One of the biggest criticisms of early Sony mirrorless cameras was the fact the NP-FW50 battery did not have enough capacity for professional wedding photographers and videographers. I remember the early days when we filmed weddings using the Sony A6300 & A6500's. We would literally carry a bag full of NP-FW50 batteries and constantly be stressing over which camera needed to have a new battery soon.
Battery life was massively improved when Sony released the A9 with the new NP-FZ100. Since then this has become the new battery for all modern Sony mirrorless cameras.
In the beginning there were not many third party NP-FZ100 batteries available on the market and originals were in short supply. Eventually they started to arrive and I bought a few early ones. Unfortunately I wasn't impressed with them generally only lasting about half as long as an original Sony battery. Which completely negated one of the biggest benefits of the new battery! For wedding photography, I had got used to one battery seeing me through from bridal preperations until just before the first dance. So going back to having to switch batteries multiple times and worrying about when it might run out was simply a problem I didn't want.
Thanks to the pandemic, over the past year, a concertina effect on weddings has put my wife (who is a wedding videographer) and I in the fortunate position of having a LOT of weddings booked. Once the UK restrictions are lifted in late June, we will have lots of back to back weddings where extra batteries would help reduce our need to recharge between weddings.
As luck would have it, Amazon UK were doing a special offer on two Powerextra NP-FZ100 batteries including a USB charger. Instead of the usual price of £35.69, if I ordered quickly I could get them for £33.59. (The original Sony NP-FZ100 battery is £65 from Amazon UK).
Having grown up in Yorkshire, I always have the urge to save money! Sometimes I have to remind myself of the adage, "Buy Cheap, Buy Twice!" and "You get what you pay for."
Alas, the thought of saving a whole £2.10 was too much to resist and a couple of clicks later, Jeff Bezos was £33 richer thanks to me! You're welcome Jeff!
I promptly received them the next day and I decided to put these batteries to the test. Have things changed in the past few years? Are third party batteries still much worse than the Sony's or have things improved? How do the Powerextra batteries for Sony compare? Let's find out.
How I tested the batteries
In December 2020 we purchased two Sony A7siii cameras for wedding videography, complete with brand new batteries. Thanks to the UK going into lockdown, we have only used them for one wedding so the batteries have only been charged once. In other words, the batteries are practically new and should still be able to retain full charge as the manufacturer intended.
The way I conducted the test was firstly to completely drain both batteries by simply recording 4K video until both were exhausted.
Next I charged them using my ISDT NP2 Smart Charger. The reason I did this is because this charger has a special feature that shows how much energy it has delivered to each battery. Meaning I can see what capacity each battery has. The sticker on the Powerextra had quite a lofty claim of 2500mAh capacity, more than the Sony's claimed 2280mAh.
Of course I was not expecting the Powerextra battery to be anywhere near 2500mAh. Let's just say over the years I've learned that third party manufacturers can be 'generous' with their estimates. Be that battery capacity or light emitted from a flash, I've learned to always take these figures with a pinch of salt!
The Powerextra battery showed fully charged after 2 hours 7 mins with 1777mAh delivered. Well short of the claimed 2500mAh.
In comparison, the Sony showed 2076mAh after taking a much longer 3 hours and 32 minutes to charge. Much closer to the claimed 2280mAh on the sticker. I don't really understand why the Sony took so much longer. Or should I say the Powerextra was so much quicker to charge. If you can explain it to me, drop me an email. I'd love to hear!
Next I inserted one battery into each A7s3. To make things as fair as possible, I used the same settings on both cameras, same memory card without any lenses attached.
This is where things started to get interesting. When I switched both cameras on, the Powerextra battery showed 100% charge but the Sony only showed 87%. Clearly the charger had incorrectly thought the Sony battery was full when it didn't seem to be. In which case the Sony battery would be incredibly close to the manufacturer's claimed 2280mAh capacity.
Sony Battery Test 1
Given the fact the Sony was only showing 87%, I figured I'd start the test anyway. Since many Sony owners do not use the original Sony BC-QZ1 charger, instead using third party chargers. The Sony A7iii, doesn't even include a dedicated charger! (I assume to keep costs down). I wanted to see what happened. Would the Sony still win? Or would the Powerextra be victorious?
To recap. The Powerextra started at 100%, the Sony from 87%.
The "Battery Exhausted" message was displayed after 2 hours 18 mins with the third party battery. Whilst the Sony lasted 2 hours 44mins, significantly longer. An extra 26 minutes! Amazing, given the Powerextra had a 13% head start!
Sony Battery Test 2
After the first test, I realised a couple of things which limited the usefulness of my observations. These were:
- I should fully charge both to 100% using the BC-QZ1 charger and repeat the test. Unfortunately I cannot now see what charge each battery was holding since the charger doesn't tell me.
- It might be useful to know how the capacity dropped off. Is it a linear drop? Or will does the indicator go quicker when lower?
- Having the battery run until it is exhausted is not reflective of how professional wedding photographers and videographers work. It would take a very brave (or foolish) person to let the battery indicator drop to below 0 and keep shooting. Our risk adverse nature means that we would be changing out the battery before we even got to 5%, so we don't risk losing a critical moment because we were playing fast & loose with the battery warning sign.
Battery Test Results
After fully charging both batteries using the Sony charger, I repeated the test. This time noting down the times each dropped 10% charge. Here are the results.
When both start out at 100%, the Sony lasts 30 minutes more before both report 0% and a very considerable 37 minutes more than the Powerextra by the time the exhausted message appears.
Summary and Final Thoughts
I think it is clear that the original Sony battery is without a doubt superior. Which is as it should be given it does cost 2x more than the Powerextra.
So which battery would I recommend and why?
For Wedding Photographers
It is probably easier for us wedding photographers to swap out batteries. With a new battery, I could usually eek out a Sony NP-FZ100 battery until just before first dance. Where i'd probably be hovering around 6-7%. That would probably see me through the first dance until I left if I wanted to really push it. But is too close for comfort for me at a real wedding. So I have gotten used to putting in a fresh battery during the wedding breakfast when everyone is eating. It just saves me time later in the day and removes the risk of me getting caught out when I'm trying to capture the perfect moment between the bride and groom!
Using the Powerextra, I would clearly have to swap batteries earlier. I'd be nervously looking at the meter and fretting during groups and couples portraits about the remaining capacity.
Could I make do with the Powerextra's? Yeah probably. Do I want to? No, not really. Personally I think I'd rather just pay a bit more and have the longer life of an original Sony battery. I know percentage wise it's double. But in real terms we're talking £30. Which isn't a lot when we're talking about professional photography equipment.
One option I just thought of is to use the original Sony battery you got with the camera and have one PowerExtra as the second battery. That could be a happy compromise if you really want to save money.
For Wedding Videographers
For a full day of filming, we used to average out at going through three NP-FZ100's per Sony A7iii. With 25% less power per battery, we'd have to now use 4 batteries. An extra change on paper. But the shorter the battery life is, the more I would be stressing about the time to change.
My wife has already said she won't be using the Powerextra's for that reason. We'd much rather just pay more and have longer battery life.
Over the course of a wedding day, videographers would need to carry less batteries, charge less and swap less if using genuine Sony batteries.
We simply don't need the stress of seeing the battery level low in the middle of the speeches that have gone on longer than we expected. Especially stressing whilst knowing that for an extra £30....we could have bought ourselves another 40 minutes of record time!
The Powerextra batteries perform adequately. But is 'OK' good enough for you when you are working in a high pressure environment such as a wedding?
Ultimately I think what it boils down to is how much are you willing to spend to save swapping batteries? Clearly the Sony is the superior battery here. So if you want to have minimum battery changes, the least amount of batteries to charge before a wedding then your choice is clear. On the other hand, if you want to save money and don't mind changing batteries more often, then the Powerextra batteries might suit your needs and offer you value for money.
My only worry though is what the battery life will be like after a couple of years of continued use when batteries retain less charge. Obviously I can't test that right now since we are still operating under lockdown rules and weddings are not permitted. Over time I will update my findings and further thoughts once we are allowed to photograph and video weddings once more in the UK. June 21st cannot come soon enough!
As I have mentioned though, our desire for longer battery life outweighs the extra cost we need to spend on the Sony batteries. Yes it means we have to pay a bit more but the extra latitude that affords us is worth it in our opinion.
For that reason we will be sticking to OEM batteries and these Powerextra's will be returned.
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