Photo Flash Batteries

Photo Flash Batteries
Canon PowerShot S95
2020

When you buy old film gear, you often find old batteries inside. When you’re lucky, they haven’t cracked open and leaked goo into your gear.

It’s remarkable how many different brands of batteries I’ve encountered in old gear. I guess there were just a lot more battery makers in the old days. This one, Bright Star, got its start in Hoboken, NJ, in 1909. I was surprised to learn that the company still exists, but after a merger is called Koehler BrightStar. They exited the battery business a long time ago to focus on flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps.

Today it’s Energizer, Duracell, and Rayovac, née Ray-O-Vac. (It turns out Energizer just bought Rayovac.) I generally buy store-brand batteries. They might not be quite as good as the big brands but they’re good enough and a darn sight less expensive.

Many old cameras take batteries in what are now odd sizes, like 1/3N, 2CR5, A544, and EPX27. These aren’t available at the drug store, so you have to turn to Amazon for them. There you find the seamy underbelly of battery off brands, all likely made in China. But without them, many old cameras would be inert.

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single frame: Photo Flash Batteries

A couple old batteries I found in some film gear.

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12 thoughts on “single frame: Photo Flash Batteries

  1. I am unfamiliar with these as well. But it has seemed to me that every time I get a new device with batteries included I see a new battery brand I’ve never heard of, generally from somewhere in Asia.

    And when did Energizer become a brand instead of the top version offered by EverReady?

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Just a tip, I’ve tried a lot of the Asian made off brands, and the ones from China have a tendency to leak, and last a lot shorter period of time than the big two: Duracell and Energizer. This is OK depending on how you monitor your batteries, and make it standard to take your batteries out of the whatever you’re using it in after use. I see Target eliminated Ray-O-Vac as their third brand on the shelf a while back, and replaced it with their own house brand, which is most likely a Chinese brand as well. I’ve also taken Varta button cells out of 20 year old equipment, totally clean, and not even a dust of goo, chalk one up for German engineering!

    Anyone that wants a reason to use the big two, I’ll tell you I had a Duracell AA battery blow up in a Nikon motor drive back when I was managing a large photo department. I sent a Polaroid of the motor drive with the powder all in it, the actual batteries, and my repair bill for fixing the motor drive; to Duracell, and within two weeks I got a check back covering the repair! No questions asked!

    I tried to use Ray-O-Vac when they really upped their battery game a number of years ago, being a Wisconsin company, they were cheaper at the store than the big two. Sorry they ended up getting bought out. It took them a long time to get in the Alkaline game against the big two, and then they lost shelf space eventually (anyone who knows retail knows how that works, with promo’s etc. driving out the small people). I kept hoping they’d go back to their great “cat-jumping-through-a-9” logo!

    I still find it incredible that a world that can go to the moon and put satellites in orbit, can’t make a replacement 1.3V cell for all the 625PX / PX13! Really!

    • Andy Umbo says:

      After some more on-line research, it seems like Ray-O-Vac batteries have been leaking in wholesale quantities since 2018-19! Even leaking in the packaging without ever being opened! Maybe this is why they disappeared….

    • I didn’t know the Vartas were German!

      I bought a couple copper-looking rings you slip over a 357/SR44 to make it have the 625 form factor. It doesn’t change the voltage but at least I don’t have to have 625s around for the two cameras I own that use them.

  3. kennethwajda says:

    Sometimes you can score a deal on a p/s camera but the battery is going to add another $10 to the total. I try to keep a supply of batteries with me when I go to the thrift store for that reason, to test the camera in-store to make sure it works.

    And about those lithium batteries, I had a battery from China in a Fuji X100 swell up and I had to pry it out. So, watch out for that on newer batteries.

    • I just bought a new 2CR5 battery to use in a camera someone gave me. I decided to spend the relatively big bucks to get an Energizer rather than an off brand this time. Not only will I worry less about leaks, but the Energizer promises to be good for 10 years stored.

      I habitually remove batteries from cameras when I finish using them. I rotate through enough cameras that it might be a year, maybe even more, before I use it again. I use SR44s a lot, so I have four of them here on my desk that have been in three or four cameras each so far.

  4. The longer I live in New Jersey the more I learn just how important New Jersey was to the early industrial growth of the United States. Trenton, Camden, and Hoboken are important historically.

    I almost exclusively use rechargeable batteries. I haven’t found many rechargeable button cells and the few that exists have lower capacity than disposable cells.

    • Some friends of mine grew up in Edison, and when I visited them there in … 1987? … they drove me by the giant light bulb in Menlo Park. It made Edison a lot more real to me to have been on the same streets where he had been when he was making all of those inventions.

    • kennethwajda says:

      I was a staff photographer at the Trenton Times for 13 years, 1988-2001. Such an amazing state! Now I’m in Colorado, but get back to NJ to visit family and friends!

  5. ronian42 says:

    If you want odd batteries, I try and use http://www.smallbattery.company.org.uk/index.htm They are based in the UK and claim to ship worldwide I’ve not beat them yet! Wein cells are an expensive but direct replacement for the dreaded PX 625! I use them in my 35 RC, my OM1, my Yashicamat 124g and my Canon FTb-ql. I cycle the cell through the cameras as I use them rather than putting one in each.

    • I just use the alkaline 625s for my cameras that take that size battery. For the films I shoot, the slight difference in voltage isn’t a big deal. But it’s nice to know about the Small Battery people if I ever need to get it just right!

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