Battery charging is one of the key issues in landscape photography. During photo workshops and after lectures, many people ask me about the most efficient charging solutions. Even though the SLRs I use, unlike mirrorless cameras, do not drain the batteries very quickly, longer, several-week photo expeditions often require taking a large power plant with you.
Here’s what I’ve come up with over the last several years.
The case is pretty simple when it comes to photo batteries. On the daily basis, I use Hahnel’s two-battery charging solutions – much more handy than Nikon chargers, which can charge only one battery at a time. Imagine having to charge 15 batteries for a trip using a single charger. It would take around 24 hours. Not the best idea, right? ;)
When I don’t have to worry about lack of space in my backpack, I always take my Hahnel’a ProCube 2 with me. Apart from a beautiful design – which is a nice alternative for the Chinese chargers which usually differ only in branding – the charger itself is very well-made in terms of quality. It weighs quite a lot, about 350g, but the case is the same as with lenses – higher weight results from the use of high quality materials, ensures greater durability and better operation of the equipment. The Nikon version is silver-gray and has a readable display so we can check the battery charge and keep track of the charging progress. In addition, it offers a charging reading which shows in mAh how much power has been added.
In practice, the charger performs very well. It charges rapidly and just a short 15-minute recharge allows you to take about 120-140 photos. The manufacturer says 150, but that’s a great result anyway. Following the market trends of smart home appliances, Hahnel has equipped the charger with ‘smart’ quick IC charge control. Whatever it means – the charger does the job :) Nikon EN-EL15 batteries get filled up with electricity in about 1:40h.
The great advantage of the charger is its modularity and additional functionalities. The battery charging plate can be easily removed and replaced, so the same charger would charge batteries for Nikon, Canon or Sony. I don’t know why someone would recharge batteries for Canon/Sony while already owning Nikon gear, but just to inform you – such an option is available ;) The charging set includes a charging plate for AA batteries, so we get a complete power supply tool.
ProCube2 also has a built-in USB 2.4A socket extending the charging capabilities. A car charging cable is also included. I often used it in August when I was in the Dolomites – short battery recharges while changing locations and during stops saved me when I left some of the batteries in the Pian di Cengia refuge.
The only downside is the price, which at first glance seems quite high, but let’s be frank – at around 75 EUR it is not much more than the cost of 1 Nikon battery. While photographing with equipment worth 15k EUR, it is difficult to consider the purchase of a good charger at such a price as unjustified.
In a situation where I need the most mobile solution available, I use the HLX-EL 15HP. If I have access to a socket, it can be connected to a regular phone charger, so I don’t have to carry additional adapters. Perfect for the outdoors, it takes virtually no space and weighs nothing. The charging speed is lower than the ProCube 2, but when I have to bivouac for a few days in the mountains, I can combine it with the RAVPower Solar 25000 mAh powerbank and I have a guarantee that there will be no power cuts.
As for batteries – I use the Nikon and Hahnel ones, both equally good with Hahnel offering way better price/capacity ratio and Nikon offering 250 mAh more capacity. Writing about batteries, I must say that this is one of the main reasons why I don’t shoot mirrorless. Leaving for the Karakoram in 2019, I took 12 batteries with me. If I had shot mirrorless – it would’ve been 30. With 1 battery weighing 82g, it would have added about 1.5kg of additional weight. Now, please remind me how much lighter is your Sony A7 in comparison with Nikon D850? Exactly 4 batteries lighter. Not much, right? :)
I have been using the aforementioned powerbank for two years. I’m still waiting for it to recharge on the windowsill (joke). The solar panel is sort of a gadget which looks nice, but does not increase the weight of the powerbank. If, thanks to this, I’ll be able to take the one and only photo of the northern lights over Sahara desert – I prefer to have this possibility. When buying an expedition powerbank, you can also use the offers of other companies. There are several of them, but it is worth investing in a recognised brand (Ravpower, Anker, Xiaomi, etc.). You get better performance, durability, lower failure rate and a guarantee that the powerbank is in fact as capacious as the manufacturer claims. While selecting the power source for photo expeditions, make sure it has at least 20,000 mAh capacity and 2 charging outputs. In the field, waiting in line for the charging are usually – apart from the photo battery – a headlamp, a phone, a smartwatch and a timelapse slider, so the possibility of connecting two chargers at once is always welcome. For short 1-2 day hikes, 4-10,000 mAh would be enough.
Wall power supply / charger
When charging stationary, I also use a multi-output power supply. In this case, it is a 60-watt BaseUS – with 2x USB QC 4.0 and 1x Power Delivery inputs, so you can even connect a laptop to it. That’s an armoured equipment able to charge lightning fast.
In practice, charging the equipment may look like this (a charging station during the workshops under K2):