This is why I will never again use alkaline batteries in my flashgun!

AA rechargeable batteries
(Image credit: Matthew Richards)

I don’t like to be negative, although it’s the south pole of any pair of battery terminals. Sometimes there’s no substitute for a flashgun as ‘the most available light’. As things turn out though, it’s not always that available. I bought a Nikon Speedlight SB-700 when it first came out in 2010 and fed my new pet flashgun on alkaline batteries. They have 1.5 volts under the hood, whereas rechargeable batteries only have a paltry 1.2 volts. Forget ‘less is more’, surely bigger must be better?

Not so fast. Literally. Last week I broke out a fresh set of alkaline batteries and started shooting with full-power flash. Things got off to a respectable start, with a recycling speed between flashes of 3 seconds. 50 shots down the line, however, that had slowed to 6.5 seconds. 75 shots in and there was an interminable wait of 9 seconds between shots, and by the 115 mark, the batteries were exhausted and only fit for the bin. Rubbish!

I’ve dabbled with rechargeable NiMH batteries in the past but, because I only use my flashgun occasionally, they’d usually gone flat all by themselves, by the time I wanted to use them. Waste of time.

Alkaline vs modern NiMH rechargeables: there's not contest (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Things have moved on though, courtesy of Panasonic Eneloop Pro batteries. With my SB-700, they give me a faster recycling speed of 2.2 after a full-power flash, and that stays constant throughout the whole discharge cycle of the battery. 

Speaking of which, I can get 320 full-power flashes from a fully-charged set of Eneloop Pro batteries, nearly three times as many as from alkaline batteries. The cherry on top is that, after charging, they retain 85% of their capacity even after a whole year of being sat around. 

I’m now on a mission to find every single battery-powered gadget in my home and replace alkaline with the new bread of low self-discharge NiMH rechargeable. It’s not just about the performance boost and added convenience. 

I can also give myself a pat on the back for being more eco-friendly and making big cash savings in the process.

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Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 

His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 

In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.