories used CR123A batteries, such as Nikon N80, N75, N90, F75, F80, FM10, F100, Canon EOS Elan 7/7E/7N, Nikon SB-50DX flash, etc. Even now, they are still used in photography accessories such as Nikon SB-R200 Remote Speedlight, Sekonic L-358 Flash Master Light Meter.

These CR123A batteries are expensive compared to common AA batteries. It is perhaps not strange because of their higher voltage, energy density, and output current. The SureFire CR123A battery mentioned in Bob’s article is quite inexpensive ones you can find but there are even cheaper alternatives.

Finding cheaper CR123A

Rule #1, never buy local retail unless you have to. The batteries in retail stores, especially the shops at tourist destinations are way over-priced.

Rule #2, shop online. Not only you can compare different brands but you can compare different supplier. Even for the exact same battery, different stores can charge very differently. This can be seen easily at Amazon when an item is offered by Amazon itself and several market place vendors. For example, this 10 pcs Panasonic Lithium CR123A 3V Photo Lithium Batteries is for sale for $14.99 by Battery Superstore but only $9.99 from ECC Technologies. That’s a 33% difference (or your can say the other one is 50% more expensive)! In both cases, these are cheaper than the SureFire batteries mentioned in Bob’s article. There are even cheaper ones available. Watch out for outrageous shipping charges though.

Going rechargeable

Going the rechargeable route can be more economical in the long run. Rechargeable batteries promise lower cost by allowing you to recharge up to hundreds or a thousand times. It will definitely save you money in the long run but will certainly needs a large up-front investments in the battery and charger. It also needs you to spend the time charging them.

At the end of Bob’s article, he mentioned rechargeable CR123A batteries. The reason that he didn’t recommend them is their lower capacity. Indeed, most rechargeable ones have capacity between 450mAh to 900mAh. In comparison, non-rechargeable CR123A are typically in 1400-1500mAh range. In practice, some users of the rechargeable  batteries even complaint about even shorter run time than the battery capacity numbers suggest, while others seem think they are fine for their different needs.

I think it depends on your use pattern. If you shoot often but rarely shoot more than a couple of hundred shots at a time, it might be fine with rechargeable. In one discussion here, the non-rechargeable can do ~750-1000 flashes. Even if the rechargeable ones can only do a third of that, it could be good enough for many who don’t need to shoot that many shots at a time. You can always get some non-rechargeable CR123A batteries as a back-up but use rechargeable batteries as main power supply.

One other benefit of rechargeable is of course the environmental friendliness – less used batteries going into landfills.

One thing you need to pay close attention is the battery voltage. Although some are labeled with CR123A compatible, they may actually have a higher voltage than 3.0volts. You certainly want one that has built-in protection circuits. Other good idea is to contact the supplier and manufacturer for compatibility information, or search online for instances of successful application.

Further reading

Posted in: Accessories on May 25th, 2009. Trackback URI
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