ACE Camera Photography Magazine

Can't Find The Battery Your Camera Needs?
Overcoming the Mercury Battery Ban

If you can't find the right battery for your old camera or light meter, there's a reason. Anticipating a ban, major manufacturers worldwide stopped making mercury batteries more than three years ago because of environmental concerns. Spent batteries end up in landfills where they eventually erode and contaminate the soil and ground water.

Millions of perfectly functioning older cameras and light meters have been affected by this decision. More than 100 cameras and meters made by famous names such as Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Gossen and Sekonic depended on the 1.35 volt PX-13 (also known as the PX-625) mercury battery.

Camera manufacturers did not protest this decision nor have they offered any solutions for the owners. Instead they saw this as a windfall opportunity to sell millions of new cameras.

Major battery manufacturers haven't been helpful either. Alkaline batteries offered as replacements for the PX-13 / PX-625 and the PX-675 are poor substitutes for the reliably consistent voltage supplied by dependable mercury photo batteries.

Wein Cells are
mercury-free photo batteries

Buy Wein Cells

For example, Duracell's new 1.5 volt PX-625 alkaline battery yields inaccurate light meter readings and underexposed pictures. In the first place, it's the wrong voltage. If the 1.5 volts were consistent it would be relatively easy to manually compensate for this, but alkaline batteries (unlike mercury cells) decline in voltage during their lifespan making it near impossible to accurately adjust the meter reading. rta also makes an alkaline substitute.

Cameras and meters using the alkaline substitute have been reported to be inaccurate by as much as 1.5 stops. This is a total disaster for photographers who shoot slide film. Even a one-half stop exposure mistake with transparency film can mean the difference between a perfect slide and garbage, especially in contrasty lighting situations.

If you shoot only color print and b/w film, are willing to manually overexpose every image (you'll have to determine by how much through trial-and-error) and you're willing to discard and replace the alkaline battery well before it expires (another guessing game) then the Duracell substitute is a marginal solution.

Once you understand the pitfalls and limitations associated with using the alkaline substitute battery, you'll want to examine other more desirable solutions to keep your old camera in perfect working order. Some solutions are better than others

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Revised July 16, 2009