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  1. #1
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Lithium batteries and electromagnetic shutters

    I have now had the same problem with both my Bronica SQ and my Mamiya RZ: a roll of film will have several good exposures and a bunch of wildly underexposed frames.

    There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it until I studied the 8 rolls I processed last night and found that the first frame of every roll was good, followed by however many of the same subject that were underexposed. Whenever I found a new subject (which might take ten minutes or an hour), the same pattern repeated itself: one good frame, the rest bad. Obviously, the pause refreshes, to coin a phrase...

    The battery checked out okay, and viewing the shutter speeds on the RZ through the lens also checked out okay. Then I remembered that, even though even though the old battery read fine on the status light, the problem on the SQ only cleared up when I installed a new battery. Viewing through the lens on the SQ, it was very apparent that the shutter was wildly inconsistent.

    So, thinking battery problems, I dug around and found this, which was pulled from the now extinct Bronica website via the Wayback Machine:
    Bronica Learning Center :: Batteries

    Today, virtually everything man made that measures time uses an electronic timer. Small,
    portable timers (watches, pacemakers,etc.) use batteries. All cameras have timers for shutters, and all modern cameras use electronic timers, and therefore, use batteries.

    Batteries differ in size, shape and cell type. The type of cell, and its chemistry determines its voltage, voltage stability, useful temperature range, shelf life, and discharge character. When you're looking to put a battery in a Bronica, there are three available cell types

    * silver oxide
    * alkaline manganese dioxide
    * or lithium cells

    SILVER OXIDE

    It is the recommended battery for all Bronica;ETR-Si, SQ-A, SQ-Ai, SQ-B, and GS-1

    The silver oxide battery. It has excellent voltage stability, the best longevity, wide temperature latitude, good shelf life, and a predictable (and comfortable for the power requirements of a camera) discharge character.

    ALKALINE MANGANESE DIOXIDE

    Next is the alkaline manganese dioxide battery, known simply as the alkaline. It has good voltage stability, reasonable longevity, wide temperature latitude, good shelf life, and a predictable discharge character. It is also the least expensive cell, and works well in all Bronicas.

    LITHIUM

    The performance of lithiums vary greatly, as there are several types. They can be engineered for high amp draw, and lower shelf life; or low amp draw, but longer shelf life. They have the potential for the highest energy density per volume of any low cost cell, but the trade off has been made, in "consumer" applications, for long shelf life. This allows these cells to be terrific for hearing aids, and pacemakers....but poor for an intermittent high amp draw requirement like a
    Bronica.


    The following chart outlines the recommended cells for all of the recently manufactured Bronica cameras.
    ETR-Si

    Best: Silver Oxide 6V(544,PX-28)

    Good: Alkaline 6V(544A, Etc.)

    OK: Lithium 6V(544L)

    SQ-A/SQ-B

    Best: 4 Silver Oxide (MS-76)

    Good: 4 Alkaline (MS-76A)

    Forget it: Lithium

    SQ-Ai with AE Finder

    Best:
    4 Silver Oxide (MS-76)

    Good:
    4 Alkaline (MS-76A)

    Forget it:
    Lithium

    GS-1

    Best:
    Silver Oxide 6V(544,PX-28)

    Good:
    Alkaline 6V(544A, Etc.)

    Forget it:
    Lithium

    * The AE Finders for the SQ-Ai cameras represent an unusual situation. The silver oxide, the tenacious cell that it is, allows there to be a brief period, when it is near exhaustion, where the low voltage threshold of the AE is skirted due to the power demand of the electromagnetic release mechanism. The result is insufficient voltage to
    set the correct shutter speed in the Auto mode only. It can occur for a roll of film, or two...so the precaution has been issued to prevent this. This situation is not present in the older SQ-A, SQ-Am, SQ; or the ETR style cameras. It also doesn't affect the GS-1. Keep extra batteries in your camera case.
    Note that Bronica does not recommend the use of Lithium batteries.

    So, I dug out my SQA, which I wore out last year without a single problem, and naturally I had replaced the previous battery with an alkaline cell. And in my RZ, which spent about a year idle, was a lithium.

    I'll be replacing all the lithium batteries in my SQ and RZ, and I'll be sure to report back if I have any further problems. I hope this thread will pre-empt anyone else blowing a bunch of good film on bad exposures!
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  2. #2
    benjiboy's Avatar
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    I always use the batteries recommended by the equipment manufacturers never re-chargeable, Metz also don't recommend Lithium cells in their flash guns.
    Ben

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by benjiboy View Post
    I always use the batteries recommended by the equipment manufacturers never re-chargeable, Metz also don't recommend Lithium cells in their flash guns.
    Definitely good advice. On a much simpler piece of equipment, Maglite recommend that you don't use rechargable cells in their torches. I tried it, but the bulbs fail very quickly! Never had one fail with standard or alkaline batteries, so there must be differences in the current delivered by the various type of batteries.

  4. #4
    pstake's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this.

    I had no idea the type of battery mattered, and I usually choose Lithium in case I forget to take it out of the camera. Lithium doesn't corrode.

    I think Silver Oxide is also pretty corrosion resistant...

  5. #5
    AgX
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    Quote Originally Posted by railwayman3 View Post
    Never had one fail with standard or alkaline batteries, so there must be differences in the current delivered by the various type of batteries.
    Alkalines could deliver higher current than NiCd rechargable batteries. There had been special Alkalines introduced wich could be re-charged a few times, still delivering high current and thus forming an intemediate between the two others.
    But all of this is not related to the original issue I guess.

  6. #6
    StoneNYC's Avatar
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    Lithium batteries and electromagnetic shutters

    Quote Originally Posted by pstake View Post
    Thanks for posting this.

    I had no idea the type of battery mattered, and I usually choose Lithium in case I forget to take it out of the camera. Lithium doesn't corrode.

    I think Silver Oxide is also pretty corrosion resistant...
    Is it? I don't know, but I didn't know about the lithium thing either.

    Maybe that's why I'm having battery issues...

    Hmmm I don't see any silver oxide batteries at my local photo store.. Uh oh...


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
    ~Stone | "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong." ~Dennis Miller

  7. #7
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pstake View Post
    Thanks for posting this.

    I had no idea the type of battery mattered, and I usually choose Lithium in case I forget to take it out of the camera. Lithium doesn't corrode.

    I think Silver Oxide is also pretty corrosion resistant...
    Future best practices for me will be 1) to take the battery out if the camera will be parked for a while; 2) every few months give the shutter some exercise if it hasn't been used lately; 3) avoid lithium.

    From this experience, I now gather that super fresh lithiums are probably okay, but they can fall off precipitously if not used for a while, and the battery indicator will give the OK signal even though you're in the danger zone.
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  8. #8

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    The same thing will happen to silver batteries at the end of their useful life. One good exposure and then underexposure or even not enough current to trip the shutter.
    Voltmeters only read the surface voltage of a battery. for accurate measurement there need to be a load present. A battery tester has a variety of load resistors built into the meter.
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

  9. #9
    AgX
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    We should not forget that a lot of more recent cameras only take lithium-batteries.

  10. #10

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    Just a bit off topic: my cameras use batteries from alkaline button cells to specialized lithiums. There's also a bunch of stuff in the house that uses AA batteries. A really, really nice battery tester is one of these made by ZTS: http://www.ztsinc.com/mbt1.html

    It tests just about every kind and formulation of battery available. It also tests under load for accuracy, not just the voltage so you'll know exactly what's left in the battery. It's really, really useful for the above mentioned specialty batteries so there's no second guessing when the battery in my RZ needs replacing, the AA in my hand held light meter is weak or even if I need to change the button cells in the red light for my telescope.

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