Earlier this year I decided to compare some of the V-mount batteries available and see what the differences were. Some of it was rather eye opening, and since then I’ve expanded on the original article and have now created a dedicated page for batteries - listing all their specs, including crucially, their relative capacities versus their size and weight.
However, on paper specifications are not everything and since writing the article I’ve wanted to run a ‘real world’ test in which I find out the actual performance of the batteries when used with a typical high end cinema camera.
Speaking with the manufacturers, I was very pleased to discover that they were all fully supportive of the idea and gladly provided me with some of their batteries to test in a ‘shootout’ of sorts. Thank you to all the brands and distributors who made this test possible, plus ProMotion Hire for hosting the test and providing some cameras to test with.
Later this year I hope to have the chance to test the IDX IPL batteries. PAG are also supportive of the test, however they wish to wait until the IPLs are released and test them head to head. We’ll just have to wait and see how these two brands stack up!
The basis of the test is simple - to see how long they can power a camera for, and how long they take to recharge. Let the battle of the batteries commence!
The batteries were all fully charged before use, and, given that the testing took several days to complete, were all topped up immediately prior to their use. The batteries were then mounted to a preconfigured camera, switched on and recording was started. Cameras draw a higher wattage when recording compared to when in standby, so I decided that was a better testing scenario. Recording began the moment the cameras were powered up and then were left until they switched off due to insufficient power.
All of the batteries were provided with an own-brand charger. They were all only used with their own charger, and during the test, were charged individually (ie only one battery on the charger), to ensure the fastest charge time. Incidentally, many of the chargers would indicate that the battery was full before the battery itself would, or vice versa. Only when both the battery and the charger indicated that charging was complete would I consider it finished and end the timing.
To time the tests, I filmed the test cameras and batteries with another camera - powered from the mains. From this recording I had visual evidence of when the test began to when the cameras died. The test cameras themselves were filming an analogue clock on the wall, plus the easiest method to calculate runtime was simply by checking the clip duration. I had checked (both prior to testing and by confirming with the ‘referee camera’) that the test cameras would indeed record right up to the moment they powered down. The only way to time the charging was to film the entire thing; the time is calculated from the moment the battery is mounted to the (already powered on) charger, to when both the battery and charger indicate that charging has finished.
The camera chosen for the test was the Arri Amira. A power hungry camera like its siblings the Alexas and the RED cameras, it means the test results will be realistic and representative of real world productions. Incidentally, I measured the Amira to draw 45.3w during standby and between 58.4 and 63.6w during recording. I was recording in 2K ProRes 422 to represent a typical shooting scenario, however in my pre-testing I did not discover any variation in power consumption when shooting at different resolutions or compressions. Frame rates perhaps will change this, however for reference I was shooting at 25fps, 1/50 shutter, 800EI and 3200K. The cameras were reset to factory defaults prior to adjusting any settings; wifi was turned off, any USB was removed, and the viewfinder LCD was left open and on the home screen during testing. All other settings were defaults. The cameras used non-LDS lenses (ie no electrical contacts for metadata) and no peripherals or accessories whatsoever were attached. The battery plate was the Hawk-Woods VL-CFA2. I wasn’t able to test for battery communication in camera (ie percentage remaining), possibly due to this plate.
All of the batteries tested were brand new, never used - and so had zero cycles on the clock. It is common knowledge that a battery’s performance will begin to diminish after years of use, however interesting to note that a couple of the manufacturers had told me that a battery’s peak performance is actually after 4-10 cycles perhaps. Nevertheless, using brand new batteries is the only way to guarantee a completely level playing field and ensure a fair test.
Whilst I have done everything I can to ensure a fair testing environment, there are a number of other things that I was not able to test for. Temperature is an obvious factor. I was testing indoors at room temperature; shooting outdoors in the heat or particularly in very cold conditions can have a dramatic impact on a battery’s performance. Many of the batteries tested are designed for extreme weather and I imagine all of them will do fairly well, however it is inevitable that any battery will not last as long in arctic conditions compared to a studio environment for instance!
A battery’s lifetime is the other key test that I am not able to do. How many cycles will a battery run before it reaches the end of its useful life? What threshold is it no longer useful? 80% original capacity? 60%? Until it no longer powers?! How quickly and how far a battery’s performance drops below its nominal value will vary greatly between manufacturers. There is a lot of really advanced research and technology that goes into battery cell development; some manufacturers’ goal is to produce the longest battery life possible, with a life of well over 1000 cycles, possibly at the expense of absolutely minimised size and weight perhaps. As I cannot measure this, it does not factor in my testing, however it is yet another area in which I recommend doing some independent research when choosing a battery yourself.
Both the discharging and charging durations were rounded to the nearest minute. For discharging, minutes per Watt hour is calculated and for charging, Watt hours per minute is calculated. This is so that in both cases, the higher the figure, the better and are therefore the more useful metrics. These numbers are rounded to two decimal points; whilst there are a few instances where two batteries score the same, any further decimal points would be meaningless: they would represent a difference of mere seconds, of which copy-to-copy or even cycle-to-cycle variations of the same battery would likely negate.
With all of the methodology and disclosures out of the way, here are the results of my tests. Below that you will find a ‘mini-review’ of each brand, plus some closing thoughts and food for thought at the end. For complete specs and comparisons (including capacity versus size and weight), plus sorting ascending/descending and filtering flight safe batteries from high capacity ones, please see my battery page.
|Wh||Runtime (m)||Runtime (m/Wh)||Charge duration (m)||Charge duration (Wh/m)|
Cine 90 VM
Cine 150 VM
Dionic XT 90 VM
Dionic XT 150 VM
Granite Mini 95
Granite Mini 140
Hypercore 9 Mini
Despite having the lowest capacity versus weight and size by far, the Anton Bauer Cine batteries perform excellently regarding minutes per Watt hour rating. The charging times were also among the fastest, and were in fact the only brand in which the charger and batteries both read exactly the same percentage (and therefore indicate that charging is finished at the same time).
In addition to testing Anton Bauer’s Cine batteries, I was fortunate enough to test their brand new Dionic XT line. This is to replace both the Cine and the Dionic HC lines. Ditching the size and weight that plagued the Cine cubes, the Dionic XTs are much more inline with the competition such as PAG and IDX. A USB has been added, and perhaps the most innovative feature is a new capacitive ‘touch-switch’ - by swiping the logo on the back of the battery in any direction, the display on the side of the battery will cycle through diagnostics - amps and watts being pulled, nominal capacity, actual capacity and more. Whilst it’s a great feature, I don’t think it’s as foolproof or as intuitive as a simple button.
In testing, the XT150VM performed very well, though ultimately fell just a few minutes short of its predecessor, the Cine. The XT90VM however dominates nearly all the competition and powered the Amira for as many minutes as it has Watt hours, an incredible feat. Charging times with the Dionic XTs were decent, though not quite as fast as the Cines. Later in the year however, Anton Bauer will be releasing a new charger designed for use with the XTs. It includes a ‘turbo’ charge mode, which halves charge times at the expense of putting two cycles on the clock.
Along with the Hawk-Woods, the Bebob batteries are truly ‘mini cine’ batteries. Whilst the Hawk-Woods are technically a couple of millimetres smaller (and therefore score higher in regards to Wh/cm3), for all intents and purposes they’re the same size in the flesh. They'll even fit on the Hawk-Woods dual V-Mount plate - see Hawk-Woods further down.
Not only in size, but performance too, do the Bebobs rival the Hawk-Woods. At 88 minutes, the 98Wh Bebob has an impressive runtime, joint with the Hawk-Woods VL-M98, and the 150Wh boasts the highest minutes per Watt hour, joint with the Anton Bauer 90 Cine. Charge times are also respectable, with the V150Micro being fastest in class alongside the Blueshape Granite Mini 140.
All of the Bebobs, including their minuscule V45Micro, are packed with features. Impressive for their size, they boast a 10A draw, USB and ‘Twist D-Tap’, enabling plugging in with the cable trailing in either direction, plus an LED light for mounting batteries in the dark.
Whilst called Blueshape Granite Minis, upon opening the packaging, they’re larger than I anticipated and bigger than they appear in photos. This is due to a thicker case than their competitors - meaning they'll survive bigger drops without breaking. Needing to return all of the kit to the respective manufacturers and distributors, a drop test was something I was not able to test for! Compared to traditional V-Mount batteries, they are smaller, though perhaps with the introduction of ultra mini batteries from Hawk-Woods and Bebob, my perception has been skewed, along with expectations of what constitutes a ‘mini’ battery.
In testing, the both the Granite Mini 95 and 140 had the shortest runtimes in their respective classes, though it is worth noting that the 140 has the smallest capacity compared to the other large capacity batteries at only 143Wh. Therefore, it does not have the lowest m/Wh rating and in actual fact, all of the large capacity batteries performed well in this regard with a tight spread of scores. The Granite Minis were among the quickest batteries to charge, however. Blueshape have informed me that their shorter runtimes and charge times are in fact a result of a 'specific strategy'. By design, the maximum voltage is cut off at 16.8V in an effort to prevent overcharging that may compromise lifespan.
The Granite Mini batteries are the only batteries to feature wifi connectivity, enabling fleet management and realtime diagnostics. Not wishing to disrupt or influence runtimes, I did not test this feature or the app, though it looks to be a comprehensive and invaluable tool. The other feature Blueshape batteries boast and what sets them apart from all of the competition is their weather sealing. Shockproof and IP54 rated, they’re really the only choice if you plan on filming in extremely wet environments; they’re the perfect companions to Velvet LED panels for instance. Other features include charging via both D-Taps and a high, 12A draw.
One note however, the D-Taps have rubber covers; after one day out of the packaging, one of these covers on the 140 would continually pop open. After two days, the second cover did the same! D-Taps are inherently fairly sealed off by design anyway (many other batteries do not have covers and this does not stop them from being weather resistant at least) so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem though it is a little disconcerting that the extra seal refuses to stay closed.
Formerly Switronix, CoreSWX are veterans of the industry - whether you know them by name or not. Unlike many of the other brands, CoreSWX do not produce a 'mini' large capacity battery. Unless they change their minds and surprise me, they have said that it's not a direction they're choosing to go into. This is likely down to being an American company: being the size of country that it is, a large portion of domestic work in the States involves air travel and so flight safe batteries are a far more popular choice. European productions on the other hand, can often drive to location and therefore are not subject to capacity restrictions.
As such, I only tested the Hypercore 9 Mini and not its bigger brother the Hypercore 150. Nevertheless, the Hypercore 9 Mini dominated in runtime testing - matching the Anton Bauer Dionic XT90VM with a runtime of 99 minutes. These were the only two flight safe batteries to reach one and a half hours or longer, and also the only two that attained one minute per Watt hour. With a rated capacity of one Watt hour less than the Anton Bauer however, it snatches the top spot at 1.01 m/Wh.
Not only does it perform well, but it looks and feels good in the hand too. It's semi-rubberised build feels rugged and reassuring, and the LCD screen is unique among all the competition. Like the Blueshapes and the Anton Bauers, it features a 12A draw, USB and D-Tap. The charging time was unfortunately towards the slowest in class however.
Officially the smallest and lightest V-Mount batteries in the world (in any class), these batteries from Hawk-Woods were of particular interest to me. The VL-M98 matched the Bebob V98Micro's impressive runtime of 88 minutes and the VL-M50 matched that of of the Bebob V45Micro in terms of minutes per Watt hour. However, it does have a higher capacity and is both smaller and lighter than the Bebob and therefore one could claim that it's a 'better' performing battery. Unfortunately the VL-M150 doesn’t quite continue the winning streak, with many of the other large capacity batteries running longer overall and running for more minutes per Watt hour.
Not only are the batteries small, but the VL-MX1 charger I was provided with was also significantly smaller than any others, arguably smaller than many regular V-Mount batteries! Whilst this has clear size and weight benefits for travelling perhaps, unfortunately the charge times were slow. Whether this is due to the batteries or the charger I could not say - the batteries may or may not charge faster with other chargers - whether Hawk-Woods' own or third party.
One of the really cool extra accessories designed for these ultra small batteries, is the VL-MCF1, a V-Mount adapter plate that fits any two of the Hawk-Woods mini batteries, effectively increasing the runtime of the camera (up to 300Wh) and adding hot-swap functionality - and all with the footprint of a traditional, large V-Mount battery.
After conducting this test, it seems to me that there still isn't a clear 'winner'. All of the brands tested have their own advantages, merits and weaknesses. I hope that the above results at least shed some light on whatever metric may be most important to you. As I mentioned at the beginning, due to the length of time it takes to conduct this sort of test, I was only able to discharge (and charge) each battery once. There is certainly a margin of difference that, if you were to repeat the test yourself, I am sure your mileage will vary slightly.
Given that these were all brand new batteries, you'll notice that there isn't too much variation in discharge/charge times. Interesting to note and consider however, some of the brands use cells from the same manufacturers. Without further investigation and/or opening them up, I couldn't say for sure, though looking at the resulting runtimes and the size of some of the batteries, assumptions could reasonably be made. Even if all of the batteries used exactly the same cells, there would still be some resulting variation - by design. Careful research and consideration is made by the manufacturers to decide the upper and lower voltage cutoff points in order to optimise the performance during each use and maximise the life span of the battery. For this reason, maybe the best battery is the most conservative one, though again I would reiterate that testing the runtime and charge time are the only metrics by which I can objectively test a battery. Anyone is welcome to do their own testing or perhaps interpret these results against their own criteria!
Depending on your particular circumstances and type of shooting, size and weight may or may not be a significant factor in deciding on the 'best' battery for your needs. For me, this is a big consideration. Therefore, the Hawk-Woods and Bebobs have a huge advantage. Whilst both are very reputable brands and would no doubt last for many years and many hundreds of cycles, there does seem to be a loose correlation between some of the larger batteries and claimed life expectancy. This is not to say that smaller batteries sacrifice lifespan, but rather, some of the larger batteries simply may have an 'extended' lifespan. This association I am making is in no way scientific and should not be construed as fact, though the point I am trying to make is that even if the smaller batteries do not have the same longevity as larger ones, for me it is still a worthwhile tradeoff. Many manufacturers will offer to re-cell an expired battery at a significantly reduced cost compared to simply buying a new one, and even with this additional expense factored in, it is a cost that personally I think is worth paying for in return for the huge weight savings. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good a battery is if there’s another that, for the same size and weight, I can pack two that may well perform equally as well.