There have been some complaints about the Sony a7RII battery drain when turned off. There have always been complaints about how fast the camera drains its pint-sized batteries when the camera is on. So far, the discussions have been usually qualitative, and, even when quantitative, not reproducible. I thought that there was probably a way to make some tests that did not suffer from either lack of quantitative precision, or inability for others to reproducer the results.
I already had an external ac power supply that used a coaxial power connector to connect the ac-to-dc converter box to the battery-looking thingie that plugs into the battery compartment of the camera. I measured the outside of the male end of the power connector. at 5.46 mm using a lovely old entirely mechanical Starrett micrometer. I looked at Mouser for connectors of that size. There seemed to be a lot of 5.5 mm by 2.1 mm power connectors. I figured I probably had a pair of those. Spurning Mouser in search of instant gratification, I went to Amazon and ordered a package of 5 male and 5 female 5.5×2.1 connectors with screw terminals on the non-coaxial ends.
They arrived today, not 20 hours after I ordered them.
I connected the negative terminals with a black piece of hookup wire, and used two red wires on the positive ones, so that I ended up with an arrangement like this:
I connected a Fluke multimeter, wired as an ammeter, between the red terminals, and hooked the breakout device above in between the two halves of the third party external power supply, and turned on the camera, then turned it off again:
This shows the camera drawing 3.69 milliamps. The Sony battery is rated at 7.2 volts. Lemme see… “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, power equals I squared R; little star up in the sky, power equals E times I.” 26.6 milliwatts. Since the OEM Sony battery is rated at 7.3 watt-hours, that much current draw would deplete a fully-charged battery in about 274 hours. That’s not very long.
However, if you wait for five minutes, the drain drops to 1.22 ma, or 8.78 mw, or 831 hours. That’s more than a month.
It may drop further if the camera is off even longer; I’ll be doing some more testing there.
I found out some other interesting things. Internet scuttlebutt says the EVF consumes more power than the LCD. but that’s not what I found: LCD: 293 ma, and EVF: 256 ma. The camera consumes 14% more power with the LCD on. That’s when switching is set to manual and display brightnesses are set to manual and default.
Turning SteadyShot on with the camera on a tripod made essentially no difference in the power consumed, with a dumb adapter and a third party lens, and the camera on a tripod.
I’ll be doing more testing in the coming days.
I had worked out why the EVF is claimed to use more power than the LCD but I’ve had the Sony a7rII for so long that I’ve forgotten what my results were. From what I remember, it was something to do with the default configuration of the camera (perhaps it uses both screens, again I can’t remember because it’s been such a long time since I’ve had a default setup.) I found the most efficient setup was to have the “recycle bin” button set to switch screens manually, and I’ve left it like that ever since. When it’s set to EVF and I move away from the camera, no screen is enabled. The EVF draws even less current if it’s showing black pixels by the way; you may already know this but I felt it was worth mentioning. If you’re interested in this stuff, you might want to try a similar test with a DSLR; you’ll find that when shooting, they draw a lot of current.
Your math is potentially wrong; I say “potentially” because I don’t know how Sony rates their batteries. Most battery manufacturers rate the capacity of the cells in parallel because it sounds more impressive e.g. 1080 mAh @ 3.6v not 7.2v (3.6v x 2 cells = 7.2v); therefore, 540 mAh @ 7.2v when wired in series.
My camera has the battery drain problem. It’s really mysterious, and the batteries can drain a lot after not using it for a week. I’ve tried enabling or disabling the remote and other stuff. I had an initial theory it was related to the built in button cell to keep the clock time, but that’s not really logical. I have no idea, and perhaps it doesn’t matter. If Lithium batteries are stored at 100%, then after 1 year they can hold about 80% of their original charge e.g. a 1080 mAh battery would be about 800 mAh. If they’re stored at 40%, they can hold about 96% of their original capacity (at about 25c). My statistics and temperature might be slightly off; it’s been a while since I played around with Lithium batteries. I’m sure Google will clarify this if I’ve made a mistake. Storing Lithium batteries at 100% is definitely a bad idea; obviously everyone does it because they want the camera to be ready when they go to use it. When I flew radio controlled helicopters, I used Lithium receiver packs and I would always discharge them to about 40% after I had finished flying for the weekend. I digress…
The fault presented itself after I updated the firmware the first time, but equally when I was running firmware version 1.0 or whatever the firmware version was when I first got the camera, I had not put my camera down for a week without using it. For that reason, it’s likely that the fault wouldn’t have been able to present itself. Theoretically it could be related to the firmware but as stated, the variables changed, thereby rendering the conclusion void. Lastly, in case it’s of any help, my batteries are stored at 21.5c.
Thank you for doing these tests. I really hope you discover the fault. It’s good your camera doesn’t have the fault but equally it would be more helpful if it did.
Why don’t you do the same tests that I did or your camera?
I didn’t use the ma-hr ratings at all. The watt-hour ratings wouldn’t be subject to that kind of reprehensible twisting of the facts, would they?
Rhawi Dantas says
Wow, great testing Jim.
Since you have the gear at hand could you do some IBIS testing, ON/OFF, to find out power usage?
My mistake, I assumed you used the mAh ratings to calculate the watt-hour ratings; I didn’t realise the watt-hour ratings were stated on the battery–it is highly unlikely a manufacturer would lie about them.
In regards to testing, I’d have to buy some equipment to do it and even if I did get results different to yours, it wouldn’t tell me what’s causing the problem or how to fix the problem. The drain is so drastic that I know there’s a problem, and the batteries do not drain when they are out of the camera, but I don’t know where to begin in terms of finding a cure. I respect those that examine things objectively and it helps purchasing decisions a lot. But in this case, I’m not sure what I can do with said information.
I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 7. You may have seen the news recently where they have been recalled due to them being deemed as a fire hazard. I believe I’ve found an additional fault that explains why some have caught on fire (excluding the known manufacturing fault) but talking to a Samsung technician has proven to be difficult. Likewise, when I emailed Sony a while back, there was no one I could talk to about this fault, and nothing has been done about it.
In another context, I’ve been asked what the camera might be doing with the power it draws when it it nominally off.
That would require speculation, but it its clear that there is a real-time clock (RTC) in the camera, and such a clock requires some power. The reason an engineer would include such a clock is to provide a better user experience: otherwise the user would have to set the time recorded in the EXIF data every time the camera is turned on. There is probably an internal battery so that you don’t have to reset the time every time you change batteries, but that battery needs to be charged at some point.
It is also possible that some configuration settings are stored in volatile memory instead of flash memory, and that those memory cells need to be powered — and possibly, although not likely, refreshed — in order to preserve those settings. The same thing that I said above about the internal battery applies to this as well.
It also appears likely that the camera has several different states of readiness when the switch is turned to off. I say that because of the disparate current draws. One possible reason to do this would be to decrease the bootup time, and thus provide a more pleasant user experience. I would guess that usage scenario analysis would indicate that the camera is more likely to be turned on in the next unit time when it’s been off for a long time than when it’s been off for a short time, thus the higher draw soon after shutdown than long after shutdown. I have noticed that the camera takes longer to boot up when it has been off for a considerable period of time than otherwise.
The current draw as measured against time after shutdown does not appear to bee monotonic, indicating that there may be some complex strategy on the part of the design engineers.
By the way, I have yet to encounter a digital camera that didn’t drain the batteries to some extent when the power was off.
With your measurement a full charged battery should be able to keep EVF on for as long as 4 hours, but in Sony spec list its rated only 1 hour. Of course they use a realistic test which includes AF, driving lens and image processing perhaps, but even sum of all those tasks shouldn’t make such a big difference.
I will be doing dynamic testing in the future, but I need to get some new equipment and develop a test protocol to do so. Stay tuned.
This post of yours inspired me to play around a little bit.
These cameras use a Linux operating system, and the playmemories apps run inside a form of Android; the main operating system is not Android, even if Android is based on Linux. To keep things simple, the camera runs two operating systems. I think it’s messy but that’s a separate subject altogether. It occurred to me there’s a possible coding conflict.
I have since decided to reset my camera and I have set the clock, dials, function buttons and whatnot but I have left the playmemories apps alone.
After 48 hours, there seems to be no sign of battery drain. After a few days, I will set up playmemories and do the test again. I should probably buy the necessary equipment but if I replicate the same test, at least it’s objectively fair.
Scratch that. 42% to 16% in about a day.
Max Berlin says
I just did a 2 week European vacation with a Nikon D810, AF lenses and still had over half of a battery showing when I got back. Every one of my photos had 14 bit color. I don’t miss Sony at all.
I find I hardly use my D810 any more. Between what the D5 does very well, and what the a7RII does excellently, there’s not much left for the D810 in my utility Venn diagram. That’s not to say that the D810 is not a great camera. If I didn’t have the other two, I’m sure I’d use it a lot.
Max Berlin says
I didn’t follow it close enough but the certainty of getting a 14 bit photo from the Sony A7rii is still very dependent on a number of settings being correct. Is that true? The other thing is I prefer not to reward bad behavior. The A7r and subsequent lack of support killed decades of Sony fandom (going back to Betamax,, Hi-8 and Mini-Disc) I simply won’t buy their products again. (VW also) F’em. There are better corporations and corporate citizens to send my money to.
Yes. Single shot shutter mode, LENR off, no bulb exposures.
I understand your way of thinking, but it’s the way I usually make purchase decisions. I have a 6.5-year-old Audi A3 TDI with close to 100K miles on the clock that has run flawlessly save its now-well-documented emissions sins. VW is buying it back for 60% of what I paid for it. I’ve never had a car depreciate so little. I’m getting an A3 e-tron. I also have an S6 that is the second-best car I ever owned. I’m not trading it in. That’s not to excuse VW’s behavior in the emissions areas; it was truly reprehensible.
I don’t own any Olympus gear, but I would buy it if I wanted it, and what they’ve done is IMHO worse than VW.
That said, my experiences with Sony have been just fine, as have my experiences with Nikon. Leica, not so much. Thank goodness there are great independent shops that work on Leica gear.