Managing Camera Batteries while On the Road

Gear //
Managing Camera Batteries while On the Road

A question that always comes up in regards to travel is, ‘How many batteries do I need to take with me?’

The better question is, ‘How many batteries can I afford to bring with me?’
Since switching to a mirrorless full frame camera for my main camera body, my battery and charger pack weight has gone way down. The tiny, aftermarket batteries by Wasabi Power are up to 1300mAh; that is quite the capacity for such a tiny cell!

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Because of their size and efficiency, I choose to carry only 5 camera batteries with me during my 3 month trip to the Philippines. Keep in mind that photography is one of my main objectives while there. Why 5? Because; with one in my camera, I can charge all of the rest of my batteries in two dual chargers. That is in the rare case that I need them ALL in a hurry. Also, I have NEVER needed more than 4 total batteries when shooting a full day worth of photos. Should I lose one, or two… no big deal, but losing ANY is really unlikely to happen. You should make it a point to test and see how many batteries that you will actually need when shooting all day; and you should do this before you leave on your trip.

Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5

But Mirrorless Cameras are Battery Hogs???

Quickly, let me address the frequent complaint that mirrorless cameras are battery hogs. Sure, they CAN be, just like ANY full frame camera can; this is especially if you chose to shoot with live-view, autofocus, and chimp the hell out of your shots.

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The truth of the matter is that one’s shooting habits have FAR more to do with battery life than the camera itself.

To tell you the truth, I chimp (review images on my camera) a lot. This is because I actually delete a lot of images as I am shooting. Not because I find that it saves me lots of card and hard drive space, but rather because it saves me lots of time when making selections later. The result is that my import is filled with almost all keepers. As a side note, this method also puts additional pressure on me to know that “I don’t have it yet” and I need to keep focus on getting great shots for my clients.

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To make up for this battery hogging habit, I always shoot with the viewfinder as opposed to the LCD. Putting my eye up to the viewfinder feels like much more natural of a shooting method to me anyway. Also, I review images through the viewfinder as well. If you really need to be power stingy, most cameras, mirrorless or not, allow you to shut off the LCD screen in the menu somewhere. If that is giving up too much of a crutch for you, the viewfinder’s brightness can be turned down as well. You will be surprised at how much power this saves. Autofocus and image stabilization are both huge battery wasters as well. I keep them off unless absolutely necessary.

So my magic number is 5 batteries. I can afford to bring more, but I would rarely ever NEED more, so I have the space and weight for other gear. In the long run it does make a difference, even as tiny and lightweight as these batteries may seem.

The dual battery USB/wall charging options make batteries a dream to manage.
Always bring backups. I have 2 of those dual battery chargers for my mirrorless camera batteries. They are plastic and take up practically no capacity or weight. They also use standard micro USB cables and wall plugs, which can be found just about anywhere.

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Some countries like China, and the Philippines actually require all batteries over 1000mAh (milliamp hours) to be carried-on as opposed to being stowed in checked baggage. This is so you know right away if they explode, As opposed to leaving it to the NTSB to figure out weeks after the crash… I guess?

*SARCASM.

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It is good practice to look into carry-on/ check-in requirements in regards to batteries for all the countries you are flying into and out of when traveling before you actually go! I have been paged over the intercom at Seoul, Korea’s Incheon Airport during my layover, and had to meet an airline employee at my gate. They had my drone batteries in hand and at that point told me that they had to be carried on. At least they are doing their due diligence.

In Beijing, China, I went though a security screening where they made me (everyone actually, not just me) empty their carry on bags of all batteries, battery packs AND EVEN CHARGERS. According to Chinese commercial aviation laws, even chargers need to be carried on, not just the batteries. SO again, make sure you look into all requirements for all the countries you are flying through, not just your origin and final destinations.
Good luck and happy travels!

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Gear