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Batteries: Battery types

Without sufficient battery power, even the earliest EOS film camera is nothing more than an expensive paperweight.

Film cameras are not supplied with a rechargeable battery so, apart from having a spare, battery care is something film users don’t have to worry about very much. When the battery dies, you simply drop in a new one and begin shooting again.

EOS digital cameras, however, come with a rechargeable battery and accompanying battery charger. Canon uses two types of battery: nickel metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium ion (Li-ion). The Li-ion type houses the latest technology and is the most common battery in the EOS DSLR range.

Canon supplies four ranges of batteries for EOS digital cameras:

  • NP series large, high capacity for the professional series cameras
  • BP series for the consumer and semi-professional range
  • NB series smaller and lighter than the BP series, for the lightweight consumer cameras
  • LP series the new professional range – lighter and higher capacity than the previous NP range

Of these, only the NP series are NiMH batteries; the remainder are Li-ion. The BP range is the most widespread, and is used in more EOS models than any of the others. The table below shows which battery your camera uses.

Battery types by camera


Battery development

Until a few years ago, NiCad batteries were the most powerful portable batteries by weight. They are made of nickel and cadmium, and were used in a wide range of consumer electronics. As portable electronics have become more popular, battery technology has been developed to produce lighter, longer-lasting batteries.

NiMH batteries were born from this development. They are more powerful than NiCad batteries, not as susceptible to the memory effects of charging and do not contain heavy metals such as cadmium, so they are more environmentally friendly.

The continuous demand for smaller electronics has led to the development of Lithium-ion batteries. These are now the standard battery type found in most portable consumer electronics, from mobile phones to MP3 players, laptops and digital cameras. Li-ion batteries are as powerful as NiMH batteries, but weigh between 20-35% less. This weight saving, without any associated loss of power, is a big advantage, especially in digital cameras, which consume considerably more power than film cameras. Li-ion batteries are completely unaffected by the memory charging effect and they contain neither cadmium nor mercury.

BP-511 variations

As the table shows, the BP-511 battery has a few alternatives.

BP-511 A 7.4 volt lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 1100mAh (milliamp hours).

BP-511A Similar to the BP-511, but with a capacity of 1390mAh. This means that it will operate for a few more exposures.

BP-512 The same technical specification as the BP-511, but it does not have the curved channel down the back. This battery is actually designed for Canon video cameras, and has a flat back to give smooth contours (the back of the battery becomes part of the video camera exterior). This battery cannot be used in the EOS D30 and D60, as the battery compartments in these cameras have a ridged that matches the curved back of the BP-511 and BP-511A. However, the BP-512 will fit other EOS models that accept the BP-511.

BP-514 The same technical specification as the BP-511A, but with the physical shape and restrictions of the BP-512.


On the left is the BP-514 battery, designed for Canon camcorders, but it can be used with some EOS cameras. It has a flat top. Compare this with the curves of the BP-511 battery (right).

NB-2L and NB-2LH

There are also two versions of the NB-2L battery for the EOS 350D and 400D.

NB-2L A 7.4 volt lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 570mAh (milliamp hours).

NB-2LH Similar to the NB-2L, but with a capacity of 1390mAh. This means that it provides more power for your camera.

NP-E3 and NP-E2

The NP-E3 and NP-E2 battery packs can both be recharged using the NC-E2 charger. However, the battery packs are not interchangeable between other equipment.

NB-E3 Can only be used in the EOS-1D and 1Ds series of cameras.

NB-E2 Designed for the Power Drive Booster PB-E2 (for EOS 1V and EOS 3). Slight differences in shape to the NB-E3 mean that this battery pack is not suitable for the EOS-1D and 1Ds series cameras.

LP Series batteries

LP-E4 Designed to work with the EOS-1 series Mark III cameras. It is an 11.1 volt Li-Ion battery and will work in the EOS-1D Mark III, EOS-1Ds Mark III or EOS-1D Mark IV.

LP-E5 Designed for use in the EOS 450D and also used in the entry-level EOS 1000D. It features much of the same technology as the LP-E4 and LP-E6, but in a smaller, lighter package suitable for entry-level use.

LP-E6 Designed for use in the EOS 5D Mark II. Like the LP-E4 it is a Li-Ion battery offering longer battery life and better performance in cold weather.

LP-E8 Designed for use in the EOS 550D. Like the LP-E4 it is a Li-Ion battery offering longer battery life and better performance in cold weather.

LP-E10 Designed for and released with the EOS 1100D, the LP-E10 brings Lithium performance to the entry level EOS model and offers better battery life and improved performance in cold weather.

Film cameras

Most EOS film cameras use 2CR5 batteries. The EOS 500, 500N, 5000 and IX use two CR123A batteries; the EOS-1N RS and 1V HS use eight AA batteries, though the 1V HS can also use the NP-E2 NiMh pack (like the EOS 1D series cameras).

The 2CR5 and CR123A are both lithium batteries designed for use in high power electronic equipment.


2CR5 battery (left) and CR123A batteries (right).

Shelf life and storage

Li-ion batteries are the most common type of battery chemistry used by Canon. Li-ion batteries do not suffer from memory effect, but you might find their capacity decreases over time. With regular use, Li-ion batteries can decrease in charge capacity by up to 20% a year. This degradation begins at manufacture, so it is better to buy a battery when you need it rather than stocking up by buying several at once.

Research has shown that the ageing effect is increased by temperature, so the hotter your battery becomes, the shorter its active life will be. Storing your battery in a refrigerator will extend its active life – just put it in a sealed plastic bag along with a sachet of silica gel to absorb any moisture. It will still discharge over time, but at a much slower rate than if stored at a higher temperature.

Although the chemicals used in Li-ion batteries will keep active down to temperatures of –40°C, it’s advisable to not get it too cold, so don’t keep it in the freezer. If you are planning on storing your Li-ion battery for a long period of time, it is a good idea to discharge and partially recharge it, as storing it at full capacity will reduce its shelf life and performance. Wait until the battery is around 50% charged, and then put it away for storage in a cool, dry environment.

For an EOS D30, D60, 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D and 5D Mark II, the battery charger flashes twice in each sequence of flashes when the battery is half charged.

Recharging your batteries

The table (below) shows the recharge and refresh times for the rechargeable batteries provided with current EOS cameras.

It is important to avoid overcharging your battery as this it will degrade its performance. You should never leave a battery connected to a charger for more than 24 hours, and ideally it should be removed from charging as soon as possible after it is fully charged. For all current batteries the charging time is less than two hours, which means you should not leave a battery on charge overnight unless it is one of the EOS-1 series camera batteries and you are performing a refresh charge.

Battery Charge time Refresh time Charger
NB-2LH 90 mins N/A CB-2LW or CB-2LWE
BP-511A/514 100 mins N/A CG-580 or CB-5L
BP-511/512 90 mins N/A CG-580 or CB-5L
NP-E3 2 hours 8.5 hours NC-E2
LP-E5 2 hours N/A LC-E4
LP-E6 2 hours N/A LC-E6
LP-E4 2 hours 10 hours LC-E4

Battery life

To get the most out of your battery, you should charge and discharge it completely at least four times when you first start to use the camera. This conditions the battery and helps it to achieve full capacity. It’s a good idea to fully discharge and recharge your battery every few weeks to help keep it performing at its best. When you are not using your camera, it is advisable to remove the battery and store it with the contact cover on.

Discharging your camera

EOS-1D series cameras The charger for EOS-1D series cameras (for type NP-E2/E3 or LP-E4 batteries) has a refresh button on it. This allows you to perform a full discharge and recharge cycle to re-condition the battery.
All other EOS digital cameras Go to the camera menu settings and turn off the automatic shutdown. Leave the camera on to discharge the battery until the low battery warning symbol flashes in the LCD display or the camera shuts down. This fully discharges the battery (without over-discharging it) so you can then fully recharge it.

Memory problems

Some rechargeable batteries have suffered from what is called ‘memory effect’ or, more accurately, voltage depression. This is a gradual shortening of the battery life that occurs after several recharge/discharge cycles. Rather than an inherent battery fault this voltage depression is most commonly caused by incorrect charging. This can occur if you do not fully discharge or fully recharge the battery each time, so the battery ‘remembers’ the shorter cycle. This was certainly a problem with NiCad batteries, but less so with NiMH batteries, which rarely suffer. The latest Li-ion batteries do not suffer from memory effect.

When can I recharge?

NiMH batteries are rarely affected by memory effect, but it is best to avoid short recharge cycles. Li-ion batteries can be charged as and when you want without worrying about memory effects, though to prolong battery life this is best avoided. If you are using NiMH batteries and suspect you have created a memory effect on the battery, don’t despair – it can usually be corrected by a complete discharge and recharge cycle.