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I've got a 7D with the LP-E6 battery that came with it, but would like to get some spares (along with a battery grip)

With my previous camera (450D) I used generic batteries (and generic grip) and had no issues with charge/usage, but apparently the LP-E6 batteries have a proprietary Canon chip in them, which means that there may be problems charging or using (in terms of battery metering) in a 5D or 7D body.

What are the specific problems? And are there any 3rd party batteries that have the Canon chip or a reverse-engineered chip to avoid these problems?

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I haven't yet found any third party batteries that has a chip in them.

As you say, using a battery without the chip doesn't provide the camera with power level metering. Not knowing exacly how much power there is left is of course a bit inconvenient, but that can also cause other problems. The camera uses the power level information to shut down safely when the level gets critically low, and without that information the camera might run out of power in the middle of an I/O operation. If you are shooting pictures the risk for that is not very high, but if you are shooting video when the power runs out that is quite likely to corrupt the video file. It may also corrupt the disk system data, which will make all the files on the card unreadable.

The third party batteries I have seen comes with a special charger, as they can't be charged with the original charger. That means that you have to bring two chargers if you have both types of batteries.

  • Valid points about the I/O, I think I might give some generics a try since I really don't shoot video that much... and my experience with computers makes me think general write operations won't corrupt the filesystem, so I'll just take that risk ;) – drfrogsplat Nov 22 '10 at 2:51
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    There are several 3rd party batteries with a decoded chip to allow camera communication (and charging with the OEM charger). I picked up two generic 2100mAh batteries with decoded chips for 19 bucks each. They have about the same run time as the standard 1800mAh canon battery in my 60D but cost 60% less and they show battery charge information and charge in the canon charger without issue. I think you'll find that there may be issues with 3rd party batteries but not often enough to worry about. – Ron Warholic Nov 22 '10 at 22:06
  • I use high quality generic LP-E6 batteries as well as my genuine Canon ones. They function the same: They charge on the same charger, the camera reads the serial # in the battery, and displays the charge level, number of shots, recharge performance, and remembers the date and charge state the last time each battery was used in the camera. The brand I use are still about 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of Canon OEM. – Michael C May 31 '13 at 18:45
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7D: $1600.

Canon battery: $60.

3rd-party battery: $40.

Difference as percentage of camera price: 1%

I've seen several different investigations of generic batteries, and while many of them are quite good, the actual capacity varies wildly. In some cases, when you factor that in, you're actually getting more for your money for the brand-name batteries. It's an unfortunate situation and it's too bad there's not better standardization (and honest labeling), but I think it's best to just consider a few extra batteries to be an extra couple percent on top of the purchase price and, basically, just suck it up.

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    I've seen $7 batteries on eBay for the 7D. I've bought and used $5 eBay batteries on my 450D (3 different batteries) and had no problems with them. They seemed to perform as well as my Canon battery, except that the Canon one stopped recharging after about 18 months. – drfrogsplat Nov 21 '10 at 1:19
  • I picked the $40 from B&H. But I think the basic point still stands. – mattdm Nov 21 '10 at 2:52
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    For $40 generics, I'd agree, but I don't think either point still stands for $7 batteries: If I buy 2 batteries, I save a little over $100, which is now about 8% of my 7D cost. And from my experience, the batteries which cost about 10% of the Canon price are at least 80% of the capacity. – drfrogsplat Nov 22 '10 at 2:48
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The Maxtek batteries when purchased directly through them on amazon are guaranteed to work. I bought two on 12Dec2013 and they work just fine and charge fine in the canon charger. They suggest buying directly from them right now to ensure you get the latest with the chip Canon will recognize as they can't be sure Amazon or other retailers have gotten rid of older stock that are not compatible.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0053WG2A2/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Prior to the more recent firmware updates I didn't have any problem with another generic brand working but now it can't communicate with the body.

A recent major photography blog had an article about this issue and they had contacted Maxtek and their advice was as written above (buy from them to ensure latest with chip).

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In my experience, the better third-party batteries work just fine, and the cheaper ones don't.

I've had good luck with Watson (which I'm pretty sure is a house brand of B&H, or at least related in some way). My 6D came with one about four-ish years ago, and it still works (even with my 5D Mark IV). I ended up buying a second one when I got my 5D Mark IV to make it a matched pair. :-)

By contrast, the cheap third-party batteries that came with my 6D's third-party battery grip (and the replacements for those after the first two failed) all had chips, too, but the chips stopped working after random periods of time ranging from days to months. I went through... I think six of them before concluding that it wasn't worth bothering to keep asking them to replace the batteries.

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If you buy quality third party batteries, such as SterlingTek or MaximalPower from reputable sources you should get just as good performance as the OEM Canon batteries at a significant savings.

Another thing to consider is that the genuine OEM batteries are more likely to be counterfeited and passed off as genuine by shady sellers. Fake third party batteries aren't near as common. After all, if you're going to make a cheap fake, why not mimic the version that sells for $60 instead of the version that sells for $20 or $10 or $5? If you buy a 'genuine" battery from an unauthorized seller it is highly likely you have bought a fake. If you buy "genuine" or third party batteries from authorized, reputable sources you are much more likely to get what you think you are paying for.

The Maximal Power versions of the Canon LP-E6 I bought from amazon.com function just like the OEM batteries supplied with my cameras. So do the SterlingTek LP-E6 batteries I've bought via amazon and the Watson batteries I've bought from B&H. They charge on the same charger, the camera reads the serial # in the battery, and displays the charge level, number of shots, recharge performance, and remembers the date and charge state the last time each battery was used in the camera.¹

These reputable brands are still about 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of Canon OEM.

I also used SterlingTek batteries for my Rebel XTi and 50D. The SterlingTek NB2LH and BP-511A were every bit as good as the Canon batteries for those cameras. The 2200mAH SterlingTek BP-511As lasted much longer per charge than the Canon BP-511A 1390mAH originals. I also tried some of the really cheap generic versions for the XTi and had less than stellar results. They didn't last as long per charge and didn't last as many charge/discharge cycles before they would no longer take a full charge.


¹Not specific to the 5D, 5D Mark II, or 7D but applicable to the 5D Mark III or 7D Mark II and later:

Older LP-E6 third party batteries made prior to around 2012-13 don't fully communicate with Canon bodies released since about 2013 (including the 2012 5D Mark III if the camera was shipped with or updated to firmware version 1.2.3 released in August 2013 or later). The newer chargers supplied since 2013 will also balk at charging the older third party batteries, but do just fine with the newer third party versions that have the newer firmware introduced around 2013 embedded in them.

The older third party batteries, when charged with an older Canon charger or a third party charger, will still power the newer cameras perfectly fine, they just don't give detailed information regarding shutter count since last charge, recharge performance, etc. With some cameras you will be asked to confirm what type of battery you are using.

Canon periodically updates the battery protocol, apparently just to discourage use of third party batteries. Canon older batteries are not (supposed to be²) affected because the firmware in the older batteries already contain some "secret" lines of code that are only needed with the updated protocols. When the newer camera detects a battery without the hidden code it will give you the message to try and scare you into only buying Canon batteries.

² When Canon updated the LP-E6 battery to the LP-E6N and revised the LC-E6E charger they had an issue with many older OEM Canon LP-E6 batteries not charging properly in the new charger.

Since the third party battery manufacturers reverse engineer their batteries, they didn't include the "hidden code" in older copies of their LP-E6 replacements that were reverse engineered from the older Canon batteries upon which they were based because the older cameras do not interact with the "hidden" lines of code.

It's all a cat and mouse game. It usually only takes a few weeks for the top third party battery makers to crack the new protocol and include it in their copies. I use MaximalPower (Amazon is the only authorized seller) and Sterling Tek third party batteries. My older ones function fully in the 5DII and 7D, but have the limited functionality in the 5DIII and 7DII. My newer third party batteries from MaximalPower and Sterling Tek also fully function in the 5DIII and 7DII. The third party batteries seem to also handle more charge/discharge cycles before their performance noticeably degrades. That may be one reason why Canon plays such games: their own batteries aren't as good as the best third party batteries. There are a lot of crappy third party batteries too, though.

For more about using third party batteries, please see:
Why do cameras use proprietary batteries?
Should the INFO display show the status of both batteries in a Canon battery grip?
Should I buy an original manufacturer battery, or is a generic brand OK?

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