DSLR battery life when *not* taking pictures?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Makosuke, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    I've got an odd question related to trying to find a camera to take a time-lapse movie from a location where there's no external power available.

    I've found an external timer that's battery powered (Pclix), but it's surprisingly hard to find a battery-powered camera that can last for more than a couple of hours on standby. I've read that DSLRs can last very long when turned on without a live preview, but I can't seem to find a hard number anywhere.

    So, for anybody who has a DSLR: If you have the camera on and ready to take a picture, but with everything else off (screen, autofocus, etc), how long can it sit in that state before draining the battery? 8 hours? 24? Longer?

    Alternately, if anyone has a better suggestion, I'd love to hear it.
  2. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    as far as i know, digital cameras turn themselves off after a set amount of time...DSLRs are the same.

    i've left my camera "on" before overnight, but it turns itself off after 2 minutes and i need to push the shutter or something to turn it back on. dunno if that counts as standby.
  3. rogersmj macrumors 68020


    Sep 10, 2006
    Indianapolis, IN
    From what I understand, DSLRs use practically no power when you're not shooting. I've left my Nikon on for hours, then picked it up and fired a shot without pause. Battery life seemed to be unaffected.
  4. ThunderRobot macrumors regular


    Aug 10, 2008
    Glasgow, Scotland
    in Digital SLR Cameras and Photography for Dummies* David D. Busch confirms DSLRs will run for a couple of days at least whilst on but not shooting.

    I've never tried it myself.

    *the book is worth looking at if you're new to DSLRs. Busch is a known and respected photographer who writes many after-market camera manuals for both Canon and Nikon models.
  5. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Working on just Canon here as I cant comment on Nikon as I have no experience with them, but you should expect that both will do in effect the same thing.

    If I am reading what you are asking correctly, you could potentially use a Canon DSLR ie 40D with the "Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3" setup to take photos every <insert time frame>. Use the "Battery Grip BG-E2N" with two batteries and you should be able to take a lot of photos.

    IIRC the 40D + battery grip with 2 batteries fully charged is good for around 2000 photos and the remote has a battery life you wont worry about for a few years.

    The only thing I would be unsure of is whether or not the remote can get the camera out of "sleep" to take the photo, you can set the "sleep" time to be up to 30 mins I think, maybe more but that would obviously drain the batteries quicker.

    On a side note, no matter what you do you will definately need a good tripod setup etc so nothing moves and affects the constant image.

    I'm not able to look any more for you right now but maybe I can check it later if we dont have a full answer before then. I have the equipment I reference so I am able to test it for you.
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I've left my Nikon D50 on for a well over a week inside the camera case and still had plenty of battery power left. I routinely gt more than 1,000 exposures per charge.

    That said if I were setting up a remote camera I'd find one that would run off an external power source and simply buy a really big lead acid marine deep cycle battery. You can get these in any size you need up to the kind where you need two men to lift it.

    Seriously, $75 will buy a one that is as big as a car battery. Much cheaper to buy a big battery than a new camera

    Do you really want to leave an SLR outdoor unattended? You need at least a weather proof housing
  7. FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    I have left my 40D on in my bag for a week, when I pulled it out the camera still showed a fully charged battery.

    Standby uses VERY little power, and the camera is "woken" up by a half-press on the shutter release, but resumes functionality almost instantly.

    I believe that the Canon timer controller would wake up a camera that is on standby, take the shot, then the camera would automatically go back to sleep after about 120 seconds.
  8. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    I've left my Nikon D2x on for days at a time. How many shots do you need to take and in what timeframe, and more importantly, at what temperature? A camera doesn't draw much power, but cold kills batteries.
  9. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Much good info and many very useful suggestions here. To comment/clarify on a few:

    This is for an energy research lab, so we're pretty experienced with big ol' honkin' batteries, but I was specifically trying not to go that route.

    Thing is, this camera is going to be on a balcony on the 2nd or so floor of a large university building, where there is unfortunately no power we can access. Security isn't going to be that huge of an issue (open access, but not THAT open), and of course there will need to be a very sturdy, very locked, weatherproof enclosure, but having a big battery sitting on the floor starts to run into administrative hassles getting this signed off on for a period of several months (it's for a building under construction).

    Fortunately, since it's not particularly isolated, if a battery grip will last even a couple of days having somebody walk up periodically and swap the thing out shouldn't be a problem at all. It's sounding like this is the best route to go, albeit a little pricey (though a lot cheaper than most security cameras); only question seems to be whether the selected timer can "wake" the camera, which I'm hoping isn't an issue.

    I'd mentioned that I was looking at the Pclix timer, rather than a more standard studio timer that jbernie recommended, but maybe that's a safer bet (certainly is if it can wake the camera and the Pclix can't).

    There's also the option of rigging a small PV panel to the thing to provide some power to the DC line in on the camera (like I said, energy research), although that is getting into the labor-intensive department for what may not even be necessary if the battery is going to last a week anyway.

    More suggestions/info of course appreciated, and thank you all much for the helpful responses. If this actually works, I'll post the resulting time-lapse video in a few months when it's done.
  10. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Now at home so I have access to my gear.

    1) just thought of something, you might be best served by a prime lens so no matter what you are always getting the same shot and someone cant play with the lens and impact the project. I would expect that a consistant clear image is the most important thing to really make this work

    2) assuming you use a grip with two batteries, suggest you get have at least 3 batteries so you can have two in all the time and then one charging and just rotate through on a daily basis or whatever the use time is. Maybe start the project say on a Monday and then you can monitor battery use over 5 days so you know what to expect and how frequent you need to rotate the batteries (hot/cold weather will impact this)

    3) on the TC-80N3 remote you can set the interval time to be 0 through 99 hrs 59 mins 59 secs and the only restrictions is free space on the card and battery life

    4) in doing testing now it would appear that connection of the remote disables the sleep mode so it is always on, i have my sleep time at 1 min & the photo time at 2 mins 30 seconds so it should sleep but it isnt.
    ++ I set the sleep time to be 5 mins and the camera does sleep 1 min after the photo is taken and then powers on again 1 min prior to the photo being taken, knowing this you can potentially go for many days maybe even a week or more depending on how many shots you take per day.

    5) to conserve power make sure you disable the review time so you dont have the LCD going on every x mins/hours. It wont save lots of power but it wont hurt.

    6) along with having a stable mount point also make sure it is weighed down so any gusts of wind at inopportune moments dont make you lose shots.

    7) checked the info on the grip, for a 40D with 2 batteries you should expect around 1900-2200 shots based on no flash and limited use of the preview/lcd screen

    This is all based on the following:
    Canon 40D
    Canon TC-80N3 timer remote controller
    Canon BG-E2N
    Canon BP-511a battery x2
  11. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    All depends on the camera. For example, I have had my 40D on stand-by for over a month at a time, and the battery keeps its capacity.

    However, all batteries self discharge at a very slow rate, so it's a good idea to recharge it as needed every now and then. Also, in cold weather battery capacity is reduced quite a lot. It does not mean that the battery is discharged when cold, just the the cold slows down electron flow, much like what happens to the digits or letters on a LCD screen under extreme cold weather. Take the battery (or LCD screen) inside to let it warm, and the problem is gone.
  12. heron88 macrumors 6502

    Jun 16, 2008
    well, I think I read somewhere that it was 1200 hrs on the Nikon d80. But even if its not that much, battery life while on standby is ridiculously good. I've left mine on for over a month only to come back and find the battery pretty much unchanged.

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