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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Solar Charger for Camera Batteries?
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05/05/2013 09:30:26 PM · #1
Anyone have any experience they can share on a solar charger that will work with camera battery chargers?

Seems like a lot of options but few that will output 12v AC/DC (most output to USB powered items).

Going camping for a week and would like to have an option to recharge my camera batteries (probably a few times).

Thanks!
05/05/2013 09:49:38 PM · #2
I saw a whole kit at Costco last week with a solar panel and a battery unit that can put out 12V, USB, 120v/60Hz house current (USA-style) -- pretty much any kind you might need, for a significant period. Sorry but I'm blanking on the name, and it wasn't cheap, but it looked solid. You might check at Costco's website, or else at the REI site ...
05/05/2013 10:30:12 PM · #3
I don't know of any cheap alternatives for doing this. I have a couple solar panels from Goal Zero, but you need to add one of their pricey inverters in order to be able to charge with house current plugs. I'll have to keep an eye on this thread in case anyone has a cost effective alternative.

My Nomad 7 units are great for USB charging! I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon last summer, and the following week I did a canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness, and the Nomad kept my phone and GoPro nicely charged for me. I like the Goal Zero brand :)
05/06/2013 12:37:01 AM · #4
It would take pretty hefty solar + 120V inverter + battery to go the 120 volt route. The only hope for one light and compact enough to travel by back pack would be to find a direct solar to camera battery one.
Probably your best option would be to get a couple of extra batteries.
Three tips you may find useful are,

1- when you get to the end of the battery, and want to get a couple of extra photos, you can rub the battery vigorously against your pants leg and get it warm. It will pick up a little if you do that, then you can switch to manual focusing and get in a couple more shots.

2- Get into the menus on the camera, and either shorten the preview time or shut it off completely, and use the playback button if you want to review a shot while shooting. Playback and preview use a lot of battery.

3 Switching off AF will make a big difference in battery life too.

The warm battery trick works with cell phones too. You can usually get a couple of minutes more that way.

ETA, if you can find a battery grip, some of those use AA batteries, and I think that you may be able to find a solar charger that will charge AA's directly, plus you will have a battery grip to use later.

Message edited by author 2013-05-06 00:39:55.
05/06/2013 12:52:47 AM · #5
I use a Cobra brand DC/AC converter that works excellently from the car battery. I got two through the internet for $25 each.
Have a good time
05/06/2013 04:59:43 AM · #6
I believe I saw mention of some of the Brunton models from Tom Bol, who uses them on expedition type photography shoots. I don't remember which he mentioned, but I recall them being rather pricey (at least the ones he used). He briefly mentions them here, noting that you need to get a car lighter adapter, but he talks more at length about it in his book IIRC.
05/06/2013 07:17:58 AM · #7
Thanks all ... I've followed up on some of your suggestions and will continue to look into it.

I won't have access to a vehicle during the week.
Camera settings for maximizing battery longevity will be rechecked (I'm using some already).
Battery grip with AA's sounds enticing (3rd party I'm assuming ... Sony grips use camera batteries).

Currently it seems that my best option is to just pick up an additional camera battery (3 fully charged should get me through the week I hope).
05/06/2013 07:19:06 AM · #8
BTW - Please feel free to update this thread as you see fit with suggestions, etc... I was surprised not to find more conversation on this topic when I searched the forums.
05/06/2013 09:14:25 AM · #9
I see that there are a lot of solar AA chargers available on eBay, Amazon ect. I have a battery grip for the D7000 Nikon that uses AA's, however, looking around I don't see any for Sony that do.
Maybe someone makes one if you look long enough.
Google search turned up this site.
Sundance Solar, Sony Chargers

Message edited by author 2013-05-06 10:54:58.
05/06/2013 11:04:01 AM · #10
Originally posted by MelonMusketeer:


Google search turned up this site.
Sundance Solar, Sony Chargers


They probably have them for other brands too.
Seeing the photos on the site, it looks like they are using a cell similar to an automotive battery maintainer cell, but using the output directly DC into a battery holder similar to the one that you use now, only converted for the DC current from the cell.
It would seem that if you are not planning on an extended trip, 4 days or longer, it may be cheaper and more convenient to just pick up some extra batteries.
05/06/2013 03:48:25 PM · #11
Originally posted by glad2badad:


Battery grip with AA's sounds enticing (3rd party I'm assuming ... Sony grips use camera batteries).

Currently it seems that my best option is to just pick up an additional camera battery (3 fully charged should get me through the week I hope).


I admittedly know very little about Sony products, but it isn't unusual for Nikon grips to allow you to use a variety of battery types in the grips. I can use the same battery as the camera, or I can use the larger battery the D3 uses, or I can use AA's. The thing is, you need to get the battery holder thing that goes inside separately for some of these options. Check around and see if that's all there is to do for the Sony one.
05/11/2013 11:22:54 AM · #12
At the end of this review of backup batteries from Etón they mention that the company also makes hand-cranked and solar-powered backup units -- you might check the company site and see what they have ...
05/11/2013 04:52:59 PM · #13
Found this Voltaic YouTube video regarding solar charging a camera battery.

Voltaic website link.

Hope this helps anyone interested. Cheers.
05/12/2013 07:36:11 PM · #14
GreenBatteries.com has some solar products ...
06/05/2013 02:36:05 AM · #15
Got AA and AAA battery solar charger at mrpositive.co.nz/solar-powered-aa-and-aaa-battery-charger-and-usb-backup-power/ at less. Easy to use having better assembly.

Message edited by author 2013-06-07 04:34:59.
06/05/2013 09:37:43 AM · #16
I built my own portable charger for my iPhone...it takes 3 AA batteries and will give me about 3/4 - full charge off of those. There's no reason the concept couldn't be adapted to work with a solar panel and camera battery charger. You'd just have to hack the wall charger to see what kind of output voltage and sensing it was using to charge the battery and adapt/modify it to accept the input from your solar cell. I'd use a maximum power point tracker and LiPo battery to keep the voltage supplied to the battery charging circuit steadier.
07/06/2013 02:30:30 PM · #17
I ended up going with 4 fully charged batteries. I survived the week but had a scare about the fourth day in; I was on battery #3 already and had only taken a couple hundred photos!

It was the gps locater that was sucking the batteries down like crazy. Pretty much had everything else turned off that I knew drained batteries but didn't think of gps as a culprit. However, I'd turned my phone off most of the time because it kept roaming and I knew from experience that would kill the phone battery ... it hit me that the gps kept trying to update its' location.

Once I turned off gps on the camera it acted like normal with battery consumption and didn't need the last battery until the day we left.

Lesson learned! :-)
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