Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pentax DSLR Battery Saving Tips

Here are a few ideas for maximizing your batteries, which might be useful if you're on a trip away from spares or a charger. When I'm in a pinch, I try to keep in mind a few ground rules: Avoid over using the TFT display, the flash, the in-camera processor, and choose to manual focus as often as possible. I've tailored the following die hard list for the *ist DS, but the other cameras (Pentax *ist DL, DS2, DL2, K100D and K110D) should be pretty similar.

1. Opt out of using the TFT display and in-camera flash as much as you can.

Powering the color display, particularly if it's 2.5", eats up the batteries. If you don't need to see your images immediately afterwards, go to Menu>Record Mode>Auto Review and turn it off, or choose the least time you need. Also, under Menu>Set-Up>Brightness Level turn the display brightness to at least -3. This alone can extend battery life by quite a bit.

For the flash, under Fn>Flash Settings (down), choose manual flash. This will stop the flash from automatically popping up and will let you exercise restraint. And by not using the red-eye option, you're keeping the flash from firing a pre-flash. That's double savings.

2. Keep the processor idle.

Bells and whistles are just that, so going old school can really save your juice. Turn off the beep, red display focus points, and let the camera auto power-off at 1 min. Don't "filter" or rotate your images. Forget about reviewing for histograms, bright portions, and detailed info if you can.

Here's how. Under Menu>Playback, choose to display images only and toggle off the bright portion. Under Menu>Setup, toggle off the beep, the guide display, and set Auto Power Off to 1 minute. Similarly, you don't need to run the light meter all the time, so activate Menu>Custom Settings and change Menu>Custom Setting>Meter Operating Time to 3 secs. Also under Menu>Custom Setting you can turn off Superimpose AF area (the red points on the focus screen), and then for Instant Review Playback chose Normal Playback. Optionally, turn off anything you won't be using like Noise Reduction for long exposures. Finally, avoid going to Menu>Playback and filtering your images.

3. Switch to manual focus.

Powering the AF, especially for heavy lenses, taxes the batteries when it focuses the lens and calculates the focus point contrast. Why not just switch to manual focus if you can? Also, continuous AF is smart to avoid if you can do without. Under Menu>Record Mode>AF Mode choose AF.S (Single Mode) to inhibit constant tracking.

4. Review Your Shots Later and on Something Else.

Save your photo reviewing and deleting for later when you're with fresh batteries or plugged in with the optional Pentax power adapter. Likewise, do you really need to show a slideshow on your TV? And consider that your memory card pops out of your camera; you don't need to transfer your pictures from the camera by USB cable (which runs down your batteries as long as the camera stays on) if you slip the card into a card reader.

That's it! You don't need to do all of the above, but choosing just a few and sticking to the ground rules will help you max your batteries and save you some money in the long run.

More Pentax DSLR Battery Tips:

2 Lithium CRV3's last longest (avg. 1000 shots), and are the most expensive right now ($20). They also keep for a couple of years without losing their power.

4 Lithium AA's last almost as long (avg. 800 shots), cost 1/2 as much ($10).

4 NiMH Rechargeable AA's above 2300mAh last pretty long (over 600 shots) and represent the best investment. But if you aren't using them, their charge will deplete in just a matter of weeks. It's best to charge them up often.

4 NiMH Rechargeable AA's above 1600mAh last a while (avg. 500 shots) and are a good investment.

4 NiCAD Rechargeable AA's last well (100-200 shots), but tend to fizzle out quickly after many uses.

4 Alkaline AA's don't last very long (about 60-200 shots), but they're the cheapest.

What I like to do is keep 2 Lithium CRV3s as a backup in case my 4 2500MAH NiMH's run out and I still need my camera while I'm out. If the AA rechargeables run out, I'll only use the CRV3's until I get the AA's juiced up again. That way I can pop the CRV3's back in my bag after only about 100 shots max, and they'll be there "just in case," for at least 6 or 7 more times. Also, a word of caution: I don't think rechargeable CRV3's represent a good value until they're officially supported by Pentax, and reliable ones are hard to find just yet. That's why they're not mentioned here.

Any other power saving or battery tips? Corrections or input? Lemme know in an email or the comments and I'll add them here for everyone.

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