Help - Camcorder Batteries - what type?

Help me, O Dopers with electronic/engineering knowledge:

I have a Panasonic analog camcorder that came with PV BP-18 rechargeable batteries. The camcorder is now about 5-6 years old and the batteries stay charged for about 30 - 45 minutes tops even when I let them run down all the way before recharging. I am pretty sure I need new ones.

Going onto eBay, I see plenty to choose from. Based on my research of the listings, there appear to be at least two issues to consider:

  • Do I want NiCD (Nickel Cadmium) or NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) replacement batteries? Can you explain why to someone with limited knowledge of this stuff?

  • How important are mAH? Okay, let’s start with what are mAH - I assume milli-amp hours? There are listings for batteries with mAH ratings of 1500 or so, all the way up to over 4000 - is it worth spending a little extra coin to get the higher rating?

  • Anything else I should look for in terms of performance? It goes without saying that I will only buy batteries that remain factory sealed, etc. etc. - in terms of standard eBay diligence.

Thank you!!

NiCd and NiMH use different chemicals in the cells. Not all chargers support both types so if you’re not sure, I recommend buying the same type of battery you have now. If your charger and camera support both, NiMh generally has higher capacity but also higher price.

mAh is milliamp-hours, yes. It measures the amount of charge stored in a battery, so it’s roughly proportional to how long it lasts. If a 1500 mAh battery is connected to a device that draws 150mA of current, for example, it should last roughly 10 hours (10h x 150mA = 1500 mAh).

The NiMH chemistry has a few advantages over the older NiCd, such as longer life, and higher capacity. They aren’t as subject to degradation caused by overcharging, either.

As you correctly guessed, mAH stands for milliamp-hours, and is a measure of the capacity of the battery. The higher the number, the longer the battery can power a given device. Depending on the prices, you may find it’s more economical to buy two smaller capacity batteries, which add up to the same capacity as a more expensive larger one. for instance, if you can get two 1000 mAH batteries for $10 each, then it makes no sense to buy a 2000 mAH battery for $25. Besides, having two batteries offers some advantages, since you can have one charging while you’re using the other.

Buy only major brand batteries. Offbrand batteries offer attractive prices, but you’ll pay for it in terms of overall performance and longevity. Also be sure to email the seller and as what his policy is regarding DOA units. Most good sellers will happily replace a unit that was received in a nonfunctional condition. Hope this helps.

This is great help - thank you.

Q.E.D. - do you (or anyone else who knows this stuff) agree with scr4’s statement about how NiMH batteries may not be compatible with NiCD chargers? The originals were NiCD, but it sounds like I would prefer NiMH.

I mean - if the nodes line up between the battery and charger, what’s difference? (says the incredibly naive questioner…)

This is one of those “it depends” deals. Some NiCd charges can properly charge a MiMH battery, but some cannot. Unless it specifically says “NiCd or MiMH” on it, there’s no way to tell for sure. NiMH cells have a slightly lower internal resistance, and so can put an unexpectedly high load on a charger which only expects to charge NiCD batteries. You may be able to find a suitable charger on eBay as well, which in the long run might be the best solution, if you want to use NiMH batteries.

I would encourage you to contact the following company. They have re-built my battery packs over the years. I’m a professional cameraman. I’ve been to their shop/showroom. They custom pack cels for NiCad, NiMH and LiIon.

They’re good, professional and accurate. They will also take a look at the charger and tell you if it will charge NiMH cells. If the batteries are not available on eBay, call them up. Additionally- and this is important to bear in mind always with this kind of technology- the fact that you find “brand new untouched” packs on eBay for a camcorder system that is 5-6 years old is misleading.

Battery packs left to sit that long- or in use that long- will not hold a charge anything like what you would expect. Cels degrade in of themselves, and if these are used packs, you are buying what you already have. If this camcorder is a technology you are going to stick with opposed to purchasing a new one, then contact the folks I mention here. They can build truly brand new battery packs for you. It will cost you more- but the cel packs will hold a charge.

Plainview Battery
23 Newtown Rd.
Plainview, NY 11803 USA
Tel: 800-642-2354
Fax: 516-249-2876


Let us know how it goes !!


Cartooniverse - wow, you know your stuff. I tried to Google Plainview Batteries but they only go through distributors; I will have to check them out. Beyond that, I am hoping this is straightforward - I am pretty sure that the replacement batteries I am considering are new - some state this, so I will make sure that is what I focus on. Your points on old stock make sense.

I don’t know if I want to go to the trouble of repacking the batteries - it is a cheapie little camcorder we use for little league games - but just want something that holds a charge for longer than 30 - 45 minutes…

Today seems to be my day for double posting with added thoughts. -sigh- There is a cheap logical alternative.

The camcorder very likely has a small round hole for an ac/dc power converter to be plugged into it. Go to Radio Shack, find that plug. You can buy just a kit of that plug set. DO NOT buy an ac/dc adaptor ! You will wind up buying a charger later on down the road a bit.

Now you have a way to put dv voltage into the camcorder. For yucks and giggles, let us say that this camcorder uses a 7.2 volt d.c. battery, shall we? You can look in the book and find that the camera will run without damage if you input say… 9 volts ( this is hypothetical, but you’ll see where it’s going ).

Go out and find a hobby shop. Buy a few very cheap gel cell lead acid batteries. They are sealed, not liquid filled. A small battery- not as small as the onboard, but small enough to fit into a pouch and sit on the ground or hang on a shoulder- will cost you maybe 20-30 bucks. Find the voltage that is very close but over the needed draw for the camera. Once you find that, you get the largest one you can handle dragging around. A 10 amp hour battery at 9 volts is bigger than a 1.5 amp hour battery at 9 volts, n’est pas? Radio Shack or a hobby shop will sell a charger, you will jig up the way to charge this pack - and a spare or two. Cheap solution, they will last quite a few charges before they die out.

Battery Basics - a good primer.

Here are some Gel Cel Lead Acid Battery Packs Made To Replace Camcorder Batteries.

Just a thought. :slight_smile:

Cool - I will check it out.

I wouldn’t advise this for a few reasons. For one, lead acid battteries are almost never available in anything other than 6 V and 12 V (and never in odd voltages, because the cell voltage of lead-acid batteries is nominally 2.0 V), unless they’re purpose-built (and therefore more expensive). For another, unless you can positively (pun intended!) identify the proper poplarity, you’ve got a 50-50 shot of destroying the camcorder. Finally, some electronics are not very tolerant of overvoltages (most do have some sort of protection, but counting on such is unwise, IMO), so that even if you did find a cheap 10 V battery, and you camcorder needs 9 V, you could still end up causing damage.

We’ll have to respectfully agree to disagree, SDSAB notwithstanding.

For years I have fired up broadcast video cameras with battery packs that were heavily overvoltage. A 12 volt camera is fired up by a battery that is a 14.4vdc pack (5aH rating ) , and is topped out at anywhere from 15 to 16.2 volts d.c. when fully charged.

Before scaring off a good idea without having the details in hand, why not do as I encouraged the OP’er to do? Find out what the upper limit of voltage input can be, then find a gel cel that can accomodate that voltage. Agreed, doing a blind overvoltage to that camcorder could damage it forever, but that’s what Customer Service is for. Look in the book. It will SAY in the specs ( for example ) " Input: 8.5vdc~10vdc" on a 9 volt camera system. Not at all suggesting you go in blind, but I am suggesting with 22 years of experience with this technology that this is not a hairbrained or irresponsible solution. If you wish to email me directly for some more help with this, I will be glad to help you out with the solution. :slight_smile:

As for frying the camera by wiring it in reverse, the gel cels- of ALL SIZES- come clearly marked with a + at one wire input into the cel, and a - at the other wire. Unless you don’t know that + means Positive Voltage, you can’t screw that part up.

If this person is game enough to go looking for battery sources, they are game enough to make sure they can make this work without damaging their gear.

You miss the point here. Yes, the cells are clearly marked. The power jacks on equipment, however, are sometimes not.

I don’t miss the point at all, sir. FIND me a camcorder where there is not a small marking immediately next to the power jack hole that delineates the center pin being+, or alternately the outside shell being +.

If in doubt, Radio Shack sells a digital voltmeter for about ten dollars. Sony cameras use a proprietary thin plug. Many camcorders use the more standard cyllindrical plug/pin set-up. They are marked, and more importantly, the AC/DC adaptor that comes with camcorders has clear markings on the sticker on the back, showing which way the connector at the end is oriented. Take a look at the small sticker on any AC/DC power converter. The plug orientation is clearly marked with a diagram.

I’m guessing our OP’er can read that diagram, and therefore understand very well which way to wire up the leads from the battery to the plug end purchased at Radio Shack.