5 November 2000
This issue contains short reviews of the Kodak K1000/Digipower DPS2000 and Maha 204 Ni-Mh AA battery chargers. These 1-3 hour rapid chargers are examples of well-built and well-designed Ni-Mh microprocessor controlled battery chargers, and of particular interest to digicam users looking for rechargable alternatives to AA Alkaline batteries.
------------------- Kodak K1000/Digipower DPS2000 Ni-Mh AA Battery, All-In-One Charger
Made in Japan
A few ounces at most.
Black (Kodak)/White (Digipower) plastic case, flip open clear cover, flip out AC plug on back.
Kodak Model K1000/Digipower DPS2000
Output: DC 1.2V, 650mAx4
Charge Time: 80 minutes for 2 AA, 160 minutes for 4 AA using included Ni-Mh AAs. -------
Commentary on a variety of points included so you can understand whether a feature is requried in your next charger/battery purchase or not.
Unlike the Maha MH-C204F Ni-Mh charger reviewed yesterday, the Kodak Ni-Mh charger takes a different tack and comes in an all-in-one, slimcase design with built-in flip-out AC plug and rounded case corners.
This eliminates a significant amount of bulk over the Maha charger+external AC/DC adapter, and easily fits into a jacket or pant pocket without protrusions. It also eliminates the possibility of forgetting the charger or adapter when in a rush out the door - instead, you either know you've got the entire charger, or will have left it at home.
It does not have the optional car adapter like the Maha, but this point may be insignificant for the majority of digital camera users -- ie. when will be the next time you'll run the batteries dry and say "Oh, honey. Could you sit in the car for an hour or two while the batteries charge?" at a birthday, Disneyland, or other casual outing?
However, I'll leave that point up to you to decide as it may be that you'll be driving all day long like a real estate agent and will have time to charge the batteries in your car.
Naturally, and in-car DCto120V AC adapter will allow the Kodak charger to work in a car.
Another difference is that the Kodak charger can charge any number of batteries at a time, from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 AA batteries at once. The Maha is limited to charging only either 2 or 4 AA batteries at once.
This difference may be of significance to those with digital cameras that use 1 or 3 batteries at once (I don't think they've yet released a digicam using just 1 AA yet, but I'm sure it will be coming just as smaller, lighter digicams keep arriving.), or if you use the charger for more than just your digicam. (eg. charge batteries for use in your flashlight, TV/VCR remote, wall/bedroom clock/alarm, etc.)
Otherwise, the ability to charge only one or two pairs at a time is important to most digicam users of smaller digicams (eg. Fuji Finepix 40i only uses two AAs at once), whereas 1/3 batteries at a time will be pointless to most digicam users.
There are no buttons to push on the Kodak, only two indicator lights for bank A and Bank B. They turn off when charging is complete, and charging takes the usual 60-180 minutes depending on Ni-Mh battery capacity, temperature, remaining charge, etc.
During charge, the batteries stay cool to just warm, but the AC to DC component at the top of the case behind the AC plug does warm up considerably as it converts from AC to DC. Warm, Warm, but not ouch, Warm, or dangerous.
Using a rated 650mA rather than the 500mA in the Maha, if specs = true values, then one may expect the Kodak charger to charge slightly faster than the Maha. However, I've not yet done any controlled tests to confirm or deny this, and given that they'll all be 1-3 hour chargers, expect to go away while batteries are charging.
Again, another microprocessor controlled charger and a decently cheap one at that. With 4 1450mAh Ni-Mh batteries, this charger can be had for ~$30, cheaper than the OEM charger packages from Fuji or Olympus for their digicams.
It is not the cheapest or best package you can get (you can find 1600mAh batteries for ~$2-3 each, a cheaper charger for less), it is one of the slimmest and IMO most convenient to carry Ni-Mh charger that I've found. (other chargers either require a seperate external AC/DC adapter, or come in tall rectangular bar shapes that don't fit as well as the slimcase wallet design of the kodak in a jacket pocket).
Disadvantage is that there are no buttons to start a deep discharge cycle. However, whether this is of any use is questionable in Ni-Mh AAs. (it is worth while in Ni-Cd batteries because they possess a memory affect that Ni-Mh batteries do not in general - eg. if you recharge a 50% full Ni-Cd, it might only run about halfway before it poops out rather than the full 100% of energy in it.)
1. All rechargeable batteries have a limited useable lifespan. Hey, they're all based on chemical reactions, and the chemicals inside any battery (even your car battery) get too old over time to keep a charge. No amount of deep discharging then will fix that.
2. The usual shelflife of Ni-Mh/Li-Ion batteries is about 3 years. Just like expiring soda, if you use old rechargables, they won't perform as well as new ones no matter what sort of deep discharging is done.
3. Expect lifespan is about 500 charges +/- depending on use conditions. Even if you use them heavily and get maybe 100-200 charges out of them before they start to expire (again, due to chemical breakdown that no amount of deep discharging will fix), and if you charge them every day or two in heavy digicam use, that's about a year or two of use before they go -- just short of the 3 year shelf-lifespan of these rechargables anyways, so no matter what, they would have started to expire anyways.
4. A set of 4AA Ni-Mh batteries starts at $10. It's not that expensive to replace a set yearly, even if you heavily use and abuse the batteries == esp. when compared to Alkalines (even if you buy bricks of 40AA Sanyo Alkalines at $15 each).
5. Rapid charging of any rechargable battery will never result in as long of a lifespan as slower overnight charging. Chemistry forces this point as does heat induced during rapid charging of batteries. However, the long-term affect is minimal and can be disregarded unless you absolutely want to get another couple dozen charges out of them, if even that much. Microprocessor/thermal controlled chargers of today are much smarter and can safely and quickly charge batteries with minimal reduction in battery lifespans.
IMO, a mostly insignificant point for many Ni-Mh users because the batteries are cheap and the memory effect is moot for these batteries. Lifespan of rechargable batteries are short, and you really won't miss deep discharging one way or the other.
If you need longer field run-time, best fix is simply to get additional sets of rechargable Ni-Mh batteries.
However, you may wonder, why buy it at all if the batteries only are rated at 1450mAh vs. 1600mAh?
First, if you do the math, that's about a 10% difference in capacity (assuming rated is close enough to actual capacity).
Most digicams will go through even a 4 set of Ni-Mh in 1-2 hours, and 10% of that is only 10-20 minutes extra. If you really want much longer field run-time, it makes far more sense to buy a second set of AAs to carry into the field when the first set runs out.
Second, you can always use the included 1450mAh AAs in your TV/VCR remote controls, flashlights, CD player, Walkman, clocks, etc., saving yourself money in the long run, and simply buy a second or third set of 1600mAh AAs for use in your digicam.
Less dead Alkaline batteries in the trash = less environmental mess later on, and you'll like how even the 1450mAh batteries last longer in most electronics than Alkalines.
The Kodak charger is made in Japan, and the batteries as well. Marked on the bottom of these Ni-Mh batteries letters "HR" as are marked on FujiFilm Ni-Mh batteries that come with the Fuji Finepix 40i, suggesting either Kodak is now a Fuji subsidiary ;), or simply these are batteries that both Fuji and Kodak feel can be used safely with the digicams they make and sell.
I don't know if FujiFilm makes their own batteries or simply relabels a Sanyo or whatnot OEM, but it does bode well that two of the larger photo camera makers trust these enough to provide a full two year warranty for the Kodak model.
This doesn't mean other Ni-Mh batteries are bad!!! In fact, just about any Ni-Mh battery will work just as well in most digicams just like most AA Alkalines will work just the same. The difference will be that older 1000-1200mAh Ni-Mhs won't be as efficient or last as long in the high-drain digicams, whereas the latest 1600mAh batteries will have been designed with these devices in mind.
In the end, you'll only see longer or short battery runtimes, and nothing much different.
Yes. Most digicams can use most Ni-Mh batteries of any brand w/o trouble.
Yes. Ni-Mh batteries can be charged in just about every Ni-Mh charger w/o trouble unless otherwise noted.
No. You don't have to spend the extra $$$$ just to get the same-brand-as-your-digicam charger package just to get rechargable AAs. (But again, read your manual in case of any warnings or cautions against using such specifically.)
Yes, it does charge Ni-CD batteries. No it doesn't charge AAA batteries. Just in case anybody here felt it relevant to flame me for not mentioning this when no digicam on the planet uses AAA batteries, nor would any 'smart' digicam owner use the yucky Ni-CD batteries in their digicams vs. the better Ni-Mh batteries. After all, this is a short review and we're talking about digicams here.
The Kodak charger does not recommend you leaving the batteries in it for longer than two days while plugged in.
While there are chargers that do state that you can leave them and batteries plugged in all the time, trickle charging daily, you do have to balance this with the slightest possibility of Ni-Mh batteries either being damaged or catching fire in case anything in the microprocessor goes wrong.
Very, very, very, slight possibility, but like anything with batteries in them, something to consider in case you're neurotic about safety or possible fire hazards.
Also, it is unknown exactly what lightning strikes and sudden high voltage/amp currents into a battery charger with batteries in them can do - again, something for those neurotics in lighting zones to contemplate.
It is also strongly recommended that you DO NOT leave any battery chargers plugged in longer than necessary if you have pets or children in your home!!
It is very easy for them to swallow the batteries, pull on and short out the charger terminals, and so forth.
Battery chargers can shock and hurt if not careful, and they're not toys. Ni-Mh batteries are not good for the tummy aches either ;)
Sources for this charger? Simply search any lowest online price search engine, like www.shopper.com, on 'Kodak Ni-Mh' or 'Kodak Charger'. Kodak.com also carries this item.
-------------------Maha 204F Ni-Mh AA Battery Charger
Dimensions 3x3.5x1.5 (W/D/H)
Made in Taiwan.
Comes with small 12v DC wall AC adapter which plugs into the top of the charger.
Kit comes with optional 12V DC car adapter as well.
The small white plastic color of the Maha lends itself to the rounded design of the charger, adding a bit of cuteness to it. Held, it has a light weight and good feel to it - a few ounces at most. The unit would slip inside a small case or pocket easily; however, the larger external AC adapter would be naturally more cumbersome to carry about.
4 round rubber feet on the bottom prevent it from sliding across a table.
Adding batteries is easy. Flip open the clear cover, push in two batteries into one pair of the two open slots, and the charger automatically turns on and begins charging. Pushing one of the two buttons on the front corresponding to the two pairs will start the deep discharging cycle.
Beyond that, like the manual says, about 60-160+ minutes of charge time depending on whether you've selected a deep discharge first, amount of charge left in the battery, brand, mAh capacity of the battery, etc.
The batteries stay cool, if not barely warm, during the entire charge cycle on my tests using two Fuji 1600mAh Ni-Mh AAs -- this should be normal. Very warm or hot means a dumb charger or overcharging is being done, and it's a bad thing for the batteries (and humans when they catch on fire).
You can charge one or two pairs of AAs at a time, but no other combinations such as single battery charging is allowed. At least this allows users of the latest digital cameras that only use pairs of AA batteries to charge just a single pair for use at a time (esp. if you've only bought a single pair to use). Some chargers require you to put in 4 AAs at once to activate the charger, which is a bad thing if you've only got/need a pair of AAs charged.
Either pair can be charged seperately, and either can hold a pair of Ni-Mh or Ni-Cd batteries to charge seperate of the other pair.
Looking under the case, it's just your usual microprocessor controlled charger on a tiny circuitboard. Like most modern microprocessor controlled chargers, the Maha should charge most Ni-Mh batteries safely and with a very good degree of acuracy w/o blowing out the cells.
Like most cheap chargers, there is no LCD panel displaying estimated time to completion, or even a current basic voltage reading, which for us geeks, would let us see right away if the charge cycle is going smoothly, and whether our cells are truely getting old or not.
In short, simple, cheap, works well without fuss. The added car adapter in the kit model provides the added advantage for remote users of recharging their batteries on the road - a great idea for salesmen, relators, and other mobile folks. (Too bad they don't have a bicycle powered charger for the cyclists using digital cameras on their road trips!)
On the other hand, for those that want a all-in-one charger, this is not the model to go for.
Without a built-in AC plug and power adapter like the Kodak Ni-Mh charger, you cannot easily pocket the charger and go (well, you could, but those AC/DC adapter prongs hurt you in a pocket!, not to mention you've got a big squareish AC/DC adapter's bulk...).
Also, it lacks the capability to charge regular Alkaline AAs as well as other sizes of batteries.
Maha Group Corp.
545-C West Lambert Rd.
Brea, CA 92821