Big brick batteries with the typical Gold-mount or V-mount connectors are very versatile in that you can use them to power cameras and their accessories, field monitors, mobile LED light kits, and so on. But those 14v batteries from industry leaders Anton Bauer and IDX can be expensive, especially if you need a bunch of units along with their pricey chargers. That’s why Broadcast Camera Batteries caught my eye at this year’s CineGear Expo in Los Angeles.
BCB makes big brick batteries that have few frills. You can’t string them together like certain IDX batteries. And they don’t have the same safety features, or accurate power meters of Anton Bauer’s new Digital series. On the other hand, none of my trusty old Dionic HC batteries had those features either, and yet they reliably powered lots of gear for many years. Plus, the BCB batteries are the most affordable I’ve ever seen. A 70-watt/hour battery is only $149 direct from the company, whereas a roughly comparable IDX CUE-D75 is $218 at B&H. That’s a pretty good savings, and it continues through the rest of BCB’s ineup — for instance, BCB’s 190-watt battery is $425 while a similar wattage from Anton Bauer would put you in the neighborhood of $585.
I had a chance to work with a couple of Broadcast Camera Batteries for more than two months, powering camera systems, LED lights and field monitors on a variety of jobs, and found them reliable and hassle-free. And despite being no-frills, the BCB batteries actually had one important feature that more established brands don’t offer (see below). Here are some specific impressions…
- BCB’s batteries come in either Gold or V-mounts, and in a variety of power capacities: 70 watt/hours ($149), 98w/h ($213), 130w/h ($299) , 160w/h ($363), 190 w/h ($425), and a whopping 230 w/h ($488). That’s a wider spread than you find from other battery makers, and it’s useful if you’re looking for a very focused solution, such as a smaller, cheaper battery (the 70 watt) or a big bruiser that can power a Litepanels Astra for 2+ hours straight.
- Another plus: the batteries are lightweight, as far as big brick batteries go. The 70-watter is only 1.2 pounds, which makes it great for low-weight camera rigs. Likewise, the 98-watter weights 1.43lbs, while an Anton Bauer Digital 90 is 2 pounds and an IDX DUO-95 is 1.76lbs.
- Both batteries I tested did fall a little short of their wattage ratings in real-world conditions. For instance, I put the 98-watt battery on a Litepanels Astra at full power, and the battery lasted just under 43 minutes. That may not sound like much, but the Astra is a very powerful LED that draws 110 watts/hour. Still, some simple math suggested the BCB battery should have lasted several more minutes. I also tried the 70-watt battery on a lower intensity 1×1 LED that draws 38 watts, and that battery lasted 1:35, while the math suggested a run-time closer to 1:45. So longer burn times could have been a little better, but these times weren’t grossly out-of-whack, and who knows if the rated power draw of my lights are 100% accurate as well.
- If you’re going to use the battery to run lots of power-hungry gear (such as a Red or Alexa, with add-ons), you should know that the lower-end BCB batteries probably don’t have the amperage to do that properly (your gear would typically lose power unpredictably, and you’d shorten the normal lifespan of the battery as well). For big-draw gear, you’ll probably want amperage in the neighborhood of 10 amps, which you can get with BCB’s 130 watt unit (8.8 amps) or the 160 unit (10.8 amps) and above. But Anton Bauer and IDX offer smaller wattage batteries that still have big amperages.
- The batteries have a 1-year warranty, versus the 2-year warranties that Anton Bauer and IDX offer.
- Each battery has a p-tap for powering small peripherals like a follow focus motor, monitor or wireless transmitter.
- Each battery has a simple 4-light power meter to tell you how much juice is left in the battery.
- Here’s what I really appreciate about the BCB batteries: you don’t have to buy a ridiculously expensive or bulky charger just to keep them going. I tested two batteries and BCB sent me a Universal Charger with two barrel plugs coming out of it ($215). It’s no bigger than a power brick for an external hard drive, takes no desk space, weights just .84lbs, and yet you can plug two batteries in at once, and charge them simultaneously at 2 amps each. If you’ve got only one battery, you can get a single-unit charger for $99, and the company also sells bigger, beefier chargers that work faster and take 2 or 4 batteries apiece (albeit without all the helpful diagnostic features you’d find in a charger from the likes of Anton Bauer). But that two-unit Universal Charger really made battery management easy for me on a variety of jobs, and no other big battery maker I’ve come across has anything so simple and affordable.
The dual charger is just a small power brick and a couple of cables.
Overall, I would recommend Broadcast Camera Batteries. They don’t have some of the more refined features found on the latest models from Anton Bauer and IDX, but they nonetheless handle plenty of jobs well, and can save you significant money, and that unique, inexpensive dual charger makes them very easy to manage when you’re in the field.
- Reliable, hassle-free operation
- Great prices
- Lots of power capacities
- Both Gold and V-mounts
- Convenient, affordable dual charger
- No high-amperage battery in lower wattages
- Slightly lower real-world wattage than expected
Helmut Kobler is a Los Angeles-based Director of Photography and Cameraman at www.losangelescameraman.com.