Author Topic: Battery performance in the cold - D5300/D5500, D7500, D500 - test challenge  (Read 994 times)

Řivind Třien

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While I have been looking at the possibility of getting a D5300/D5500 for astrophotography use, a recent try with my D5100 at -16°C made me re-evaluate. The batteries only lasted 35 minutes from a warm and newly charged state before the cold brought voltage so low that it reached the cameras cutoff threshold. (Most of the battery capacity was recovered once rewarmed to room temperature.) Last night at -18°C (no wind) I managed closer to 3 hours /172 one minute frames with my D7100 from a pre-cooled state but with a fresh warm battery.

In normal shooting one can just keep swapping the batteries, but for astrophotography with tracking it is is preferable not to touch the rig too often. The apparent strength of the battery in the cold could apart from capacity issues also be related to different cutoff voltage thresholds by different bodies, so it is not given that for instance D500 will be better. (The initial reviews indicated that it utilizes a smaller portion of the battery capacity.)

Thus I am looking for test of the batteries of the following bodies at temperatures of about -20°C (close to 0°F): D5300, D5500, D7500 and D500.
A good test test protocol would be to first equilibrate the camera in a freezer for a couple of hours in a ziplock bag and connected to an intervalometer, then quickly swap in a fresh warm battery and do 5min dark exposures until the battery empty icon shows and no more frames are exposed. (5 min exposures should provide enough resolution and avoid wearing the shutter too much).

Are anyone in possession of any of these camera bodies willing to test this?

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Seapy

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While I realise this isn't an answer to the question you have raised,  have you not considered an external PSU, or battery.

I had this issue with my D3 last year, this year I did a 2 months continuous time lapse, initially swapping batteries every couple of days, then I got an AC mains PSU, after that I only had to swap CF cards and reset the intervalometer because it stops after 999 exposures.

I have most of the bits I need to build a robust, warm, insulated power supply for the D3 to use in lowish temperatures, nothing as cold as you of course, but cold enough to cause significant problems with the batteries, say -5 to -9şC.

I plan to use a plastic picnic box with foam insulation lining, a 12V golf trolly battery, a meter so I can monitor current draw and voltage, a thermometer so I can monitor internal and external temperature and a compartment to place a hot water bottle to keep things nice and warm.  I bought a D3, AC Mains PSU and I am going to use the DC lead which has the appropriate plug to fit the D3 DC input socket.  I will retain the AC Mains PSU and fit a paired non reversible plug and socket so it can still be used as intended.

I am also looking at racing batteries as an alternative to sealed lead acid batteries. Nominal 12V DC is suitable for the D3, I think the D7xxx bodies use nominal 7 to 8V DC.
Robert C. P.
South Cumbria, UK

Řivind Třien

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Thanks for the thought, Robert. When working at these low temperatures, I try to keep the setup as simple as possible. For instance no computers to control it, just an intervalometer etc. - limit external cabling to a minimum. There is also the consideration of traveling (air) or I am often on foot or with my bicycle.. Thus I am still looking for data on battery performance...

On further thought an external battery pack could be very useful for something like unattended overnight capture of meteor showers where an internal battery would not do. Like tonight's Leonid Meteor shower...
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Gary

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I would think it may be easy, cheap and worthwhile to look into 'hand warmer' technology and then adapt/wrap that technology around the battery compartment.
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Řivind Třien

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I would think it may be easy, cheap and worthwhile to look into 'hand warmer' technology and then adapt/wrap that technology around the battery compartment.

Thanks for the comment Gary. While that would be a rational idea in many applications, for astro imaging, one want to keep the sensor as cold as possible to minimize dark current noise (which is temperature dependent). I suspect it would be difficult to heat the battery compartment without affecting sensor temperature.

Besides my comment above, Robert's idea seems like a fun project.
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Řivind Třien

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I got a response From Rudi Pohl to a post at the DPreview Astrophotography forum where I commented on the D5100 battery capacity in the cold:
"I have shot AP in -10 to -20 Celsius weather (not counting the wind chill), and have never had any kind of battery problems. I shoot with a D5500 and my two astro-buddies both use D5300s and we all use the standard Nikon EN-EL14a batteries with one for backup.

As I recall I get around 4 hours on a battery, very satisfied... just stay out of Live View."


I noticed that my D5100 batteries are EN-EL14, not EN-EL14a, the latter has higher capacity, but lower nominal voltage. I understand the cameras that used EN-EL14a had to receive a firmware upgrade to compensate for the lower voltage. Perhaps that has tweaked voltage threshold cutoff in a favorable direction with respect to cold? My D5100 has the firmware upgrade though but may be it does not work well with EN-EL14?
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Řivind Třien

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Another response from another DPR forum member: "I can only get a couple of hours on a D5300 battery. The D7100 is indeed capable of more." No temperature was specified.

Perhaps Rudi's D5500 is somewhat better - at least battery CIPA numbers are higher for that body. Also Rudi now controls the camera from a computer which might help save battery.
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Peter Connan

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I have previously reported on this forum about my experience with the D500's battery life on longer exposures at elevated ISO's.

I am not sure if you read that or  if other Nikons behave similarly, or whether this might have any bearing on your own recent experience.

I do have a D500 and would be willing to run a test for you, but I would need some guidance on how to set it up given that I live in south Africa, where we are currently experiencing a very hot summer with daytime temperatures running over 30 degrees C. Also, i do not have an external intervalometer, so the test will have to be done with 30-second exposures.

Řivind Třien

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Thanks Peter for reminding me of that thread, found it here:
http://nikongear.net/revival/index.php/topic,7150.15.html

From that, unless there has been a firmware update improving the situation, it does not seem that D500 is a prime candidate for astrophotography use in the cold unless an external battery pack is used. With the limitation of doing 30 sec exposures, I hesitate to ask you to tax your shutter that much with meaningless exposures, however if you insist I would suggest the following (after all it sounds like one would not get that many shutter actuations).
The following assumes that you have a freezer with room for the D500 without any grip:

1. Set shutter speed to 30 seconds, ISO to 1600 (that is what I typically used for deep space imaging with a telephoto lens - going higher might blow out stars, depending on background illumination). If you have  an AF lens attached, set AF to manual.
Set Exposure Delay Mode to 3 seconds.

2. Program the D500 to start exposures 2 hours ahead (to allow it to cool down), interval 36 seconds (to allow for writing to the card), number of exposures to 999x1 .
Do not turn on live view.

3. Put the D500 with lens and lens cap on in a ziplock bag and place in the freezer right away in a normal horizontal position so that it rests on the base. (simulating attachment to a tripod).

3b (Ideally you would swap battery shortly before 2 hours are up with a warm fully charged one before it starts exposing, but as the interval timer will then have to be restarted and condensation can form during the swap, you could skip this step and just test worse case scenario with a cold battery.)

4. Let it sit until it is no longer able to make exposures, for instance you could check back after 3 hours, considering your previous experience.
If you have a suitable freezer thermometer, record the temperature when removing the camera.
Let the camera warm up at room temperature in the ziplock bag.

5. Study the frames and count the numbers and time of first and last exposure.

6. (You might have go into the exposure delay menu again with a fresh battery and stop/reset it, as it sometimes want to go on even if the previous battery run out.)

Comment: I did notice in your previous thread that problems appeared at ISO 3200-6400, but I think it makes sense to use ISO 1600 for the test. We need to keep in mind that for astrophotography and particularly deep space imaging, it is not the ISO but the amount of light gathered that determines noise level. ISO adjustments are just used to ensure that the background signal is digitized at a high enough level to allow stretching, typically histogram 1/3 from the left. 

By the way, how did you solve your problems on the occasion of the referred thread?

One last thought is that if the battery is charged at very high temperature, the charger might cut off before it reaches its nominal charge as voltage will be higher, so find a cool place with normal room temperature to charge batteries if possible.
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Dlighter

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Řivind Třien

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A bit pricey and it is not really doing what one want - provide enough battery power. One would have to find a USB battery power source on top of that. Then one would have 3 devices just to supply battery power to the camera -lots of clutter. However there are just battery inserts/power cables for sale - Nikon has them both for the cameras that use EN-EL14a and EN-EL15 variants, for instance Nikon EP-5B, https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/742056-REG/Nikon_27014_EP_5B_Power_Supply_Connector.html it is about $48 (search for Nikon power adapter). They are meant to be used with a Nikon supplied AC adapter,  EH-5c. A comment under Q and A indicated that  it is 9V power input: "I use mine with an elderly EH-5 AC power adapter (9V, 4500mA). "
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Akira

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A bit pricey and it is not really doing what one want - provide enough battery power. One would have to find a USB battery power source on top of that. Then one would have 3 devices just to supply battery power to the camera -lots of clutter. However there are just battery inserts/power cables for sale - Nikon has them both for the cameras that use EN-EL14a and EN-EL15 variants, for instance Nikon EP-5B, https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/742056-REG/Nikon_27014_EP_5B_Power_Supply_Connector.html it is about $48 (search for Nikon power adapter). They are meant to be used with a Nikon supplied AC adapter,  EH-5c. A comment under Q and A indicated that  it is 9V power input: "I use mine with an elderly EH-5 AC power adapter (9V, 4500mA).

Strangely, both EH-5b and EH-5c are discontinued, according to the website of Nikon Japan.  EH-5c was launched this year.   :o :o :o
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Peter Connan

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I will run the test over the weekend if that is OK?

Birna Rřrslett

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I have newer and older versions of the EH-5 power adapter (newest is labelled EH-5b) and all work perfectly with the several EP-5 variants I have around. I use them with D5300, D500, D8xx in studio settings. Just tried with my new Z7, all is well.

The EH-5 models deliver 9V, 4500mA according to the labels.

Řivind Třien

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I will run the test over the weekend if that is OK?

Thanks Peter, that would be fine.

Anyone with a D7500 who also want to take on the challenge?
Could use the same parameters with 30 sec exposures, or the 5 min exposures to save on the shutter.
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