06/15/13 Phase One Back failures using Silver vs Black batteries
As many Phase One users may know the main battery used in most modern Phase One Digital backs, is based on a Canon Video camera battery. In fact in the older Phase One cameras which had the battery external to the back, like the P45+, P65+ etc. you could use Canon’s AC adapter/battery setup on Phase One cameras which gave you a much longer life in the field. This all ended however when Phase One decided to place the batteries inside the case as in the newer IQ series of backs.
One issue I have had with all Phase One batteries, is that they don’t’ tend to last very long in the field. The older batteries were 2600 millamp hours and in most cases with a IQ160 I would get about 2 hours or less in the field. When Phase One announced the IQ backs, they also increased the millamp rating on their batteries to 2900. In a nutshell millamps tells you how long a battery will last at charge i.e. 2600 will last a shorter period of time than 2900. However as I also moved to a tech camera setup with my IQ 160, I found that my battery use increased considerably. Since the IQ backs don’t really have a very good live view I tend to do a considerable amount of checking after a series of shots. In the past 6 months, I have found that some of this review is no longer necessary as I have gotten much more confident with my tech camera and focus. The ultimate solution is still a better live view but as long as Phase uses CCD technology, I have been told this will not happen.
So what do you do when you know you will be in the field all day or maybe two or three days? You carry a bunch of batteries. About the time I was introduced to the Phase One IQ series of digital backs, I also discovered that there was a much cheaper battery alternative. Capture Integration, based out of Atlanta sells a silver battery which looks and feels just like the black Phase One branded cells. They are all 2600 millamp but at 1/2 the price. My thoughts were to just purchase more of the silver cells and then carry them on trips. They don’t weight that much and charged up with the same Phase One charger. In fact I designed a battery sleeve that I could carry over my shoulder, based on a hunters belt. The Phase One batteries will fit into the same size as a 12 gauge shotgun shell!
At first, I really noticed no differences and pretty much stopped using my older Phase One LI batteries. Lithium cells in theory should not have a “battery life” issue but I noticed that my batteries that dated back to 2008 and 2009 where definitely getting shorter run times. There is no way to “re-condition” a lithium cell like you can with Ni-Mh cells. However in early 2013 I started to notice some strange issues with the Silver batteries, on my IQ160.
- The first silver battery I installed, did not power the back up. I double checked that it had locked and it did. This battery had come straight from the Phase charger, and showed 100%, one of the silver batteries. I went back and pulled the 2nd silver battery from the charger, which also showed 100%
- The 2nd fully charged silver battery did power up the back. All seemed fine so I continued to shoot. However after each shot, I noticed that the battery indicator would drop from full, to 1/2, to the lowest indicator while the back was writing the file. As soon as the file was finished writing the battery indicator would return to 100%.
- When I attempted to zoom to 100%, the zoom went to over 200% and locked. I could not go back down to normal view with a double tap. I had to power off and power back on. This series of errors happen several times, then I noticed on the right side, where the histogram should be there was nothing even though I could double tap the histogram to view it at 100% and then it showed up. Also both focus mask and the highlight warning would not engage when tapped.
Out of curiosity I went back to the silver cells and worked with them in the IQ160. I had two of them that had been in my pack which had been sitting in the sun. The batteries were at 100% full charge, and when I placed one of them in the IQ160, I noticed that it was not fully engaging the brackets that hold the battery in place. When a new battery is placed in the IQ160 back (or older P series backs) the back always powers up. What happened when I placed the silver battery inside was that the back powered up, briefly then the screen went blank and the back powered off. I double checked that the battery was still locked into place and it was. However even locked in place you could still move the battery around and as I did this the back powered back on again. It seems that over time the outer casing material of the silver batteries, may expand, and contract and as it contracts it slightly deforms the shape of the battery enough that the slot where the battery fits on the IQ160 does not hold the battery firmly. I have also had several silver batteries that did not want to come out of the back after they were used. I first noticed this about 6 months ago, on silver batteries I had been using for about 8 months. This behavior implies that as the silver battery is used it gets hot (normal for a LI battery during discharge) but the silver case is also expanding and contracting causing deformations. Over time these deformations can cause the silver batteries to either:
- Stick inside the IQ back, and become very hard to remove
- Not fit snug enough in the case and allow movement which will either not give the correct voltage to the back and cause errors.
With the older P series backs where the battery is external to the back, this issue is moot since the battery is held in place by a hard metal sleeve and it can’t slide around.
I have not noticed any cracks in the silver batteries, but as a safety measure, I have stopped using them. I would not have any issues using them on a older P series back however like P45+. It’s also my understand that Capture Integration (Phase Dealer in Atlanta) no longer recommends using these silver batteries on a IQ back. However I never received a warning or notice from them about the possible issues of continued usage.
These are the results of one person’s usage of a IQ160 and the silver batteries that are sold to replace the standard black Phase One cells. If you have using these silver batteries and are experiencing any of these issues, before you send your IQ off to Phase One, try working only with the black Phase One batteries and see if your problems persist.