Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer from Flickr
I own a Nikon DSLR camera, I use the supplied battery and charger. Recently, I’ve noticed that the battery life has been decreasing over time. Can this be caused by overcharging? What is overcharging anyway? These are common questions that beginner and even advanced photographers have. I did some research online and found the answer.
No, you can’t overcharge most modern camera batteries. Usually, they stop charging automatically upon reaching full capacity. However, keeping the battery in its charger for extended periods of time can decrease its life span because of the heat generated by the charger.
What is overcharging?
Overcharging is when a battery is charged beyond its full capacity. Overcharging might sound like a good thing that can increase your battery life. However, it’s quite the opposite. In the best-case scenario, a battery will lose some of its capacity. You won’t notice a thing. In the worst-case scenario, your battery will overheat and swell up until it explodes or starts a fire. When a battery is overcharged it overheats which boils the acid inside the battery. The boiling of the acid creates a flammable gas and also increases the pressure inside the battery. If the battery doesn’t explode from the pressure the gas could also explode if it’s ignited by a spark. This will send metal and acid flying, you do not want this to happen. You’re probably thinking – if overcharging a battery is so dangerous, why haven’t I heard more about it? Isn’t this a huge liability for camera companies?
Why don’t camera batteries overcharge?
Well, most name-brand camera batteries don’t have this big of an issue. Generally, only the “best-case overcharging scenario” will ever occur. Charging your battery constantly will only reduce its battery life by a small amount, but an explosion scenario is extremely unlikely. This is because big brands have a reputation to uphold, Nikon, Canon, and Sony – they don’t want to be the next Galaxy Note 7. If you don’t understand the reference, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was a cell phone with a faulty battery that caused fires and explosions. Samsung had to issue a formal recall and this was not good for their reputation as a cell phone company. Many class-action lawsuits were also filed against Samsung. Camera companies don’t want this happening so batteries are rigorously tested for flaws. They also have a built-in battery shut off when it reaches full capacity.
Can camera batteries be a fire hazard?
However, just because a camera battery has rigorous testing and lots of protection. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Nothing is perfect because when they are creating by humans. Even if they’re manufactured by machines, those machines were created by humans. There’s always room for human error so nothing can be perfect. If you were shipped a faulty camera battery that somehow got through the testing then the “worst-case scenario” that I mentioned earlier – explosions and fires – may occur. For one family living in London, it did. According to an article by the Sun, they left their camera battery charging overnight, it exploded and started a fire that burnt their entire house to the ground. Fortunately, they were able to make it out without injuries, but their home was lost. The family who experienced this said, “It’s such a simple thing and many of us do it but it could kill you.” credit to the same article mentioned earlier. This is still extremely unlikely to happen to you given all the protection in most modern cameras. Also, the brand of the camera wasn’t mentioned, it could be the case that they were using a third-party battery.
Should I use third-party batteries?
No, you should never use third-party batteries. Always use the battery and charger that came with your camera. Most electronics companies not only including camera manufacturers advise of this as well. The battery may be incompatible with the charger or incompatible with the camera. Using mismatched chargers and batteries can cause a worst-case overcharging scenario as the charger won’t know when to stop charging. Many third-party battery brands are high quality, though many are not, and sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which. This is why I (and most camera brands) don’t recommend using batteries from third parties.
Will constant charging decrease my battery life?
Even with name-brand cameras, constant charging can still decrease battery life. Earlier in this article, I said that name-brand camera batteries can’t be overcharged. But their life span can still be reduced by keeping them in their charger. This isn’t overcharging in the traditional meaning of the word – to charge a battery past its full capacity. But chargers produce heat and high or low temperatures are known to gradually reduce battery life. Most lithium-ion batteries should be stored at around 59° F or 15° C. Usually, batteries are hotter than this temperature while they charge. That’s why you shouldn’t constantly charge.
How can I preserve battery life?
Most camera batteries are lithium-ion. So the rules for extending lithium-ion battery life should apply to most camera batteries as well. But you should research the type of camera battery that you have just to make sure. According to an article by powerelectronics.com, there are a few things you should do to extend the life of a lithium-ion battery. First of all, remove the battery from the charger after it’s been fully charged. Store the battery at a cool temperature but not freezing. Don’t drain the battery all the way before charging. Use around 30-40% of the battery, and then charge it. Letting your entire battery drain is unhealthy.