USB battery packs & chargers are everywhere, but charging dSLR camera batteries from USB has not been possible. Until now.
Editor: Graham Morfitt, BSc (Physics)
The portable power and portable solar charger world is divided into two camps: USB & 12V. USB for the small stuff, and 12V for the big stuff. The smaller solar USB chargers are designed to keep phones & iPods charged. The larger 12V solar products being used to charge just about everything up to & including laptops, medical equipment, and homes. But what if you want to use a USB source to charge a dSLR camera battery? Can you charge a 7.4V battery from a 5V source?
Digital Cameras & Solar Chargers
If you have a small point-and-shoot camera, chances are the camera uses a small 3.6V or 3.7V lithium battery pack. There are great, because they can often charge inside the camera when plugged into a USB source (ie for image download), or via small USB chargers like the LenMar Clip.
dSLR camera batteries do not have it so easy. At 7.2V or 7.4V, their battery chargers needed to provide something in the range of 8.4V, which means using a 12V system to get the voltage they need. And 12V solar kits are usually larger and more expensive than their smaller USB cousins.
Now there is a solution…
For years, I have been recommending universal chargers like the Ansmann Vario, Ansmann Vario Pro, and the Lenmar BCUNI2. These chargers do a fine job charging 3.6/3.7V, 7.2/7.4V, and AA batteries from a wall socket or 12V car socket (including 12V solar panels & battery packs). One charger to do it all. As noted in other articles I’ve written on the subject, the only camera battery I have come across so far that does not fit these universal chargers is the Canon LP-E6 (battery terminal contacts are too close together).
When a client needed to charge their Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, or other dSLR camera models while out in the bush, I would direct them to 12V systems, and one of these universal chargers.
But now, a new universal charger is available that allows these larger camera batteries to be charged from a USB source. The advantage is being able to pack smaller, lighter USB solar kits & storage batteries to keep the cameras charged…
The Ansmann Powerline Vario Universal Charger from Ansmann of Germany
Automatically selects correct voltage & polarity
USB2 & USB3 compatible.
Adjusts to a wide variety of camera battery sizes & shapes.
I’ve had the chance to use the Ansmann PL Vario charger since the fall of 2015, and so far it has performed very well. The charger chassis is solid, including the sliding door which holds the battery in place. The springs which help to hold the battery firmly in place are strong. The terminal blades are rather important, and the Ansmann’s are plenty tough – would be quite difficult to bend.
The charging performance itself has been good. It clearly indicates charging status, and it doesn’t take much longer than a wall charger would to bring a camera battery up from 50% depletion. It is slightly slower when charging a 7V camera battery due to the voltage transform (I’ve used with a variety of 3.7V & 7.4V camera batteries).
I have no problem recommending the Ansmann PL Vario charger. Best of all, I am no longer bound to 12V options for dSLR users. I can now specify USB-based solar & battery packages to people who want to take their larger dSLR cameras into the wild.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding this charger.
a little smarter,
and a little more responsible.
Welcome to the Modern Outpost.