Best Rechargeable AA Batteries for Flash and Photography – The Ultimate Guide Part II

Gear & Apps November 27th 2013 9:44 AM 16 Comments

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Introduction to the Best Rechargeable AA Batteries

In Part I of “The Best AA Batteries for Photography and Flash“, we performed a real world test with a large line up of different alkaline batteries, and compared them against the Standard Eneloop and Eneloop XX Rechargeable Batteries.

The short conclusion was that the Eneloop XX and Standard Eneloop not only performed better than all of the alkaline batteries, they were also more economical in the long run. However, if you had to use alkaline batteries, your best bet would simply be the standard Duracell AA alkaline batteries.

Since then, we got a lot of users asking us to do a similar “real-world” comparison using only rechargeable batteries to see if Eneloop was indeed the best among Rechargeable AA Batteries as well.

A common situation for us is to be using these flashes outdoors in bright sunlight at full power either as a powerful fill, or simply to overpower the sun. At full power, the flash-to-flash recycle time is extremely important because every second between shots matters, so our goal was to know which battery provided the quickest full-power recycle times and nothing else.

We now have the results from our Ultimate Rechargeable Battery real-life recycle time testing, and after testing 14 different rechargeable battery models, there are 5 batteries that we recommend based on their full-power-to-full-power recycle time. Take a look at our video review, then continue on reading below for more details.

Watch the Best Rechargeable AA Batteries Video

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Real-World Testing Methodology to Determine the Best Rechargeable AA Batteries

Before we jump into the results, let me briefly explain the testing procedures. There are many other features that batteries can have that are not tested with this type of procedure. For example, how much power the battery can retain over time, whether a battery offers thermal protection or not, and much more. This test, however, is simply to see which battery can provide the quickest full power to full power recycle times.

The flash that we are using for these tests is the Vivitar 285HV. The Vivitar 285HV used to be a wonderful manual strobe, but it is not necessarily a flash that I could recommend anymore since Vivitar has really killed what was once an amazing manual flash with their latest remake of the 285HV. So you might be wondering why we are using it?

Rewind: See our Review of the Vivtar Flashes

The Vivitar 285HV has a very long full power to full power recycle time just by itself. This makes it wonderful for these kinds of tests since the results are a bit more exaggerated, and also because it allows the batteries and flashes to stay a bit cooler since the recycle times are more spread out. So the likelihood of toasting a flash due to multiple full power flashes is unlikely. Not to mention, if we did manage to toast one of the 285HVs they are fairly inexpensive to replace.

Because each flash is slightly different in terms of the circuitry, we used the same flash for all of the batteries, and we allowed the flash to completely cool providing several hours between tests. We purchased each set of batteries new and took them directly from their packaging and charged them to full power. Once charged, we placed them into the flash, and proceeded to time 75 full-power shots measuring the recycle time from flash-to-flash.

For each battery brand and type, we tested two new sets of batteries. Duplicating the test for each set of batteries required 8 new batteries for each battery tested (4 used in each test). However, this allowed us to compare results to test for any discrepancies in recycle times. If we noticed a discrepancy, the test was re-run to ensure the final numbers were accurate. All of the final recycle time numbers that you will see were verified to be accurate against a second set of batteries.

Again, this test is unable to measure reliability and sustained charge over time. For this reason, I would highly recommend sticking to brand-name batteries. This test is also unable to measure whether certain batteries would perform better over long periods with smaller draws (for example firing 1,000 flashes at 1/32nd power).

The Top Five Rechargeable AA Batteries for Photography

We tested 14 batteries I tested, and interestingly enough, 4 of the top 5 posted extremely similar results. One battery did emerged as the clear winner, however.

#5. STANDARD ENELOOP (2000 MAH) Rechargeable Battery

EneloopsThe STANDARD ENELOOP (2000 MAH) posted blisteringly fast early recycle times starting at 6.5 seconds and then falling to 11.3 seconds by the 75th shot. Total time to fire 75 full power shots was a blazing fast 723 seconds.

Side Note: This is the rechargeable battery of choice for the majority of our Lin and Jirsa Photographers.

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 6.5 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 11.3 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 9.51 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 723 seconds

#4. POWEREX (2700MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

Powerex

With the first shot starting at 7 seconds, the POWEREX (2700MAH) had the slowest early recycle times among the top 5 batteries, but it ran the race slightly better overall and yielded a final 75 shot time of just over 715 seconds.

We were a little disappointed in the results of this particular battery. Even though it placed 4th, we thought based on the hype and mAh rating of the battery, it would do a bit better. Instead, we only saw a 1% difference in final times when compared to the Standard Eneloop (2000mAh).

The Powerex does have the highest battery capacity at 2700mAh, so we’re confident that beyond 75 flashes, this battery would hold up slightly better than standard 2000mAh rechargeables.

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.0 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 11.0 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 9.41 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 715.2 seconds

#3. DURACELL STAY CHARGED (2000 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

Duracell-StayCharged

In 3rd place, we have the Duracell StayCharged (2000 mAh), and just like the STANDARD ENELOOP (2000 MAH), the Duracell’s early 6.6 seconds recycle times are quick. The 75th shot matched Powerex’s result, and the overall duration for 75 shots was 708.5 seconds.

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 6.6 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 11.1 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 9.32 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 708.5 seconds

#2. SONY CYCLE ENERGY (2500 mAh) Rechargeable AA Battery

Sony CycleEnergy

In 2nd place we have the SONY CYCLE ENERGY Rechargeable rated at 2300mAH. This battery posted almost identical final scores with Duracell StayCharged, and Sony barely edged out the Duracell with 707 seconds as opposed to 708 seconds. Once again, this is only around 1% better than the Powerex.

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 6.9 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 11.0 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 9.31 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 707.4 seconds

#1. ENELOOP XX (2500 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

Eneloop-XX

In first place, we have the Eneloop XX rated at 2500mAH. This battery performed 2-3% quicker than our 2nd and 3rd place batteries with a final time of 692 seconds, and 3-5% quicker than the 4th and 5th place batteries. Within our top 5, this was the only clear winner as all of the other batteries posted times with such small variations that they are negligible. The Eneloop XX was the only battery at the 75th flash still posting times under 11 seconds, and its total time of 692.6 seconds bested the rest of the group.

But, of course the modest 3-5% performance boost does come at a hefty premium, so you will have to decide if it is worth the extra cost for the additional speed.

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 6.6 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 10.8 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 9.11 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 692.6 seconds

Here are the Starting, Ending and Total flash recycle durations for all of the top 5 batteries in our line up.

Battery-75-Shots-Worksheet

Additional Batteries in the Testing Line Up

For those of you that wish to see the times for the remaining 9 rechargeable AA batteries that were tested, please see the information and graphs below.

#6. Duracell Rechargeable (2450 mAh) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 6.9 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 11.8 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 9.97 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 757.4 seconds

#7. ENERGIZER RECHARGE (2300 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.2 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 12.3 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.04 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 762.9 seconds

#8. RAYOVAC PLATINUM (2000 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.0 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 12.1 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.35 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 786.7 seconds

#9. IMEDION (2400 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.2 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 12.3 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.39 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 789.4 seconds

#10. TENERGY CENTURA (2000 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.5 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 12.0 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.40 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 790.1 seconds

#11. KODAK DIGITAL CAMERA (2500 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.3 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 14.1 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.57 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 803.6 seconds

#12. PHILIPS MULTILIFE (2450 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 8.1 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 12.4 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.65 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 809.6 seconds

#13. LENMAR RECHARGEABLE (2500 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 8.1 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 13.4 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.74 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 815.9 seconds

#14. SYNERGY DIGITAL (2800 MAH) Rechargeable AA Battery

  • First Shot Recycle Time: 7.7 seconds
  • 75th Shot Recycle Time: 12.6 seconds
  • Average Recycle Time: 10.77 seconds
  • Total Time to Fire 75 Shots: 818.8 seconds

Battery-75-Shots-Chart2

Battery-75-Shots-Chart

Conclusion for the Best Rechargeable AA Battery for Photographers

In general, it is worth noting that among the top 5 batteries, the batteries with a higher mAH rating generally perform better towards the 75th flash, indicating better overall capacity as we would expect.

All in all, there was only a 1-2% difference between the STANDARD ENELOOP (2000 MAH), POWEREX (2700MAH), Duracell Stay Charged (2000 mAh), and the SONY CYCLE ENERGY. So in this regard, they are all great choices.

But if you want the highest-performing rechargeable AA battery that money can buy, the Eneloop XX Battery takes the crown.

Eneloop-XX

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Pye

About

Pye (AKA Post Production Pye) is a founder and the Managing Editor for SLR Lounge. Pye is also a Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, an Orange County based wedding, engagement and portrait photography studio. Connect with him on Google Plus

16 Comments

  1. Bob Mulholland

    It might’ve saved a lot of time by just posting Syl Arena’s article on this since he already did all this testing and came to the same conclusions first.

    http://pixsylated.com/blog/what-i-feed-my-speedlites/

    • Pye

      Bob, thanks for your opinion. Our original article comparing the Eneloops to standard aklalines was posted well over a year ago back in September 2012 (please see the link at the top of the article) , and well before Syl’s that you linked. Perhaps Syl should have linked to our original post instead of arriving at his own conclusions.

      In addition, we didn’t arrive at the same conclusion as Syl. The Standard Eneloop placed #5 while the Eneloop XX took 1st place among rechargeables. So clearly this article does offer additional insight.

    • Ed Snow

      internet conspiracy, bob mulholland is actually syl arena…

  2. shamb

    Any thoughts on Ni-Zn vs standard rechargeable batteries? Very fast full power to full power recharge time that beats everything in this review, but bring some issues of their own (so fast they can melt the flash, poorer retention of charge, poorer shelf life, require a very specific recharger, lower availability). but they were mentioned a lot a couple of years ago and may still be of interest to those who haven’t tried them.

    • Pye

      Haven’t tested them Shamb. But it’s worth a look, thanks for the comment! I will have to look into them and see. With built-in overheating controls, most modern flashes would probably be ok with them, so it is worth a try.

  3. Dan

    One of the good things about Eneloop is how long the stay charged. As far as I remember they still have 80% capacity after a year on the shelf. How well do the others hold up in this regard?

    • andrew

      I would also like to have seen a charge retention test on these…

      Great to have performance, but sometimes it’s more valuable to have batteries sitting waiting to be used as backups for when you forget to charge your others.

  4. A Battery of Batteries | MNRD Photography

    […] (Note: Ironically, as I was writing this, I took a break to check facebook and SLR Lounge had just posted an article comparing the flash recycle times of many of the top rechargables batteries. Take a look at number one. Go figure. http://www.slrlounge.com/best-rechargeable-aa-batteries-flash-photography) […]

  5. Michael Steinbach

    Speed from shot to shot indicates a small portion of the overall battery picture. Other areas need to be considered equally, such as shots per charge and shelf life (time to self-discharge) to get the overall best battery. With most of us using battery packs, I use the SD-9 for Nikon, recycle time is a moot point as it is nearly instantaneous. I use a group of three manufactures for the flashes and SD-9’s and I can’t say that one really outshines one or another. One thin that they all have in common though is their chemistry: they are all slow drain NiMH.

  6. Greg F

    I’ve started using a brand called Contour. 2nd Gen Eneloops but rebranded so basically the same as the winner here but a fraction of the price. Using them in SB910’s they are really good.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/CONTOUR-CHIBRUAA4-SuperSmart-Battery-Batteries/dp/B0079G3FPK/ref=pd_sim_sbs_ce_1

  7. dbltapp

    The Low Self Discharge cells probably deserve their own category and comparison, with the discharge data one of the tests.

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    […] You can find the full test results on the slrlounge website. […]

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    That appears to be my enclosure i actually purchased recently,
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  10. Alex Fairbanks

    To whom this may apply:

    I have read both of your articles: http://www.slrlounge.com/the-best-aa-battery-for-flash-the-ultimate-practical-review-of-aa-batteries-for-photography & http://www.slrlounge.com/best-rechargeable-aa-batteries-flash-photography. I am impressed by both of these articles. However, there were some batteries left out of the picture, that should have been included. One of the tests, that was previously done on the other article, was not done in this article. The heat test was not performed on these rechargeable batteries.

    Some other things that should be looked into: April 2013, Panasonic purchased Sanyo Eneloop batteries. They also came out with a new Panasonic Eneloop brand. Eneloop also has AAA batteries. A similar test should be done with AAA Eneloop and AAA batteries. AAA Eneloop should also have another rechargeable AAA test done for best and efficient batteries as done with the AA batteries.

    Other batteries that should also be looked into are Lithium-Ion AA & AAA batteries. I did some research in the last 2 weeks for current best AA & AAA, & rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and rechargeable car batteries 2014. I also looked into the best battery chargers for rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and rechargeable car batteries 2014. I read your article: http://www.slrlounge.com/best-charger-ever-the-titanium-16-bay-battery-charger-review. I like that. I will add that to my list of the last 2-3 weeks of rechargeable battery research. Titanium MD-1600 16 Battery Charger. That is the largest capacity & single cell charger.

    A new test should be done testing heat issues as what was done in the very original test. Lithium Polymer AA batteries include MaximalPower 1600 mAh AA, 2900 mAh AA, & 1200 mAh AAA. Other batteries include: Duracell Duralock, AccuPower AccuLoop, & AccuEvolution AccuLoop. Other AA & AAA batteries that Sanyo & Panasonic came out with are Eneloop Lite 600 mAh AAA & 1000 mAh AA.

    One other issue that hasn’t even been addressed here is their recharge cycle. New Panasonic Eneloop recharge cycles for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eneloop Lite AA & AAA: 5000 charges, Regular AA & AAA: 2100 charges, XX/Pro AA & AAA: 500 charges. Other batteries have 300, 400, 500, & 1000 recharges. Which ones truly last the longest. After 1 year, Eneloop retain 90%, after 3 years 80%, 5 years 70%. Not applicable to XX, which is 85% after the first year.

    What about non-rechargeable against Eneloop and the C/D adapters for Eneloop & also Eneloop with adapters vs other rechargeable C, D, & 9V with Lithium-Ion and the same tests with heat issues? Does the Titanium work with the Panasonic Eneloop C/D adapters as well? Maybe, maybe not. I will guess yes, but we shall see.

    Alex

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  12. Sterling Steves

    Personally, as a full timer shooter, I am more concerned about the number of flashes I can get from a set of batteries rather than honestly a negligible 5% total range in recycle time. I charge my batteries regularly so I am not concerned about them sitting unused for a month as that would be pretty unlikely. Before a big shoot or an upcoming busy period, I go through nearly all my batteries and top them off. If you could do a comparison of actual number of flashes different battery sets can produce, that would be very helpful!

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