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Best Rechargeable AA NiMH Batteries For Your Flash (Don’t Buy Eneloops…)

Rechargeables Are Better

Fact: using rechargeable NiMH batteries in your flash will give you dramatically better performance than shooting with alkaline batteries. This might seem counter-intuitive at first, since rechargeables are labeled with slightly lower voltage values than alkalines (1.2v rather than 1.5v), but voltage isn’t everything 1.  NiMH batteries have much lower internal resistance, and can dump current into a flash significantly faster than alkalines.

Many of you already know this to be true from experience, but for those of you who are skeptical, I ran a short series of tests with a few flashes:

Flash TypeAlkaline BatteriesNiMH Batteries
Nikon SB-8006 seconds4 seconds
Canon 430EX II3 seconds1.75 seconds
Yongnuo 568EX3-4 seconds2.1 seconds
Sunpak 62213 seconds
(Duracell C)
3 seconds
(Tenergy C)

As you can see, using NiMH batteries reduced recycle time for my flashes by about 1/3 at least, sometimes more.

Which Are The Best?

At this point, there are at least a dozen major brands selling NiMH AA batteries, and countless discount brands selling cheaper batteries, many of which will only hold a fraction of their claimed capacity. So which ones are the best?2

Standard vs Low Self-Discharge (LSD)

One of the major drawbacks of early NiMH batteries was that they didn’t hold a charge for very long while being stored; after only a couple months sitting unused,  your batteries might be discharged beyond usefulness. About ten years ago, however, a new type of battery was developed that held it’s charge much longer. These are generally known as “low self-discharge” or LSD batteries, but when purchasing batteries, the packaging may call them “pre-charged”, “hybrid”, or “ready to use”. Depending on the the brand and technology generation, an LSD battery may retain 85% of its charge after a full year, or more. This makes the batteries much more practical for low-drain devices like remotes and flash triggers, where the batteries might be in use for several months at a time, but they’re also great if you don’t want to deal with charging all of your batteries directly before a shoot. As such, all of the batteries that I recommend below are low self-discharge.

Top Ten Recommendations (Last Updated: August 2018)

 mAh ratingCharges
Possible
Power Retained
(1 Year)
Price for
4
Price for
8
Price for
12 or 16
ENELOOP2000210075% after 5 years$11.54$18.9912 for $30.99
ENELOOP Pro255050075%$18.49$32.99
Powerex PRO2700"hundreds"75%$13.70$24.95
Tenergy CENTURA2000100085%$7.9916 for $25.99
AmazonBasics
High-Capacity
2500"hundreds"75%*$10.97$19.99
AmazonBasics Standard2000100080%-$14.9916 for $24.99
Fujitsu2000210070% after 5 years$22.99
Energizer Universal20001000?-$18.57-
Energizer Recharge Plus2300500?$10.99$19.49$33.58
IKEA Ladda24501500?$6.99 (in store only)

Don’t Buy Eneloops Just Yet…

When it comes to reliability and performance, Sanyo/Panasonic ENELOOPs have been the leaders for years. However, Eneloops are now (very likely) packaged under a couple of different brand names that cost significantly less 3. The prices in the table above update automatically every day, so check it for deals!

Amazon.com sells AmazonBasics branded AA Pre-Charged NiMH batteries (originally with a black jacket, then white, now black or white). These are made in Japan rather than China and they seem to be rebranded standard Eneloops, and they cost less. They may be previous generation Eneloops, rating at only 1800 charges rather than 2100, but you’re still more likely to lose them or have them stolen before they die. You’ll pay an extra $1 for 8 AmazonBasics than for 4 standard Eneloops.

AmazonBasics are also available as AA Pre-Charged High Capacity NiMH batteries, with a black jacket and 2400 mAh capacity. These ones seem to be rebranded Eneloop Pro (XX) batteries, and again, they cost quite a bit less… about 50% less for a pack of eight (sometimes)! I have a dozen of these and love them.

Fujitsu batteries are made in the original (and now updated) Sanyo Eneloop Twicell factory in Japan. After the Panasonic takeover, they started making some Eneloops in China, and the batteries made at the Twicell factory were sold as Fujitsu.  Compared withe the Chinese Eneloops, the Japanese Fujitsu batteries perform slightly better in flashes after the first 20 charges, according to some tests. So, Fujitsus are good… mabye even better than Eneloops.

One of the most popular options for high-capacity is the Powerex PRO 2700 mAh battery. This new model has higher capacity than the older Imedions (and they weigh a bit more than the others), but they perform as well or better than the Eneloop Pros, according to all reports. I haven’t tested them myself, yet, but they’re on my list.

Near an IKEA? IKEA’s Ladda 2450 mAh batteries cost only $6.99 for a pack of four, and my tests showed that they actually typically have a 2500 mAh capacity. They also recycle my flashes just as quickly as any of these other batteries, and should last for 1500 charge cycles. They’re not conveniently available on Amazon, but if you’re near a store, pick them up.

That said, all of the batteries listed in the table above are quality batteries, and you should feel comfortable buying any of them if you run across a good deal.  I originally included the Rayovacs becauase I have a set of 12 of them, and they’ve served me well for the past six years, with heavy use, though their numbers are a little lower than the Eneloops.

Chargers

It’s worth noting that a good charger can prolong the life of your batteries and provide better charges; some of them give you the ability to “refresh” old batteries, helping to restore a battery to like-new performance. We recommend the OPUS BT-C2000 or the La Crosse BC1000 or BC700,  .

Questions? Comments?

If you have had good experiences with any other batteries, or bad with any of these, please let us know in the comment section below.

 


  1. For full details, read about Ohm’s Law or the hydraulic analogy
  2. This article relies heavily on test data provided by NLee the Engineer, as well as several online forums and websites.
  3. I haven’t seen any definitive confirmation of this fact, but I have seen the tests that show that the batteries behave identically. So, they are either re-branded Eneloops, or they’re cloned so well that it doesn’t matter that they’re not Eneloops

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Steve Brown
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Steve Brown

Really great article, really interesting and informative!

Anthony
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Anthony

I have found that the Panasonic labeled chargers with the model number BQ-CC17 do in fact charge one cell at a time, unlike the previous Sanyo which required two cells to be installed to charge. I’m still wondering why larger banks of rechargers aren’t sold. I keep seeing some 8 and 16 bank ones, but I don’t see enough reviews with regards of needing to charge two cells or it can be a single cell at a time. ex: B00SO25HUO (amazon ID)

Mike West
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Mike West

I have around 20 of the black Eneloop Pro. Recently my Flashguns would not start even with freshly charged sets. On investigation it turns out that some of the older cells have significantly higher internal resistance. I have measured up to 1.9 ohm, some mid-age around 0.5 ohm and newer at around 0.1 ohm. Testing the useful current confirms that the older cells reach a peak of 1 amp or less, whilst the newer cells exceed 10amps (meter maxed!!).
On average they have only had around 40-50 charge cycles per year, and never below the charge threshold.
The only dodgy thing I have done was to use a fairly basic charger to quickly bring up the charge, and I wonder if this damaged the cells.?

bram
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bram

Guys, guys, your high powered flash would work better if they took 18650s

Mats
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Mats

When I bought my SB-910 I decided to do some extensive researching on the net, for several weeks, to find the best batteries for my flash, and for my battery grip. For both hardware’s I was primarily looking for batteries that could give the fastest recharging and the most FPS.
My results 2 years ago gave me Hähnel (2700) for MB-D12, Ansmann (2850) primary for SB-910, and Sanyo Eneloop (1900) backup for SB-910.

I see you have not tested Hähnel. Reason?

Kimberly Rachel Aker
Guest

Why would we not buy the chargers that come with some of the battery brands?
And are the Amazon Basics truly a bit bigger? I am not up for damaging my gear at all!

Mike Sweeney
Guest

My Amazon basics ( the first batch) are going on three years. Have not missed a beat and still work as well as the eneloops. The AB actually held up better when I ran my old “battery hell” test of full power dumps in a old school vivatar flash. The new XX ABs are only 6 months old but they do last measurably longer and I have not had any “fit and finish” issues with them or the original AB. At this point, I have about 40 of them kicking around for my flashes, my wireless mice, toys and whatnot. In fact the only device that the enveloops and ABs are snug in is the Microsoft Xbox controller. But it’s snug, not tight.

Matthew Saville
Guest

I haven’t yet tried some of the others, but I can definitely say that my Eneloop (standard) batteries have out-lived the Tenergy alternatives I’ve been also using.

I’ve used over a dozen of both brands for over 3 years now, and basically half of the Tenergy batteries now simply don’t hold a charge, or accept a charge, while 100% of the Eneloops are still going strong.

Until someone else can give a 3-year, heavy usage report on the other alternatives, (Duraloops and Amazon Basics do sound promising, though) …I’m going to stick with Eneloop standards.

Jeff
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Jeff

Seems that the Amazon basics are rated for 1000 charge cycles, not the 1800 as this article mentions. That means the real Eneloops at 2100 charge cycles would have more than twice the life in the long run and a way better LSD at 10 years shelf life. More than twice the life makes the cost in the long run cheaper for the real Eneloops. I’ll stick with the real Eneloops.

joseph durante
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joseph durante

just began using eneloop std eneloop pro mainly for photographic applications.they are definitely the best.i used duracell rechargeable prior and
they did not perform as well.i own the la crosse bc1000 and it is an awesome charger.i also own the maha wizard one c9000 and it is if anything an even better charger than the bc1000.it has a breakin cycle that charges at .1c for 16hrs,rest for 1 hour,discharge at .2c,rest 1hour and finally charge at .1c for 16hours a second time then follows up with a 100 ma top off charge for 2 hours and then a trickle charge.i have brought useless and old nimh batteries back to life with this feature.also it does a impedance check at the beginning of the charge cycle to see if the battery is still good.

Dnguyen
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Dnguyen

AmazonBasics are fatter than their Eneloop counterparts. May not be worth the savings if you can’t get them in or out. There’s a lot of variation when it comes to their exact capacity.

Michael Lombardi
Guest

I *just* bought some batteries and I have to say, those black Eneloops made my shorts a little wet, but I couldn’t justify the cost. I grabbed 4 Amazon whites and 8 Amazon blacks. It sounds like I made a good buy!