THE BATTERY CLONES, CHARGERS


TRUTH - THE BATTERY CLONE WARS


NON-BRANDED CAMERA BATTERIES
CLONES, DISCARDS, JUNK, eBAY DRECK

For fifty years I have been involved in batteries in one form or another.  As a supplier, and being in the camera business has taught me a few things.  

  1. Caution is one
  2. Repairs from lack of caution are expensive
  3. Manufacturers and vendors lie
  4. Batteries are like tools and they are Good, Better, Best
  5. Missing categories not mentioned are scams and rejects
  6. Whats a four letter word for a Chinese Ship?     JUNK

  

CAUTION and VARIABLES - CHEAPER THIRD PARTY BATTERIES

  1. Leakage, lithium is bad stuff.
  2. Swelling causing difficulty inserting or removing
  3. Shorter useful life than OEM equivalent 
  4. Incompatibility with camera and/or OEM charger 
  5. Incompatibility due to firmware updates
  6. Voiding your camera’s warranty


Thanks to www. John Sherman.com who compared Watson, took (black label, light green cells) and Wasabi (white labels dark green cells) EN-EL15 and broke them open.  the are sonically sealed in most cases. The circuit boards are identical, but the actual cells are indeed different.  Because each of these units will work with various batteries from suppliers.

•    So supplier “A “  has a bunch of leftovers from something else close to the amperage and voltage that retailer on eBay uses.  Makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  He goes to the plastics guy, most likely  Yung-nuo and buys shells and makes a run.  He already made the fake labels.

•   Rule one: This is China, goes on all the time, and just like Forrest Gump says, its like a box of Chocolates, you never know whats on the inside.

•   Rule two: Never believe the labels... Photoshop works wonders when it comes to increasing numbers and values 

•   From China, nothing is wasted, any and I mean any cells of dubious voltage, amperage and parentage, might get dumped into a plastic shell or cloned plastic shell and some number made up and dumped on the market.  

•   Nothing personal, just tacky business ethics they are known for.  So they buy up all the cells they get cheap, and you don’t really know what you are getting unless you open them up. 

•   One or two plastic plants make all the outside modules and circuit boards, knockoffs of knockoffs  and independent entrepreneurs add the loose available cells and make retail battery packs.

•   Ever wonder why fifty guys are selling these packs on eBay.  Did you really think there are fifty plants in China.  Addition to the weight differences, the mAh rating of the batteries differs. In theory, a battery rated at higher milliamp-hours should give more shots per charge all else being equal. 

•   Most batteries have a chip in them. This communicates charge info to the camera. It also communicates if it is an OEM battery or not. 

•   Both Canon and Nikon have been known to issue firmware updates for their cameras that have disabled third party batteries (the charge meter no longer shows and perhaps other issues). 


SUMMATION  and  BUILDING A TEST STATION

You get what you pay for and all batteries are not created equal.  There are weight differences, and in-consistency of the mash and smaller cells in some. The milliamp-hours (MAH) rating of the batteries differs based on truth, sometimes and who exploits false information. eBay in particular is notorious. Some third party manufacturers use better quality cells than others. 

Some don’t and buy anything they can and no camera manufacturer makes their own cells or batteries. Instead they purchase them from a battery manufacturer, just like the third party companies do.  They sublet production of Flash units too.  But manufacturers have checks and balances.

And this opens up a new can of worms involving fake Chinese batteries. Hmmm, How do you fake a fake?  In the pic below is a 24000 so called power-bank, cell-phone backup or whatever.   Sand has been used in some battery chemistries believe it or not,  but not as ballast.  This sand was to give the battery in its fancy packaging some weight or heft to defeat my process of weighing batteries looking for anomalies   The gold is the battery, the green is the board and the pounded sand is the screwing.

I manufacture battery equipment and deal with China and everyday is a new experience.  In contracts,  we specify a 10% failure factor up front. We pay for 100 and get 110 because we know they will fail and want to have free returns if needed. try sending a package to China...Good luck.

Camera manufacturers warn that inserting non-OEM batteries into your camera could make the camera fail or give you a warning this is not the right battery.  Most batteries have a chip in them.  Some manufacturers don’t as this goes against free trade, usually ignored.   

This communicates the charge info to the camera. It also communicates if it is an OEM battery or not.  Anything is possible, no guide book of suppliers exists.  Like my barber tells me,  Hair today , Gone tomorrow... just a fact of life...

Both Canon and Nikon and possibly SONY have been known to issue firmware updates for their cameras that have disabled third party batteries (the charge meter no longer shows and perhaps other issues). This is no guarantee that a future update might not knock them out.


MY TEST STATION FOR ALL BATTERIES

These are simple off the counter devices to basically test batteries.  I customized some of the testers and devices so I may be able to make sure the systems are up to par, in volume and in consistency.  When you do one or two it’s not important, but I do a lot in volume and these gadgets make it quick and avoid problems on the job. I also have a load tester for capacity but I don’t expect many to have the inclination to need one or use one. 

SAMPLE:  My Wasabi batteries (Bluebook) worked batteries were OK.   Now I’m seeing some swelling after 16 months.  As well they are properly chipped so the camera display shows how much charge is left and how many shots were taken on the charge, just like with the OEM batteries. 

I haven’t had issues charging the Wasabi and Watson batteries in the Wasabi or SONY chargers.  Weight is a clue, it has a lot to do with the eventual retail price of the battery.  One difference of note is that the weight differs by age and can differ by production run. This indicates what cells were purchased for that run.  I used a Post Office milli-gram scale.  It weighs hairs.

Here are three Wasabi’s bought at different times all not weighing the same.

GROUP ONE:
SONY NP-FW50 - battery weighs 1.4 oz.  @ 1020 MAH   (All three weighed the same) and the same voltage and amperage. They were the oldest and lowest MAH batteries. Still working, not swollen.

GROUP TWO:   ( Variations in weight, same batch) 
WASABI BTR-FW50-JWP battery weighs 1.60 oz. @1300 MAH, not swollen, but .2 heavier
WASABI BTR-FW50-JWP battery weighs 1.50 oz. @1300 MAH,  
Swollen 6/16 Charged but swollen
WASABI BTR-FW50-JWP battery weighs 1.35 oz. @1300 MAH, Swollen 6/16 - Ditto

GROUP THREE:   RAVPOWER RP-PB056 battery also weighs 1.6 oz. 1100 MAH  So Far OK
GROUP FOUR:  
DOT Batteries, all four have failed.  I never got satisfaction from either DOT or Amazon.  They were thrown out and I believe they are now selling them again on AMAZON.


PART ONE:  VOLTAGE
A) This is how I maintain my batteries - I use a standard test meter, you can get them free at Harbor Freight at times with purchase and coupon or...

B) Spend 15-30 dollars and get a good GF, or a base KLEIN, many available on Amazon. 

C) So you need the following and you can use it on all camera batteries and a million other things.  READ the manual that comes with the meter. 

  1. Meter - Your Choice
  2. Find extra cables with the ends as shown.   Cables for each module we’ll build, also find them on the web. They are called banana plugs, wired and cheap.
  3. A battery charging module from one that went bad or a spare you don’t trust. They are on the web and cheap. Usually they came with the battery eg,  Wasabi.
  4. Send me the mess with return postage.  It’s a freebie.  I’ll test it, disassemble it, solder the leads,  and then mail it back to you.
  5. The purpose is safety and accuracy for this tool. It’s too easy to cross the wires and short the battery plus getting a good connection for accuracy is really important.
  6. It will work on Nikon and Canon stuff too, I have modules for most Nikon, SONY, Canon, Fuji, batteries to test with units from friends, customers, my students and associates so I made a test module for all of those brands from the supplier. It’s the same bottom, the contacts are different.
  7. I can check twenty batteries in two minutes.

PART TWO - SWELLING AND A DOSE OF TRUTH

  1. The Mark One Eyeball just doesn’t cut it.  I use a simple Digital Caliper and measure them. Just make sure you Zero it before measuring. 
  2. I use a thin Sanford marker and mark the battery with the number. If it’s going bad, you can’t remember this stuff, not at my age. And not with twenty plus batteries.   
  3. Next time I check it tells me where we are going.
  4. A good SONY, factory battery, relatively new measures 1840mm in thickness.  The swollen WASABI measured 1971 mm.  
  5. That will almost jam in the camera. I used to use the old Mark TWO Finger grip but the inexpensive digital works a lot better and doesn’t fool you. 
  6. Also they make them fairly cheap in plastic,  if you do a lot of batteries, like AA’s and AAA’s keep one handy when doing length, so you don’t short yourself out using a metal one.
    READ THE NEXT PARAGRAPH

SOME THOUGHTS,  FABULOUS FAKES,  AND DECEPTIONS,  AND CRAP

  1. Pilgrims... please pay attention, in this day and age 2018 or so, the regulations, actually suggestions of small battery sizes are as accurate as the honesty in our politicians.  Don’t believe a frickin word, especially from our friends in China.  Not all AA and AAA cells are made equal in length (China) nor equal in width, (China) nor is the negative base the right size in some units, (also from China).  Too long and they can spring the doors, too short , no contact.

  2. VARTA which are great batteries, do not work in some cheap Chinese tools and some stuff from the cheap end Chinese Tool Store, we call Pearl Harbor Freight.  They the batteries work fantastic with ten year shelf lives in everything else.  I have also seen variants in some brands, like Made in Germany, shipped from China...  Same players, same Old game...

  3. I had two Pearl Harbor Freight tools for backups on a shelf in my lab.  In the dark with circulated air, no reason to degauss. A heat gun for shrink tubing and a solder gun.  They were backups one day needed in case I had to set up a second work line for a big job.  I picked up the heat gun from the shelf and it glued to my hand.  Honest to God. The plastic, so degaussed it was mush and stuck to my hand.  
    I was afraid of ripping my skin off, and got our handyman to use some gasoline and isopropyl alcohol to get it off and then hand cream for three days for the irritated area.  Everything we get from China we have noticed this degaussing of their plastics. I’m also thinking toys for tots and other plastics...

  4. Sometimes I get something in from a customer with the swollen battery so jammed up I almost have to take the camera apart.  Thats is why I say:   DO NOT CHARGE THE BATTERY IN THE CAMERA  like the way most manufacturers ship.  If the battery is in the camera and you have a Lithium problem you lose the battery and the camera.  An external charger is a lot easier to replace.

  5. I can get most stuck batteries out using a ten-ton commercial aircraft epoxy (not a common glue, the Gorilla doesn’t go over five tons) droplet on the battery bottom with a loop, let it harden or dry for 24 hours, then get a grip.  Corrosion is another story I treat.  Some repairs to corrosion are a work of art from sheer stupidity and could be avoided. And I charge for that.

  6. Twice a year we check and change, batteries on specific dates.  Daylight Savings dates, 6 month apart are perfect.  I have a list of everything in my home with batteries, like four TV remotes, Fire alarms 2, CD alarms 2,  light meters, backups etc, anything not running on a squirrel powered running wheel.   I switch out the batteries, mark them with a silver Sanford marker and give them to the kids for toys.

  7. If you knew how many of my neighbors bring me remotes that are corroded and literally destroyed you would understand.  My concern is for their fire alarm in an integrated sophisticated fire system linked to our fire department with advanced location signals and their laptops. It cost the last owner 79 dollars for a new remote for his fancy surround sound TV with all toys. I think it fell in a drink, or the ice bucket, nothing went bad that quick and it was just not repairable.

NOTE:  When you deal in his stuff every day, for fifty years plus please don’t question my thoughts, I’m telling you this as a public service. This is what we find all the time.  


PART THREE - EXTRA POWER CHARGING
The Tenergy Lithium battery charger is excellent for topping of all Lithium cells within it range limits.  I built several ends pieces as all are not the same for all sizes of SONY’S.  It also took a few cells that needed a little refreshing back.  
Some of the aftermarket cells in a SONY, those promising more power give false readings in the SONY not showing 100 percent.  The TENERGY solves that by insuring it’s a true 100%. but in SONY and others, bigger capacities of newer versions of the batteries were not fed into the algorithms,  it will only show 76% but it’s 100.

LOOK-A-LIKES
The Watson, Flashpoint, Ravpower, Dot and Wasabi batteries look like they are the same battery but with different labels. The Sony has a embedded halo-logo. The others have slight differing mold cuts.  Most are from the same factory actually we found with some powerful microscope glass identical mold marks.  All use the similar knock off molds and batteries are what available at the battery makers “food court” thus even identical batteries from a manufacturer can be different in capacity and quality.

Very slight weight difference suggested otherwise. One way to find out.  You weigh them.  Do not cut them open. That will tell you more than guessing,  heavier batteries might have more mash and power reserve.  And the labels mean nothing about MAH.  Untruths prevail... lot more than you think.  I use a very good gram postal scale, very accurate.

Technically, some popular sizes like for Nikon and Canon might be clones of clones.  Again since rules are loose in China, it might stand for Quality Crap.   when one understands QC does not stand for Quality Control,


AMAZON NO LONGER “CELLS” THEM
A relative newcomer came on the scene sold by Amazon “ DOT”  and I pitched the last one out last week, totally dead all four of them, they were defective and when and I complained to amazon, got no where.  

It was named Dot,  I still have the two chargers but they should of called them “ Spot like my friends dog Spot”,  they all took a crap.  Now they are back... Pass

Because the OEM batteries last longer, they are more economical if you shoot a lot. If you shoot sparingly you might find the Wasabi and others to be adequate.  

It’s basically a crap shoot with these batteries and no specific other than those by the manufacturer have any credence with me.

I build these systems for SONY but they work on all 7.2/8/4 systems and if you buy the parts and drop ship to me, I ‘ll build one for you as long as you pay the shipping. Usually $7.15.

The factory SONY charger plate after I modify it both charges the SONY and tests the SONY using the Tenergy set up


TRUTH ABOUT CHARGERS

•  There is no standard in the industry, so manufacturers can use the terms in different ways.  The selling point is the amount of time it takes to charge a battery is dependent on the capacity of the battery being charged and the mah the charger can produce.  

•  How long will it take  to charge batteries?   Simple math - simply divide the capacity of the battery by the charge rate of the charger, then increase the amount of time by about 20% to allow for a certain amount of inefficiency.  
As an example, a battery with a capacity of 1600 mah will require about 4 hours to be fully charged by a charger with a charge rate of 500 ma.  
The most common cause of premature battery failure is overcharging.  the type of chargers most likely to cause overcharging are the 5 or 8 hour so-called  “rapid chargers” that they really don’t have a charge control mechanism.  these are chargers that are not smart and simply deliver a charge for a period of time rather than reading the battery.  
Problem:  if the  charge cycle is interrupted part way through the charge and re-established the cycle starts over and you cook the battery.  the easiest way to avoid these scenarios is to use a smart charger, a charger with microprocessor control. 

•  What is a trickle charger?  A trickle charge is a charge rate that is high enough to keep a battery fully charged, but low enough to avoid overcharging. Maintenance charge is another way to describe trickle charge.
Although most  manufacturers do not recommend that you leave a battery in the charger for long periods of time, many people leave their batteries in the charger on trickle charge for days or weeks to keep their batteries "ready to use".
If you know the rate of trickle charge that your charger puts out and it is around one-tenth of the battery capacity or less, then you should be alright if you are just going to do this occasionally. Generally speaking, though you do not want to leave a battery charger plugged in unattended for long periods of time.

•  Is trickle charging harmful to batteries?

Many battery manufacturers do not recommend long term ( months at a time) trickle charging.  If trickle charging is used then the charge rate should be very low or only intermittent.  The best smart chargers will only send an occasional pulse charge to the battery once it is charged.  

•  Does rapid charging reduce the life of batteries?  Using a properly designed smart charger, most NiMH batteries can be recharged in about an hour without any damage or significant reduction in their life.  However, NiMH batteries must only be rapid charged with a charger specifically designed for charging NiMH batteries.  

•  What’s the difference between a NiMH battery charger and a NiCD battery charger.   Many of the inexpensive NiMH battery chargers are simply NiCd chargers that have been modified slightly.  Typically a 5 hour NiCD charger has a switch that allows the charge time to be increased from five hours to eight hours.  

•  What makes a charger a “smart charger”?  Any charger that uses a computer chip to control various aspects of the charging process can be considered a smart charger.   Technically even a charger that can detect and adjust the charge rate based on the battery inserted into the charge station can be considered a smart charger, but anything that is either manual (steady charge rate as long as it is plugged in) or uses a timer to manage the charging process, we do not consider a true smart charger. There are even various levels of smart chargers. 

•  Different features that work together,  a battery charger is a smart charger  and has a common charging feature known as negative delta v. negative delta v.  It is basically a technical method for a charger to know when a battery has reached its charge capacity and then shut the charging off, or sometimes change to trickle charge mode. 

•  Other features that contribute to a battery chargers “ smart” status are: battery rescue (implemented in various ways to attempt to “ ump start" an overly discharged battery - i.e. less than 1.0 or 0.9 volts - so that it will take a charge), temperature sensors, discharge and conditioning features, battery test features and even timers to limit the total length of the charge so even if you leave it plugged in, it turns itself off after a preset time. 


THE FUTURE - MAYBE

Twenty times faster charge, Ryden dual carbon battery. Power Japan Plus has already announced this new battery technology called Ryden dual carbon. Not only will it last longer and charge faster than lithium but it can be made using the same factories where lithium batteries are built.

The batteries use carbon materials which mean they are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than current alternatives. It also means the batteries will charge twenty times faster than lithium ion. They will also be more durable, with the ability to last up to 3,000 charge cycles, plus they are safer with lower chance of fire or explosion.

While all the stats are impressive it's not the first time we've written about alternative batteries. They never seem to make it to market. The Ryden is different because it can be made using existing manufacturing processes, meaning it won't require a huge investment from companies.

Power Japan Plus has said it will begin producing 18,650 Ryden cells later this year. Hopefully we'll start seeing these appear in mobile devices soon.

“Current advanced batteries have made great improvement on performance, but have done so by compromising on cost, reliability and safety," said Dr Kaname Takeya, CTO of Power Japan Plus. “ he Ryden dual carbon battery balances this equation, excelling in each category."

IS ZINC REALLY DEAD?

Over the past six years, 110 villages in Africa and Asia received their power from solar panels and batteries that use zinc and oxygen. The batteries are the basis of an innovative energy storage system created by Nant Energy, a company owned by Patrick Soon-Shiung, a biotech entrepreneur and surgeon originally from South Africa.

Scientists at NantEnergy said they had achieved two key goals: to make the batteries rechargeable, and to lower their cost for energy storage to $100 per kilowatt-hour. That is a figure that some people in the industry have said is essential to creating a carbon-free electric grid that operates even when the sun is down and the wind abates.

Zinc air batteries are one of several potential alternatives to lithium-ion batteries, which have been the focus until now for large-scale power storage and electric vehicles. 

Dr. Soon-Shiong, whose company gets its zinc from Indonesia, has cited the mineral’s abundance. The United States accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s zinc reserves and 7 percent of production, mostly from mines in Alaska, according to Sri R. Narayan, professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California. Australia and China have about half the world’s reserves and are among the largest producers. 

Dr. Narayan said reserves of lithium, a primary element in lithium-ion batteries, were one-twentieth those of zinc, but he added a note of caution. “At the present rate of production of zinc, zinc reserves will last about 25 years,” he said. “So it is not clear from the reserves available if we will have enough zinc to support the enormous need that will result from the demand for grid-scale batteries.”

Materials like lithium are costly in part because they are rare. The mining of lithium has also threatened the health and safety of workers in areas where it has been plentiful, like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prolonged exposure to lithium has been associated with health effects like fluid buildup in the lungs. And lithium-ion batteries can pose a fire hazard. 

Zinc air batteries lack toxic compounds, are not flammable and can be disposed of safely, according to MIT Technology Review. Still, the mining and processing of zinc does present hazards. It comes from an ore consisting of zinc sulfide and is usually produced in conjunction with lead, cadmium and nickel, Dr. Narayan said, and large-scale production can raise environmental issues from sulfur dioxide and cadmium-vapor release. 


REPLACEMENT OF THE LITHIUM -ION

This battery won’t catch on fire if it is cut, punctured or crushed.  Lithium metal can be used for the negative electrode, which could potentially double the battery’s energy density.  

Thus, tremendous effort has gone into battery development in recent years. The effort is paying off, with prices for battery cells falling by 70 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to PV Magazine. 

Lithium-ion batteries have become the battery of choice in many consumer electronics such as laptops, and in electric vehicles such as those produced by Tesla. But there are a couple of problems with these types of batteries that need to be resolved such as fires, explosions, destruction of motors, instability, bringing down airplanes,  etc.

For reasons that are explained in the documentary, the use of lithium-metal electrodes enables a greater energy density than conventional lithium-ion batteries. But lithium-metal electrodes can develop finger-like structures called dendrites that will eventually short-circuit the battery. If damaged, all of the energy stored inside the battery can release over a short period of time, and the result can be a hot, intense fire.

The solution to this problem was to replace the lithium-metal electrode with a carbon electrode with a lattice structure that houses lithium ions. Thus, the lithium-ion battery was born, albeit with a lower energy storage capacity than a battery utilizing a solid lithium-metal electrode.