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Battery Mystery Solved?

Discussion in 'Nikon DX DSLR Forum' started by AFS, Dec 28, 2005.

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  1. Hello all.
    I suppose some of you may know about my battery troubles with this camera.
    In case you don't:
    In the last 12 days i've racked up 1000 shots with the new body. With my D70 I used to match or even beat the advertised battery life. When I got an EN-El3A battery, I did even better. I could go 2500 shots with extensive reviewing of images etc. and even a fair amount of VR use before recharging if I wanted to.
    When I got the D200, I adopted a few power-friendly attitudes: I halved my meter off and LCD off times, plus I implemented several time-saving shortcuts that has at least HALVED my LCD usage. Then I turned my monitor brightness to -2 since that agrees with my eyes better. I haven't used the built in flash except for a few test shots, and to intentionally run the battery down. I haven't used my 70-200 VR for more than 50/1000 shots, and only half of those with VR. Plus i've used MF lenses extensively so AF hasn't even had to drive lenses a good 20% of the time.
    So imagine my dismay when even after leaving the battery in the camera to charge the clock battery, running it through two full charge cycles and topping off whenever it got below 65%, I have averaged a whopping....215 shots per charge?!?!?! The manual claims 340 in absolute worst case, including built in flash used at full power every other shot. My style is more in-line with the kind that would give the 1800 shot performance, since with my D70 my style lined up with the upper limit peformance estimate.
    Even if my camera were drawing as estimated by some 2.5X the power of the d70, since I average 2500 shots per charge or so with the EN-EL3A, the same specs as the E version in the D200 except the chip, I should be getting at least 1000 shots per charge. And that's without my energy-saving measures that have halved the time that some of the big energy drains are operating.
    I have not seen one glimmer of improvement whatsoever.

    And it's a Nikon fault. Now those of you who know my personality know how painful it is for me to admit that my beloved company could even make a single mistake. I firmly believe that BGLOD in the D70 was the result of a Canon mole in the assembly plant, and that d2H meter failure was the work of the Vast Canon Wing Conspiracy.

    I noticed something the other day that when I put my battery, which was at around 26%, on the charger in my room. I went into my office to go on the forums, IM my friends, etc. When I walked out to go get a glass of cranberry juice and something to eat, my battery was done charging. I took it off the charger. Nothing unusual.
    Except I hadn't even been in there for 45 minutes. A full charge is supposed to take something like 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours. A charge from 26% should have taken nearly 2 hours.
    I wrote it off to a mental mistake.

    Well, tonight after a lot of correspondence via email and forums, I decided to test my EN-EL3E.
    After letting my battery drain without topping off for the past day or two, and down to under 18% battery this evening, I did my intentional power drain scheme. First, I ran a slide show at +2 brightness of 75 images with 10 second delay, while leaving my meter on with infinite timeout, and the top backlight on. Then, with my battery now down to under 10%, I popped up the flash, put it on full power manual, and did several long exposures at high ISO with red eye reduction lamp. Then I let the exposure time drop to 1/4 sec etc. Pretty soon, my camera would no longer let me use flash. I put it down. I continued to shoot until it dropped to 1%. I then just turned on my LCD at +2 brightness and watched the battery info screen. 217 shots. 1% battery. Then the screen went blank, the shutter release was locked, and the camera was dead.

    I then took the battery out, said to it "dead are you? we'll see what Mr. D70 has to say about that."

    I put it in the D70.
    The D70 Battery Meter read FULL BARS for the 'DEAD' EN-EL3E!
    Weird, huh? :confused:  I mean, the D70 does have finnicky battery estimation, but it usually goes down at least the first little bit when the battery is down to about 20-25% the capacity or so, and drops further when we're down to 15 or 10%. It'll let you know when you have to worry.
    So, I went downstairs with my mostly full En-El3A, and the 'dead' En-El3E and my father and I used his electric meter thing to test them.
    Both batteries read around 7.4 volts, and as far as current both gave basically identical results. Hardly what you'd call dead. The batteries on some scales pegged the meter instantly. On the larger scales, they performed identically.
    Well, I'm shooting a bit with my D70, which is now past the 20,000 exposure mark. I don't know if my shutter will blow at any second, or if it'll keep ticking to 50,000. But one thing is for sure- The same EN-EL3E from my D200, which read as dead in that camera just minutes ago, is still ticking and reading full bars.
    I am willing to bet that I could shoot for several HUNDRED NEF files in the D70 or use VR extensively or maybe even both before it runs all the way down according to the D70.

    So my belief is this:
    Something in the Battery and/or Camera CHIP CIRCUITRY of the EN-EL3E/D200 is Cutting it Off at around 80% of the true capacity!

    I will be calling my dealer tomorrow. Hopefully they'll be able to do something, or at least have a spare battery for me to check that it isn't a body problem (please don't let it be, it's just about perfect down to the serial number! :Little:) .
    Worst case I'll be calling Nikon up and talking to a tech support supervisor or the like.

    I hope this turns out well soon :frown:
  2. I've seen something like your theory on other forums too. And also the theory that the "smart" battery does not "learn" how to judge its own life until it has been fully discharged a few times. What's a bit irritating is that Nikon has been testing D200s (I hope) for months, and they must know all about any such behavior. So why can't they just tell us?
  3. Ummm. NO

    measuring a batteries voltage no load doesn't tell you anything just what they will recover to. And LiIon's tend to bounce back to rated voltage.

    Put a load on that battery and you will see a totally different voltage. Since the batteries are LiIon there will be a protection circuit either in the battery or in the camera shutting it down when the battery reaches 6 volts under load. Got that? UNDER LOAD.

    Sometimes when you pull a battery off of a load and let it sit for 30 mins or an hour you will get a few more shots out of it. Why? Cell imbalance. One of the two cells will discharge faster than the other, during that rest period the cell with greater capacity will self charge the other cell and equalize the cells.

    LiIon's charge to 80% of their capacity in the rated charge time (2.5 Hours) UNLESS they are put on the charger hot where they trigger the TcO (Temp CutOff one of the ways that you sense battery charge) and false full charge. To get the full charge charge your need to charge the battery for 5 hours. 2.5 hours for the first 80% and then 2.5 hours for the final 20%

    Is there something wrong with the battery sense in the camera? I seriously doubt it, it's working fine on my D200's (Yes I have more than one)
  4. Steadicam man:
    I'm finding you seem to have some sort of attitude regarding any of my posts or theories.
    While I appreciate your input, you could be a bit friendlier about it.

    Your comments also do not address why my D70 is working fine with the battery which is supposedly dead.

    And FYI, about the temp cutoff thing, that is a good point, though I should point out that when the battery went on the charger for the <45 mins case, I hadn't had the camera in use for several hours.

    I seriously doubt it is a camera sense problem. But I think my battery itself may have a defective chip.

  5. Actually if you read what I have posted it does address your D70 situation.
  6. husawis

    husawis Guest

    confirmed your observation

    harrison - just a quick note that i have confirmed your observation by using a "dead" en-el4e battery in a d70 - underload (at least the load applied by the d70) and it works flawlessly - try as i might even with multiple charges and discharges and even the freezer trick i can not get above 200 shots - the saving grace is that my digital camera battery will power the d200 using the d2h cable - thanks for your observation - i too will be going to my dealer with this
  7. Well, perhaps the thing you mentioned about cell imbalance...but I put it in the D70 around 30 seconds after it 'died'. Basically as long as it took for me to be sure it was 'dead', then switch the A out of the d70 for the E.
    Would cell imbalance make the battery seem dead yet really be <20% charged? Seems like that would be pushing it.

    Wanashee, thanks for confirming it isn't just me.
    I think I will have to test several batteries in the end...

  8. You didn't read my post, Stiff and Droop, 33% load of the D200....

    That's why the batteries are working on the D70's
  9. well, we'll see just how many shots this battery lasts for.
  10. I hope you figure it out soon, Harrison! I hate it when small things taint what would otherwise be a great experience.
  11. husawis

    husawis Guest

    same reported elsewhere

    fyi - just read a similar observation on nikonians - in that post it says that nikon replaced the battery and it now works fine - at least in one instance - they seem to think it is the third contact that may be a problem - i am sure this will all get sorted out
  12. Hmm, anybody try taping over their third contact?

  13. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    The camera won't run at all.
  14. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    Returning to the observations made by Harrison (AFS);

    Shot today the last series of cold torture, 738 exposures (jpg + NEF, with image preview=ON) at -5 C. Immediately put the allegedly "dead" battery into my D70, battery indicator shows 1 bar, and the D70 rattles along just fine. Done about 50 new shots and the battery still is "alive".

    This tells me that Nikon has taken a very conservative approach to the estimate of remaining capacity by the embedded chip of EN-EL3e. The calibration and cut-off point are set so no harm can be done to the battery, there is no risk of draining it to any dangerous low voltage level. You "pay" for this increased safety margin by seemingly getting less capacity, but should get better longevity of the battery as a side effect.

    Nikon could make an update to the microchip so more juice could be squeezed out of the EN-EL3e, but again I think they prefer to play the game on the safe side.

    Just purchase a couple additional EN-EL3e, or drain the battery in a D70.

    Added: after 10 minutes at +20 C, the "dead" EN-EL3e now shows almost Full charge on the display of D70 (4 out of 5 segments), and the D70 couldn't be happier.
  15. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    This thread closed at request of original author.
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