Li-Ion battery practice test: FXLION BP-250S
Lithium-ion batteries are often used in photography and video. Not only to provide your camera with power, but also for peripheral equipment. Sometimes you wish that batteries were bigger, so that you did not have to keep changing batteries. And so that it isn’t a disaster if you forget to bring along a spare battery. What you want is to continue doing what you’re doing without interruption: photographing and filming.
My wish list includes a lithium-ion battery that I can use in combination with my Atomos Shogun. The longer I use this external video recorder (for Panasonic Vlog in 10 bits), the more enthusiastic I am about it. The Atomos Shogun firmware updates further expand the functionality. But I find the battery life—even with a bigger batter—to still be too short. I have multiple batteries, but I do not want to run the risk of having to change batteries while filming, at the moment that “it” happens.
Another reason why a bigger battery is on my wish list is that I sometimes want to provide a battery for my LED lights in the studio, so that I’m not bothered by the cords on the floor. I could also then use my LED lighting on location, although I don’t currently have any plans to do that.
For me, these are “nice to have” things, because it does not happen often that I am really bothered by cords, or that I have insufficient power with me for my Atomos Shogun. I’m therefore looking for an affordable, universally applicable and high-quality solution, including all the cables for linking from a lithium-ion battery to various devices.
An FXLION battery lasts a long time and provides power much longer than the small camera batteries. Just as with ink cartridges, you get off more cheaply with a big package. Calculate how many chargeable (video) camera batteries fit into one FXLION BP -250S (158 ×100 ×64.5 mm).
Good lithium-ion batters cost—depending on the capacity—a couple hundred euros. I have tried out the heaviest Li-ion battery from FXLION for a couple of weeks. FXLION has not been on the Dutch market that long, so don’t be surprised if you aren’t yet familiar with the name (either). This Chinese brand is among the market leaders in its home market for semi-professional use in the TV industry. That’s quite a showing, since the company was only founded in 1997.
I often try to borrow or rent a product if I am planning to buy it. FXLION batteries can be rented from, among other places, Open Studio in Amsterdam. You can go to Open Studio for a very broad range of services. Not only do they rent cameras, lenses, tripods and lighting, they also offer a wide selection of photography and video courses. All the possible recording equipment (Atomos Ninja Assassin, DJI Ronin, video mixers) and accessories (I thought about Li-ion batteries, but there is much more) are for rent. You can even go to them to hire a crew (cameraman, soundman, video editor)
FXLION BP-250S specifications
5-level LED power indicator, so that you can see whether you have sufficient power before you head out.
Regular, chargeable batteries have a memory effect: if you charge them when they are not completely empty, you will not manage to get them fully charged again afterwards. That reduces the lifespan of rechargeable batteries. But that does not apply to Li-ion batteries, since they are not bothered by a memory effect. FLXION has a broad product selection of batteries and accessories for the most common systems. To try it out, I chose one of the “big boys” for testing. The FLXION with a list price of 595 euros is a battery for the (video) professional:
- Dimensions (mm): 158(W)×100(D)×64.5(H)
- Capacity: 14.8V 16.75Ah 250Wh
- Weight: 1.140g
- Operating range: -20°C~+55°C
- The battery is equipped with surge protection and overheating.
Handy FXLION PL-Q80B Quick Charger
Quick charger in practice: From empty to 80% in 2 hours. From empty to full in 4 hours.
FLXION gives a charging time for an external battery of 10 hours (~620 min for PL-3680B PL-3680D PL-3680E PL-5680 PL-1680B PL-4680B PL-5680B). According to the English-language specifications, the quick charger reduces the charging time by 33%, but after 4 hours, the batter was completely charged according to the indicator on the quick charger. Most FLXION batteries have multiple charge options: via the V-mount, as a D-tap or through a plug. Needless to say, FLXION also provides the matching corded chargers. And a whole collection of equally smart cables and adapters, so that the system can be purchased in any conceivable existing configuration.
Li-Ion battery stack ("UPS") and USB as a universal power supply
FLXION offers handy solutions. Given that USB is increasingly called on as the universal charging method, FLXION is more often making its batteries with a USB port. This can be used to supply camera accessories during the shoot, but also ‘just’ to provide power to the telephone or tablet. Most batteries also have multiple charging options: via the V-mount, as a D-tap or through a plug.
Another great solution is the UPS battery. This is mounted on the back of the camera as a completely independent battery. However, behind this battery, a second can be placed, which feeds the first battery. If the first battery runs out, then the second battery automatically—and without any disruption—takes over. The second batter can easily be changed out for a new one while the camera continues to run. Another idea is to use an adapter cable from D-tab to XLR. You can then mount the battery lower on the tripod, instead of behind the LED light. If you use a light tripod for a heavy LED light, and then mount a heavy power supply to it, you can end up with a top-heavy structure that will easily tip over. By mounting the power supply lower on the tripod and feeding the LED light through a cable, the same set-up becomes more stable.
FXLION BP-250S V-mount battery in practice
Regarding cheap batteries, I have heard that some producers of the least expensive brands use batteries that have been rejected by other producers or used batteries. And that there would not be any thermal protection in them. That is dangerous and in any case results in a shorter battery life. I cannot test that, but when I opened up the FLXION that I purchased, I saw absolutely no indication of this. About two hours after I had placed the battery in the quick charger, the battery was 80% charged. Two hours later, the battery was fully charged. During charging, you hear the—soft—sound of a ventilator in the quick charger. I find a ventilator in a power supply to be a reassuring thought when it comes to a larger battery. For the fun of it, you might try grabbing hold of the charger for the battery that you plug into the camera while that is being charged. A power supply gets hot during charging. After the charging, I linked the battery to the LedGo 900 barn-door studio lighting in my studio. I was able to work for just under 4 hours before the batter was empty. What a relief to work in a small space without cords! A Li-ion battery is an ideal solution for working on location without outlets available. In that case, the quick charger is an absolute must. If you find an outlet along the way, you can recharge the battery to 80% in two hours. Go have lunch and a coffee during the shoot and stick the quick charger into an outlet. After lunch, you can get back to work.
The FXLION BP-250S battery and the FXLION PL-Q80B Quick Charger both did well in practice. But the test was too short to be able to make a serious assessment. I chose a smaller version and a regular charger. That’s friendlier for my wallet and still offers more than sufficient capacity for my applications. The FLXION battery has already been working to my full satisfaction for a couple of weeks. My studio LED lighting still seldom sees a wall plug. On the basis of my initial experiences, I made the right choice with the FXLION. In a few weeks, I have a number of video tests scheduled, after which I will revisit my experiences with my FXLION battery in practice.