To Power Cameras, Batteries need to be Workhorses

Features range from quick recharges, to high-tech smart batteries
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Anton Bauer DIONIC HCX battery with real-time display.
When today’s professional photographers and cinematographers select a video camera battery they generally want a workhorse, so their criteria is usually simple.

by Art Kingdom

“I look for maximum amperage with minimum weight,” said Mathieu Mazza a veteran photographer who heads Newsgroup Communications in Washington, D.C.

There are many batteries that meet those requirements, but the road to reaching that goal has been a long one.

It has been known for centuries that combining chemicals with metal conducts electricity. Artifacts in tombs reveal that the Egyptians appear to have electroplated antimony onto copper more than 4,300 years ago. It is theorized that the Parthians who ruled Bagdad in 250 B.C. used batteries to electroplate silver.

But surprisingly, advances in battery technology have been relatively slow. Also the names of the scientists who made the discoveries are very familiar, but some are not.

The dry cell battery was developed in the United States in 1888, and in 1899 Swedish inventor Waldmar Jungner produced the nickel-cadmium battery. It used nickel for the positive electrode and cadmium for the negative. In 1901, back in the United States, Thomas Edison presented an alternative that used iron instead of cadmium, but the high cost of materials limited their use. The nickel-cadmium battery took the form we know today in 1947 when the technology to seal the unit was developed.

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IDX Elites in the battery pack. Pioneering work began on the lithium battery in 1912 but it was not until the early 1970s that the first non-rechargeable lithium batteries were commercially available.

But, of course, technology has advanced even further to meet the needs of today’s high definition (HD) cameras and high intensity lights. Those units have more or less become standard and need ever increasing amounts of power.

Since starting Newsgroup in 1992, Mazza—who favors full-size HD broadcast quality cameras including the Panasonic HDX 900 and the HDX 200A—has seen many advances in battery technology and applications. The photographer powers his cameras, and related equipment, with Anton Bauer Dionic and Hytron series batteries. “I’m an Anton Bauer guy,” Mazza admitted.


In September 2010, Anton Bauer introduced its Dionic HCX that features a 120 watt-hour capacity and a new motion sensor to protect against capacity loss.

After going two weeks without a load, the HCX automatically goes into a “deep sleep” that reduces self-discharging and allows extended storage with nearly zero capacity. The battery “awakens” when it is moved. This increases the life of the battery by mitigating lithium-ion self-discharge. The HCX weighs 2.4 pounds, withstands high instantaneous power draws and can power a 40-watt camera with a 20-watt light for more than two hours.

The HCX also offers the liquid crystal display (LCD) Real Time fuel gauge that lets users check their anticipated run time with a display showing up to nine hours in low-power load conditions.

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IDX Elites at work in a video camera. For versatility in field operations, the fully automatic Anton Bauer Tandem 150 operates as a DC power supply once a camera or other device is connected and turned on. It separates the power/charger device from the power supply, allowing a user to simultaneously charge a battery and power a camera. When the draw exceeds 75 watts, the system automatically stops charging and performs solely as a 150-watt power supply. Likewise, if the camera is turned off or the load is reduced below 75 watts, the Tandem 150 system instantly resumes normal operation. The Tandem 150 Modular Power System also allows for high power applications.

The Tandem 150 allows the option of operation through AC mains (90 volts to 250 volts AC, 50 Hz to 60 Hz); a charger via a car’s cigarette lighter or with the upscale award-winning Anton/Bauer Solar Panel.

The panel’s charger case weighs a halfpound and connects to a soft, foldable array of solar cells measuring 59 inches by 43 inches. The solar cells will fully charge an Anton Bauer battery nearly as fast as the company’s regular chargers connected to power outlets. Using full sunlight, the solar panel charges the Dionic 160 in four hours, and the Dionic 90 in 3.5 hours.

While big broadcast quality cameras are still widely preferred, more cinematographers are turning to the digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLR) and some exciting work is being done with it. Anton Bauer recently started shipping the QR-DSLR and DSLR-ADPELPZ for use with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 7D And EOS 60D digital SLR cameras. These mounts use “Logic Series” batteries that power monitors, lights, transmitters and other accessories in ways not possible with a standard OEM battery.

The QR-DLSR can be mounted to most third party rigs and acts as a counter-balance during shooting. A pouch is provided for hand-held DSLR applications. The mount has outlets to power both the camera and lights for event photography.


Also anticipating the growing power needs of HD photographers, IDX has developed the E-HL9, a high-load lithium-ion battery with a 10-amp capacity. It includes high-tech smart battery features like circuit protection that guards against over charge, over discharge, over current and exposure to high temperatures.

The E-HL9 features the BMS software package that enables users to monitor the history and condition of their batteries to increase life span. BMS gathers battery data and provides PC access to a comprehensive database, which could be helpful in managing large numbers of batteries.

It has their PowerLInk feature that allows the direct connection of two batteries for a total capacity of 176 Wh. There are five LEDs to display accurate capacity readings. IDX offers the E-HL9S as a less expensive version.

The IDX Endura Elite is intended for use with HD cameras in a broad array of production settings. The Elite has a 136 watt-hour (Wh) capacity featuring two identical cartridges housed inside a rugged outer casing allowing easy exchange of cartridges and reducing the cost of replacement batteries. The twin power cartridge makes it fully compliant for air transportation. The Elite supports Digi-View that allows the photographer to monitor battery life through the camera lens and the “i-Trax Battery Management System.” It is compatible with all IDX Endura V-Mount chargers. The Elite has a 10-step remaining power indicator in which power is shown in increments of 10 percent by full/flashing combination of the 5 LEDs. A new ‘Mode’ LED can indicate preset and warning conditions of the battery to the operator.


So what is on the horizon?

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers believe that one future of the lithiumion battery may involve a harmless virus, the M13 bacteriophage. The organism would be produced at room temperature water allowing the creation of a lighter and more flexible battery. The packaged material could be woven into clothing to be used by military personnel who routinely carry batteries along with several pounds other gear, travelers in need of a convenient power supply, or perhaps someday photographers who could drop a few pounds of equipment.

Meanwhile the potato is getting some additional attention. It has become a staple of high school science projects to use a potato to produce an electric current, but researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have created a solid organic electric battery based on treated potatoes.

Scientists discovered that boiling a potato prior to using it in electrolysis increases electric power up to 10 times over a raw potato and lets the battery last for days and possibly weeks. The battery is constructed using zinc and copper electrodes and a slice of potato.

They claim that cost analysis shows the treated battery could generate electricity five to 50 times cheaper than 1.5 volt D cells. There is no word on whether the potato would be fitted with an LED gauge.


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Training Snipers Calls for Enduring Power

Whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan or just a standoff hostage situation here at home, it’s skilled snipers who heroically nail the bad guys while sparing the innocent. Sniper’s Hide’s video setup, including the (blue) Anton Bauer ElipZ battery between the camera