I am in a possession of a Samsung Digimax S 700, typically peacefully residing in the glove compartment of my car. I need the camera very occasionally (say, once a month) for everyday-type of photos such as photos of friends, family, nature, the contents of a whiteboard, small text on contracts I'm signing, etc. The camera is powered by two NiMH AA batteries, which are about 10 years old and are of low–self-discharge type; the brand is Soligor; the marking says "TYP. 2100 mAh, MIN. 1900 mAh". As of today, the maximal charge of a single battery is about 1700 mAh – 1800 mAh.

When my batteries are charged one day before usage or less, the camera works without any problems for 10–20 photos, a short video, or more. No problem. Same when I'm using fresh Alkaline cells. If there is a limit on the number of photos taken, I have not hit it yet.

However, if the batteries have been charged about a week before usage or more, the camera can be turned on, but this action apparently drains so much power that the camera usually stops working right after being turned on; the lens remains extended. With the same batteries, the lens cannot be retracted again; the remaining charge is apparently not sufficient to turn the camera on again (one has to recharge the batteries first to reach that goal). With a lot of luck, in seldom cases, after being turned on, the camera continues working, and one can press the big shooting button to try to take a picture, but, after pressing the button, the camera turns off, with the lens still outside. Again, one cannot turn on the camera and retract the lens with the same pack of batteries (one has to re-charge them first).

If the battery pack is stored outside of the camera, the interval between charging and shooting can be prolonged by 1–2 days, not more. I tried to replace the battery pack by two non-Eneloop NiMH batteries with capacity 2100 mAh per battery; the result was the same. I tried to use Alkaline batteries instead: the first usage for taking a few photos was o.k., but the second usage a few weeks later did not succeed: the camera could be turned on, but after being turned on, the camera was dead after extending the lens as described above.

The camera was at a repair shop (which I don't trust but which the original seller trusted) 10 years ago. They discovered no fault but suggested that the camera be used with batteries of capacity exceeding 2600 mAh. I have not found any useful battery pack on the market then, and I still cannot find such now. (High-capacity NiMH batteries all lose charge very quickly, not suitable for my purposes.)

Some old, non-digital cameras had an internal capacitor which took the necessary charge from the battery while the camera had been turned on. The capacitor served as the intermediate power source for the next photo. Inside that old camera, Alkaline cells could be stored for several years, and the camera still worked after being turned on. If such a camera with an intermediate power source were digital, I would be happy with it. However, I am unaware of such cameras today.

My question: given that I would like to shoot photos once a month at previously unknown times (and, ideally, would like to keep batteries inside the camera to maintain the current date, which is necessary for Digimax S 700) rather than recharge the batteries the day before using the camera, is there any trick that would still make this camera useful to me for the aforementioned purpose?

(Or should I get rid of this camera? In this case, which camera of approximately the same size as Samsung Digimax S700 would not have the aforementioned issue? The only alternative for me would be to use the smartphone Apple SE, iOS version 10.3.3 instead of a proper camera.)

  • You say that a smartphone has neither a flash nor a retractable lens. Many (all?) modern smartphones have a flash, and the lens functions without any extending/retraction required. – osullic Aug 31 '17 at 13:42
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    What is the average ambient temperature in the glovebox when you remove the camera/batteries? Is it very cold or very hot? – Michael C Aug 31 '17 at 16:45
  • I'd suspect that the camera is faulty. Alkaline AA's have a substantially higher initial terminal voltage than NimH and a good brand will supply over 5A in short bursts for some while. I've seen older cameras behave similarly - no guarantee that the reason is the same but "dried out electrolytic capacitor(s)" may well cause this sort of fault. These degrade with time even when unpowered at a wer-out rate that doubles for every 10 degrees C increase in temperature. So very high temperatures will accelerate the rate (eg a factor of 4 for 20 C increase). – Russell McMahon Sep 1 '17 at 14:42
  • amzn.eu/0tca0tS may solve your issue – dav1dsm1th Sep 1 '17 at 18:05
  • @LeonMeier I'd replace the camera. However, a 2100 mAh Eneloop is a superb battery, will retain most of its charge for years, and is liable to have a superior discharge capability to most or all NimH cells 10 years ago. YTou can get a higher again capacity Eneloop but it has a substantially shorter cycle life and is not overly likely tpo better solve your problems. || All electronic devices have internal "decoupling" capacitors and one or a few filter capacitors associated with internal power supply stages. These are what I had in mind when I mentioned capacitors. Some devices will use ... – Russell McMahon Sep 2 '17 at 11:19

NiMH batteries have a fully charged voltage that is lower than a standard alkaline AA. A partially discharged NiMH battery (or an NiMH battery that's been stored for a while) will have an even lower voltage. For occasional use I'd recommend getting some Lithium AA batteries. They're relatively expensive, but their energy density is high, and their self-discharge rate is extremely low. They also retain their capacity when temperatures are below freezing.

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    Yes. They maintain their (higher) voltage, they have a quite high energy density, they are environmentally robust, and their peak current (for flash photography) is quite high. They are not, however, rechargeable. – BobT Aug 31 '17 at 16:22

If the camera is not operating acceptably despite several changes of batteries, then batteries are unlikely to be the problem. The internet tells me that the camera became available in 2006.

Or should I get rid of this camera?

Yes. It was a relatively inexpensive camera ($250 list) a decade ago. It has been subject to adverse conditions in the glovebox of a car.

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    Current offerings that use AA batteries (if there are any left) will likely tolerate the nominal 1.25V of NiMH batteries better than older devices designed to be used with alkaline batteries that are 1.5V+ when fully charged. Most current offerings are designed with a specific rechargeable battery to power them. – Michael C Aug 31 '17 at 17:17
  • @MichaelClark There appear to be several disposable battery powered cameras currently available in the US, bhphotovideo.com/c/… – user50888 Aug 31 '17 at 17:46
  • @LeonMeier If it works, then I don't see what the question is. – user50888 Aug 31 '17 at 23:29
  • @LeonMeier If it's always done what it's doing now, that sounds much more like it has always been defective than a battery issue. The Google translate of this page suggests more than 200 images on a pair of batteries. – user50888 Sep 1 '17 at 2:34

The problem seems to be with the way you are storing the batteries. Batteries are good old analog chemical devices. Many chemical reactions, including the various chemistries used in most types of consumer batteries, are affected by temperature.

If the glovebox is very hot or very cold (say, approaching above 40ºC or below 0ºC) it will alter the chemistry of whatever battery you leave there for extended periods. Try putting a fresh, unused set of alkaline batteries in the glovebox for several weeks before first use and see what happens.

  • If it is consistently around 40ºC in the glovebox the voltage will drop a lot more than 0.01V over several weeks. Consider that an alkaline battery outputting around 1.15V is considered 'DEAD' by most battery testers. – Michael C Aug 31 '17 at 16:59
  • Test it and see so that you know instead of just 'think' it may not be the issue. – Michael C Aug 31 '17 at 17:05
  • For older high drain devices NiMH batteries are already borderline at 1.25V output when fully charged. The advantage of NiMH is that the voltage doesn't drop as much while they are used. Devices designed for them can tolerate 1.25V much more than many devices designed before they became widespread. But temperature variations also affect the chemistry of NiMH (and Lithium) batteries. – Michael C Aug 31 '17 at 17:14
  • @LeonMeier For maximal battery life, and maximal useful charge, batteries should be stored cold, and used warm. Using a cold battery right away results in a lower voltage immediately, coupled with a shorter useful energy draw. When allowed to warm up, the batteries' voltage actually rises, and so does the ability to deliver current on demand, meaning the total delivery of energy of a single charge is correspondingly higher. However, using them when they're too hot reduces the total charge storage capacity, meaning subsequent recharges aren't as useful. – scottbb Aug 31 '17 at 17:47
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    @LeonMeier Assuming battery voltage and battery usage temperature is the problem, then the suggestion is... keep the batteries (or camera, if you want to keep the batteries in the camera) at a more moderate temperature. Probably the easiest way to deal with that is to change camera, to just use the cell phone camera you have, assuming you keep the cell phone at a moderate temperature (such as in your pocket). Again, assuming the problem is battery voltage and temperature, something has got to change. I'm not sure that battery voltage & temperature is the problem, though. – scottbb Aug 31 '17 at 19:10

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