If you are a reader of my scribblings you will know that my lovely lady bought me a digital camera for Christmas. It's a Fujifilm FinePix S3000. It's a great camera. Since I wrote the review I've been finding out more about what it can do and I'm just as happy with it as I was at the beginning. It does everything I need.
If I have a criticism then it is only one.
It eats batteries. Even without using the flash!!! Even when it's switched off!!!
Up until now I've been trying all sorts of different brands of alkaline batteries. Forget non-alkalines in this baby; you would be changing batteries so often you'd never get time to take any pictures.
I've tried Sony Stamina, Kodak Photolife, Panasonic Digital, Panasonic Powermax, Duracell, Energizer and various others but, to be honest, I've found little difference between any of them. Of those the Sony Stamina have been probably about the best (Sorry Duracell).
I've even got one of those trick rechargers that claim to be able to breath new life into standard (non-rechargable) batteries. Don't bother. The recharge never restores the batteries to anything like their original capacity. Some devices like CD players will last a few minutes on the recharged batteries and that's if it will even find enough power in them even to "boot up" at all. For high power drain devices such as CD players and digital cameras, they're useless.
Last week it was the love of my life and my 25th Wedding Anniversary. We had been saving up for a special celebration. A family party? No. We wanted something special, just for us. A cruise. A Caribbean cruise. A Royal Caribbean cruise (reviewed). And some serious photography was demanded. (Sorry, not that sort).
We would be away for a week and a half and I definitely didn't want to be lumbered with mountains of batteries. In fact, I needed a permanent solution to the battery problem. That means proper rechargeables.
I had read a few reviews including one by "Which" and the general consensus seemed to indicate that the Uniross 2300mAh nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) was the best. Having no better source of information I decided to accept the recommendation.
I found a complete starter set in Dixons (yes, I probably could have done better on the Internet) which included four batteries (AA size), a rapid recharger (recharges in 1 to 2 hours), a transformer step-down power unit and a cigar lighter connector for use in the car. The whole lot cost just over £30.
An extra set of four batteries costs just over £8. I bought an extra set so that I could have one set in use and another recharging. OK, they are supposed to recharge in up to two hours but they might run out at an inconvenient time.
The recharger unit is quite neat and would easily fit in your pocket. It has room for four batteries although will recharge just two. There's a switch to set to indicate that two or four batteries are to be charged and the instruction recommend that if only two are being charged they be loaded into the two left-hand slots. In use the charger does get a tad hot so be careful.
There are two lights on the recharger. A green one indicates that power is being supplied to the unit. A red one indicates that the batteries are being recharged. It goes out when the recharge is complete. In practice I found that the recharge does take closer to two hours than one.
There is a built-in timer as well that switches the whole unit off after two hours so as to avoid any potential danger by leaving it plugged in. Indeed, the only way to reset the timer is to unplug then reconnect the power lead.
You are recommended to remove the batteries once the recharge is completed but set them aside for a while before use as they get quite hot during the recharging process.
If I have a criticism of the recharger it is that it isn't one of those that ensures that the batteries are totally drained before starting a recharge. Nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries are the worst in this respect. If they aren't totally drained before recharge, they gradually accept less and less charge each time until eventually they can't be recharged at all.
All rechargeable batteries suffer from this, what is called "memory", problem to a certain degree but Ni-MH and Lithium Ion batteries suffer far less. Even so it is recommended that as far as possible all power be drained before recharging. That just means that I carry on trying to use them as much as possible even after the first "battery dead" warning.
UPDATE - Jan 2005
I have discovered another possible problem with the charger. On a recent holiday I tried to recharge the batteries. This was during our trip to the Canary Islands. Supposedly the power supply there is "normal". Certainly all our other devices worked just fine. The cgharger, however, refused to work, switching on the little red light saying the batteries were faulty.
When we returned to the UK and tried it again, everything worked fine! However, I have had a problem once since. Maybe I just have a faulty charger or maybe it's unduly voltage sensitive. I have emailed Uniross but they have ignored my email so far.
I have downgraded my rating to 4 stars.
The power unit is a transformer moulded into a standard UK three-pin plug with a metre-long lead into which is embedded an interference suppressor. The plug is rated at from 100 volts to 240 volts and so could be used (with a suitable adapter) in the US as well, where the normal mains voltage is 110 volts (why, oh why do the Americans have to do EVERYTHING differently to everyone else in the World? Different TV system, different mobile phone system, different paper size...). Output is 12 volts.
Also supplied is a lead that fits a standard cigar lighter socket so the batteries could be recharged "on the move".
So, I was ready for our holiday. I charged four batteries and loaded them into the camera and off we went.
At the end of the holiday I was still using the same batteries! I had taken nearly 150 photos, some with flash, switched the camera on and off dozens of times (the motorised lens slides in and out each time), used the motorised x6 telephoto lots and reviewed the pictures taken on the LCD panel on the back of the camera over and over again. Nothing stopped the batteries running and running.
The batteries finally gave out once we had got home and I had transferred all of the pictures onto my computer and was also transferring them to a second computer. Even so I still managed to get a few more minutes out of them by switching the camera back on again a few times, at least enough to finish the job.
Now, that's impressive. I would have expected to have gone through at least two sets of normal batteries to obtain that sort of duration of use.
If you ignore the initial "set-up" cost, this is good value for money. A pack of 20 AA alkaline batteries will cost around the same as the pack of four rechargeables. In the camera you would use the pack up in five sessions.
You would expect to get far more than five recharges out of the rechargeables. It's suggested that they can be recharged up to 1000 times although the capacity that they would hold towards the end is probably far less than at the beginning, due to the "memory" problem. Nevertheless, it still suggests that they would be far better value for money, even including the initial set-up costs of the first battery set.
I will probably try these out in my portable CD player as well, to see how long they last. A set of two normal batteries usually last about three CDs in my old Sanyo CDP-1000.
I suspect the days of normal batteries are numbered. Run Bunny, run, but you can't hide!