Batteries for Fuji-X cameras: originals, copies and issues

Batteries for Fuji-X cameras: originals, copies and issues

Battery life is traditionally considered a weak point for any mirrorless system. To be honest, many complaints with battery life stem from users handling a mirrorless camera just like a DSLR; chimping after each shot while, at the same time, leaving the LCD screen on all the time.

There is no arguing that smaller batteries –usually a standard situation with mirrorless- as well as the need to feed an LCD/EVF constantly, aren’t helping with battery life. Typically one would carry 2-3 spare batteries for a day’s worth of shooting, while a DSLR user could marginally make do with one.

Here is where third party batteries enter the scene since original batteries demand a considerable premium money wise. You can easily pay 60-70 dollars/euro for an original, while third party ones usually go for 15-30.  For Fujifilm cameras, in particular, Patona brand batteries are a popular choice in Europe, and Wasabi is a brand users in the US seem to prefer the most.

Up to the second generation, X-Trans II cameras, there were no serious reported problems with respectable third party batteries. Sure, they might last less than Fuji originals, usually at 70-75%, but this was a small price to pay for the cost savings of buying 4 or 5 spares.

Problems began to emerge with the X-Trans III cameras, the X-Pro2 to be precise. I have written a pretty extensive review of the various initial overheating issues of the X-Pro2, and I’m happy that I accurately (half) predicted all would be solved with a firmware update. Indeed, Fuji provided said update, but also came up with an updated version of the NP-W126 battery, with the “S” designation.

NP- W126S batteries seem to cater with the discharge characteristics that the power-hungry X-Trans III processor needs. Let’s remind ourselves that this processor is in fact rather “over-engineered” for the Fuji-X cameras, being developed with the medium format GFX in mind.

But the most serious reported issues with third party batteries presented themselves with the X-T2, and, more specifically, with the Power Grip and Boost Mode.

I guess most of my readers are familiar with the Youtube channel called “Theoria Apophasis”. I don’t know what your opinion may be, so I’ll just offer my own: this channel is a controversial mix of surprisingly accurate and rational practical information about photographic gear and wildly obscure pseudo-scientific rhetoric (non-photography related). Ken Wheeler (the so called “Angry Photographer”) presented a very concise explanation of the problem in this video.

To cut a long story short, there are issues with the X-T2 and both aftermarket and even older original NP-W126 batteries. These present themselves mainly when the power grip is used (and, thus, Boost Mode enabled), under conditions involving aggressively shooting in burst mode, shooting long 4K video, and similarly very demanding circumstances.

I have myself tried to keep track of these issues during my day to day photographic routine. I often shoot concerts and other performances; in these conditions, I will often use high-speed burst and it’s not uncommon to continuously shoot for hours. Living in Greece, a country not too famous for its cold weather, doesn’t help, especially during the summer months.

What I have to report is that, while using aftermarket batteries (regardless of putting them in the grip or body), I had 3 or 4 total cases of lockups during shooting, plus 2 or 3 other anomalies. For instance, one time, as soon as one battery in the grip emptied, the camera locked without warning. In another instant, a message about the camera reaching maximum operating temperature appeared, but the X-T2 continued to operate normally. In all cases I had the latest firmware installed.

It has to be pointed out that locking-up is, in this case, a good thing. It’s a safety net, a relief valve so to say, in order to avoid damage to the circuits. I should also point out that there are other conditions where the camera needs to draw more current, using flash or teleconverters/macro adapters and similar being two of them. It goes without saying that shooting long exposures for extended periods of time, may also prove troublesome, and the same is true of extended timelapses.

Here are, in my opinion, the best practices to avoid any issues, even under the most demanding conditions:

  • All older X-Trans I and II cameras: there is no problem with respectable brand aftermarket batteries. They will last less than the originals but that’s about that.
  • X-Trans III cameras: there is no evident problem with casual shooting, meaning anything done in a slow to medium pace. For 90% of Fuji-X users, this is probably their daily reality.
  • X-Trans III cameras when using high-speed burst, shooting in high environmental temperatures, using flash etc: these are considered demanding conditions in this regard. The safest bet is to use original Fuji batteries, and, preferably the new “S” version which all current X-cameras are presently sold with. Please note that all this is true of the X-100F too, the first X-100 series camera featuring the same battery as the interchangeable lens Fujis. In fact, being smaller, the X-100F may be less efficient in dissipating heat, and thus prone to heating up a bit more.
  • X-T2 with the power grip and above conditions: only use NP-W126S batteries, in both the grip and body. Seriously, the cost of buying a pair of those is nothing in view of situations potentially dangerous for the cameras’ integrity.

Lastly, independent of batteries, it is prudent to always use the fastest SD cards one can afford. The longer it takes for the buffer to clear and data be transferred to the card, the greater the chance for elevated operating temperature.

I hope this short write-up would be helpful to fellow Fuji-X shooters, and I’d be happy to read your own comments and experiences on the issue.

 


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