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Old Oct 18, 2008, 3:55 PM   #1
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Hello and good evening,

If this is something that has been answered at length already, I do apologise. I have spent a couple of hours searching but have been hampered by not knowing what terms to use.

Can anyone tell me (or point me in the right direction) whether it is true that electronic devices,specifically cameras,slowly become more power hungry as they get older?

I have a Minolta Dimage Xt camera, got it in about December 2003. I started to have real problems with the battery holding charge a year or so ago,so replaced the battery. Now I am using the second of the replacements, a Uniros, and I can take it straight from the charger to the camera and the camera registers only about 50% charge.

It was suggested by a friend who is well experienced with digital cameras and other portable electronics, that these devices die a slow death over time as their internal contacts build up very thin layers of oxide. This increases the resistance, so requiring more juice to run the device. It seems plausible, but I don't know whether its the real answer. We have both seen various devices, phones and calculators spring to mind, that ate batteries at a faster and faster rate.

Is there truth in this? Is there anything that can be done to guard against it?

I know that some would say that after five years its about time to buy something new, but, I like my little Minolta, it has been all I have wanted in a pocket size point-and-shoot, and I loath the idea that something that cost that much should be thought of as a 5-year disposable item.

Thanks for your time. My apologies again if this is a really lame/old question!

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Old Oct 19, 2008, 3:44 PM   #2
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Yes, the contacts oxidize, but cleaning them is simple (a pencil eraser works nicely.)

But I think that what you are seeing is more the slow degradation in the capacity of rechargeable batteries.
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Old Oct 19, 2008, 5:09 PM   #3
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While there are some things in the power supply which can change with age, causing some increase in power usage, I would agree with TCav that it is more likely the batteries. They do lose capacity with a lot of recharging, and the useful life is usually around 300-500 full charging cycles, depending on a number of factors. If a new battery doesn't bring it back to life, and cleaning battery contacts doesn't help, it is likely that you have power supply issues.

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Old Oct 20, 2008, 7:26 AM   #4
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"Power supply" as in the battery charger itself? I used to use charge the battery by sitting the camera inthe charging cradle/battery charger that came with the camera, but of late I have been taking the batteries out and putting them in the charger directly.

I know for certain that the most recently purchased Uniross NP200 that I am using has barely had as many as 100 charge cycles, if that.

Several people have suggested that I should ensure that I get genuine batteries, not just "compatible" models. The problem with that is that since Sony took over Minolta I haven't seen anywhere that carries the original batteries. Most of the places selling them don't say who makes them.

I have asked this question on a couple of (non-photographic) forumsthat I belong to and the consensus seems to be that there shouldn't be anything in the way of internal contacts that could effect power use, and that whilethe contacts at the bottom of the battery compartment can get dirty, the difference shouldn't be that noticeable.

Thanks for the ideas. While I am not a lot nearer finding a solution, at least its looking like my friend was on the wrong track, hence I might be able to find a solution rather than having to scrap the camera!



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Old Oct 20, 2008, 2:22 PM   #5
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Hello Chris,

As Li-Ion batteries age, they loose capacity. There is an internal oxidation that takes place that causes this.

Battery manufacturers have added chemicals to slow this down, but it still goes on.

The first Li-Ion batteries had an expected life of about 3 years. Current batteries have an expected life of around 5 - 7 years.

It could be that you got a "deal" on some old stock. When purchasing Li-Ion batteries you want ones that were manufactured last week... not ones that have been in storage for several years. Usually you will get fresher product from a store that has a very high rate of turnover.

Another thing to consider is that chargers can fail. If you charger is not working properly, you will see a reduction in performance from your camera. Your battery should come off the charger at 4.2 volts (per cell). If you take the battery off the charger and let it rest for an hour it should still read a fully charged voltage.

You may want to take some voltage readings to see if you can figure out what is going on.

A complication with this is that some battery packs have circuits in them that "adjust" the voltage for the camera. The camera may not be protected against a battery with 4.2 volts, so the circuit may step it down a little. I don't know what Minolta uses with your camera.

Most likely it is the battery, but chargers do go bad.

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