Canon T2i / 550D battery showdown – original vs. fake – UPDATED: battery grip
Like certainly many of you Canon T2i / 550D owners I’ve been asking myself if I should invest in further original batteries for my new camera. As I’ve preached before, it is essential to have enough batteries on shoots. Nothing is more cumbersome than waiting for a battery to finally charge up. In fact, nothing is less acceptable than this. I had to do so when I was early-testing the T2i / 550D when I was out shooting “FEBRUARY”, because Canon only supplied me with one battery. I took an almost two-hour break at the Golden Arches while the charger was secretly plugged into one of their sockets … and seriously, there is no reason why anyone would ever spend that much time there!
I decided to give the cloned batteries from China a shot. They are much cheaper then the original Canon ones and have been popping up in online shops like Amazon and eBay for the past weeks (they were unavailable in the beginning).
Some days ago, a package with three of the clone batteries arrived. The batteries themselves don’t show their capacity – usually a bad sign. The original Canon battery has 1120mAh and costs more than three times as much as the clones. (Since then, both the original and the clones became much cheaper – at least here in Europe.)
I tested the batteries in a simple way: I charged them up fully, both the Canon original and one of the clones. I then set went into the camera menu and switched the auto shutdown function off. On default, I think this is set to 1 minute, which is very annoying. (I usually have it set to 4 or 8 minutes.)
The camera was in movie mode all the time, but not recording (technically, only LiveView was on). I had my great new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on it, which offers no IS (this is important to mention here because IS uses up a LOT of battery power). I had it just pointing at an object with mediocre contrast, and the brightness of the LCD was up two notches from the standard configuration.
Before telling you the results, I’m gonna spoil this a bit right now: You almost get what you pay for with batteries.
But let’s start with the stuff I discovered when testing the original Canon battery, the LP-E8:
Despite the fact that I switched the auto shutdown function of the camera off, it did switch itself off after about 35 minutes. I switched it on again and the same happened after another 35 minutes.
After 75 minutes total running time, I suddenly got the overheating icon on the display, so I switched it off and let it rest for a few minutes. Then it was fine for another 12 minutes, and then it happened again. I decided to let it rest for more than just a few minutes and switched it back on after about 10-15 minutes. It then went on to run for another 60 minutes, but this time without overheating interruptions. In all, I got an impressive 147 minutes out of only one battery charge with the original LP-E8 battery that came with the camera.
So on to one of the clones:
This story is much shorter. The camera overheated after 41 minutes and then it only ran for another 8 minutes. That is a total running time of only 49 minutes, compared to the 147 minutes of the original battery. You get three times more power for around three times the price.
Nevertheless, I still prefer to have the three clones over only one original battery in many situations. Why, you might ask?
Simple: While I shoot with one of the batteries, I can charge another one. So I never run out of batteries, in theory at least. Furthermore, I won’t have to charge them as often as I have to charge a single one with a much higher capacity, simply because I have more of them and I can change. This might extend their lifespan a bit (I had that experience with batteries of other camcorders – you tend to use the original battery more because it lasts longer, but that’s also why it loses its capacity much faster.)
But anyway – there might be a third solution. As I said, the clone batteries I tested were no-name batteries and they have no sign of their capacity written on them.
Nevertheless, I discovered other third party batteries that claim to have 1.500mAh (vs. the original battery’s 1120mAh). I haven’t tested them (unfortunately, I got the other ones), but this sure sounds great. Even if they offer ‘only’ what the original battery has to offer, this would be great. For only $20 $10!
Markus Haken from Germany tested a very similar battery and got GREAT results, practically same performance as the original. So this high-capacity clone is the one to get!
ADDED April 10, 2010: BATTERY GRIPS
Another way to extend the battery life are battery grips. I loved them with my old DSLRs, because this enabled my to hold the camera in a proper way. They hold two of the LP-E8 batteries (or clones) and therefore offer you twice the capacity.
But extending the battery life is to me in fact less important than to be able to hold this camera properly. The T2i/550D sure offers a lot of bang for the buck, but built-wise it can’t be compared to the quality and rigidity of a 7D or 5Dmk2. The camera is extremely light and often even too light compared to the lenses you are using it with (e.g. my 24-70mm 2.8 weighs twice as much). The battery grip adds some important weight to the package and just quite simply allows you to hold it in a much steadier way.
This hands-on video with the battery grip was created by cheesycam.com:
Thanks to the comment from Robman below I now also know that you can even insert standard AA batteries INSTEAD of the standard (or knock-off) batteries inside this grip. This is a great option: you can buy high-capacity rechargeable AA batteries and just stick with those if you prefer. These are of course also very cheap as they are a global standard and used in small devices everywhere!
So a battery grip is the greatest idea to extend the battery life of your Rebel T2i / 550D and especially necessary to be able to hold it properly – and by doing that, being able to shoot more stable footage in the end!