Have you ever put a third party lens on your camera? I am guessing for the majority of you the answer is yes. The reason for that is that there are numerous lens manufacturers out there, most of whom have sterling reputations when it comes to value and quality.
Let me now ask a slightly different question. Have you ever put a third party battery in your camera? I am going to hazard a guess that the number of virtually raised hands is significantly less. There are reasons for this. Firstly there is a good chance that significant numbers of photographers may not know that third party camera batteries are available. Secondly, modern batteries have gained a bit of a bad reputation.
Why Don't We Use Third Party Batteries?
We hear countless stories of exploding smartphones and hover boards spontaneously combusting. Even Boeing had problems with batteries. Why would we trust an unknown company to power our beloved camera. The answer is you wouldn’t. However there are some very good companies producing batteries for cameras. Because you may not know their names does not mean they are disreputable. Like anything in life there are pros and cons to purchasing third party so let’s take a look at them.
The Advantages of Using Third Party Camera Batteries
The most obvious advantage is price. If you shoot a lot of frames per day or perhaps hours of video footage, you will need extra batteries. OEM companies charge a premium for batteries because they can. Third party batteries can provide the same power, often for a third of the cost. This means you can get purchase as many batteries as you need for a day’s shoot and make significant savings.
As well as price, there are a number of reputable companies producing batteries. Companies like Hahnel have been producing photographic equipment for years, they would not risk their reputation on poor quality batteries. A little research online will reveal the major players in the third party battery industry. Much like buying memory cards, choose a reputable dealer too.
In some case you can buy higher rated batteries that have the potential to increase the number of frames that you can take. Many of these third party batteries also include microchips to monitor power levels, much the same as their OEM counterparts
The Disadvantages of Using Third Party Camera Batteries
Despite there being a number of reputable companies, there are significantly more fly by night merchants. These will sell batteries with poor manufacturing standards that may swell after sustained use. This can be a major issue if it is in the camera at the time.
Another issue is that camera companies often “fix” battery problems with firmware upgrades. This is sometimes an excuse to lock out third party batteries completely rendering them useless. Batteries that worked fine before the upgrade are not recognised at all after.
One often reported issue is long term battery life. The third party battery may be giving you a similar number of frames as your OEM at the beginning its life may deteriorate much quicker than an original.
Lastly the use of a third party camera battery may invalidate your warranty in certain circumstances.
Reading through there are as many pros as cons to buying a third party camera battery. That’s not the full story though. If you are considering going for a non OEM battery you need to spend time doing your research.
Look at the photographic forums and get an idea of the most reputable manufacturers. Look at the cost savings, is it really worth saving the money on batteries that you put in a multi thousand dollar camera? Does your camera manufacturer have a reputation for locking out third party companies?
From a personal point of view I have been using third party batteries for years. Not only in stills camera but in professional camcorders too. I have never had an issue where a battery has swollen or damaged my camera. Nor has any camera update locked out a battery. I have encountered a quicker decay of battery life in some but not all.
Whether or not to go third party is a personal decision that should be based on research. If your camera is still under guarantee you might avoid going third party at least until that runs out. Yes there are horror stories on the internet, but assuming the stories are true, for every one who has had a problem there will be scores more who didn’t. For some third party batteries will always be a no no. For others they will be a way of getting a full days shooting without paying a kings ransom.