Batteries for older cameras


Batteries and cameras can be confusing.  First, many cameras do not use batteries at all.  Secondly, cameras that use batteries can use them for different purposes.  Many cameras just use the battery to power the meter, but the camera will operate without the meter.  Other cameras will only operate correctly if the meter has power.  Still more battery-powered cameras need the battery to operate the shutter or other essential features.  These cameras cannot operate without the battery.  And to complicate matters even more, some cameras have multiple batteries for multiple uses -- one battery powers the meter, another the flash, etc.  Finally, battery designations are different from one company to another.  So the same camera can use a X-20 battery from one company and a RT20X from another manufacturer.  

If you want to know the correct battery for a particular submini, check out the CAMERAS section of the SUBCLUB.  Look up the camera you are interested in and the battery will be listed in the description, IF WE KNOW WHAT IT IS. If you know of a battery and camera that are not listed here please let us know.


The user of an older camera a with built-in battery-powered meter faces several problems with batteries. First, the battery that was originally made for the camera may have been "changed" or "improved" since first designed. For many types, this means, changing the physical contents of the battery which often means a slight change in the voltage of the battery. Of course, the battery manufacturers don't tell you about this. All the package says is something like "replaces PX13", without mentioning any possible problems such as changes in meter readings due to changes in voltage.

Add to this problem the issue of supply and demand. Since there are fewer older cameras around today that use the type of battery your camera needs, the demand will be much lower. As a result, the battery you need may require a special order or may no longer be manufactured at all. Special orders on batteries may require that you order an entire box of batteries, which can sometimes mean 12 - 24 batteries.  One of the SUBCLUB's sponsors -- www.photobattery.com has an extensive catalog of batteries and they even pay for the shipping!.

The third challenge you'll face is voltage variations. A few years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency banned mercury in batteries.  Mercury is a potent toxin (see Eugene Smith's photo essay, Minimata, if you need evidence), and all the mercury batteries that were ending up in landfills were leaching their mercury into the local water supplies.  Battery manufacturers came up with non-mercury-based relacement batteries, but the substituted batteries typically show voltage variations from the original mercury style. For example, the Minolta 16mm MGS built-in CDS meter calls for a PX675 mercury battery with a 1.35 volt rating. The non-mercury alternative (EPX675) is rated at 1.45 and 1.50 volts. While this may not damage the meter, it will definitely produce erroneous meter readings. This subtle difference in voltage may not seem significant, but the slightest variation in voltage can cause a camera's metering system to misread lighting conditions by as much as two stops. There was an article in Shutterbug a few years ago about how to mechanically alter new batteries to reduce the voltage, but few people want to go to all that work.

Another challenge is to find out what battery is the correct type for your older camera. The first place to go is the camera itself.  Sometimes the battery type is etched into the battery compartment or the battery cover.  You can also check the camera manual if you have one. Next, you can try a used camera shop in your area. These usually have an "expert", but sometimes they get it wrong -- they're human too! You can also try the manufacturer, if they are still in business, or check out books in the library. You get the idea. The SUB CLUB's DARKROOM also has a listing of cameras and their batteries.

The good news is that you have several alternatives regarding older batteries to avoid using the newer batteries with the incorrect voltage. The easiest, is to purchase a mercury free, exact-voltage replacement battery from a company called Wein. Their batteries are available in PX625, PX13, PX675 and RM400 sizes. They can be contacted through The Saunders Group, 21 Jet View Drive, Rochester N.Y. 14624. (FAX: 1-800-FYI-FOTO)  If you live in a larger urban area, you may be able to find a camera shop that actually stocks these batteries or at least one that is willing to order them. The environmentally-safe WeinCell has up to a 10-year shelf life and is not activated until the pull-tab is removed (replacing the tab after use prolongs the battery life). And their batteries contain no mercury or cadmium to screw up our already messed up environment. Unlike 1.5 volt alkaline replacements, the zinc/air composition of the WeinCell delivers exactly 1.35 volts with a steady, constant output similar to that of the mercury cells. WeinCell has a suggested list price of $5.95.  IF you use a WeinCell, do not use the shortcut. of unmasking and loaded the battery into your camera immediately.  The oxidizing process that activates the zinc-air can leave little burn-like residue deposits inside the camera. These deposits can also jack the battery away from the contacts, so no readings will occur. The caution is this: If you use zinc-air battery, let them oxidize up (about 12 hours) OUT OF THE CAMERA.

A second alternative will work if you have at least one of the original batteries, even if it's dead. A company called Solarts makes a solar, button-cell battery charger for about $20. You pop in your dead mercury battery, hang the solar charger in a sunny window (using the convenient suction cup that comes with the charger) and you'll have a fully charged battery at the end of the day. And since it's a solar charger, it charges your camera (and hearing aid) batteries for free. You can get from 2 to 10 recharges depending on the battery and the recharging conditions. You can contact Solarts at 2807 N. Prospect, Colorado Springs, CO 80907 (PHONE: 719-635-5125)

Another alternative exists if your camera uses the old PX13 or PX625 battery. PHOTOCAM SPECIALTIES sells a teflon collar that enables you to replace the old 1.35 volt PX625/PX13 with the current zinc-air hearing-aid batteries which are 1.35 - 1.40 volts! The hearing aid battery is smaller, but the same thickness.  You slide the hearing-aid battery into the collar and pop it into the camera as usual.  The collars are only $5 each.  A package of one collar and four VARTA batteries is $10 including shipping! The adapter can be used over and over and will never wear out.  Call 1-800-684-4750 to order! Guaranteed to work or your money back!  Keep in mind that a zinc-air battery takes a few hours to "activate" when the cover is removed.

Minolta technicians recommend that the best approach is to use one of the teflon collars with a 1.5 alkaline (it HAS to be alkaline) A76 cell -- after the cell is "broken in".  This brings the current down to about 1.4 volts.  How do you break in a cell?  This depends on your camera.  One approach is to put the battery in the camera and point it toward the bright sky for a few hours.  If you have a voltage meter, you can test it to make sure it is broken in.

And there is yet another alternative.  A company called CRIS markets a PX625/PX13 microcircuit adapter.  They call it the MR-9 adapter. You pop a 1.5 volt S76-type silver-oxide battery into the special sleeve and the output voltage is reduced to 1.35 volts.  You then pop the combination into your camera.  The S76-type batteries are available everywhere.  The adapter can be used over and over and will never wear out.  You can contact them for details at: Phone: 800-216-7579 (Fax 602-940-1329) 250 N. 54th Street Chandler, AZ 85226.  Now on the web at http://www.criscam.com.  These adapters cost $30 each.  They are more expensive than the other adapter, but if you prefer to have S76-type batteries in your camera this is the way to go.  With S76-type batteries, you don't have to wait for the battery to "activate" -- it can be used immediately.  But the CRIS cells work best with silicon cells.  With CDS cells, you are likely to get readings that are two or three f-stops off -- even more in low light.  This means that a simple ISO adjustment won't fix the problem.  The only good news is that the CRIS cells tend to over-expose with CDS cells, so you'll still get the shot.

For more ideas about using cameras that need old batteries, check out the CREATIVE CORNER or http://www.smu.edu/~rmonagha/bronbattery.html which has everything you will probably ever need to know about battery conversions.


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