Text and Photos by Bob Warkentin
"I don't have to think about nothin' with the automatic Nikonos V"
"But I change batteries all the time!"
"So, how often do I change camera batteries?"
"But, why? That's too expensive!"
"What kind of battery should I use?"
"But which type is the best?"
"Can I store the batteries up-side-down in the camera so the batteries won't drain?"
"Do I really have to change batteries every 3 days, even if they are "Photo" or 357 type silver-oxide?"
"Now that I've got the right batteries for the camera, how do I test the electronic operations?"
Nikonos V Operations and Evaluation - Mechanical Check: | Electronic Check:
Riiiiight! If you believe this, then you probably are the one who believes there are such things as light bulbs guaranteed for a "life time" or "maintenance-free" batteries that last forever.
The fact is something makes the automatic Nikonos V work. If you are not the one doing the thinking and controlling for the camera, then who is? It's the electronics who are doing the thinking, but only when powered by the CAMERA BATTERIES - not the STROBE BATTERIES!
Of course, you carry an abundance of batteries - STROBE BATTERIES - on every dive trip. After every two or three rolls of film, you change batteries - STROBE BATTERIES. And even better, the strobe itself gives you all these indicators telling you when to change batteries: (1) low pitch humming sound of the strobe charging; (2) longer and longer recycle time. So, the buying and changing of batteries - STROBE BATTERIES - becomes a paramount issue in the preparation of the upcoming photo/'dive trip. Unfortunately, divers do not realize that the strobe batteries do not control the "Thinking" of the camera system. It's the camera batteries which control the strobe (TTL), ASA, A (auto), LED's and so on and all at the same time.
Generally, the smartest thing is to change the camera batteries every 3 days of diving. That's right, every 3 days. Especially if you shoot two rolls of film each day.
Simple: batteries which control the camera's electronics and the camera's TTL monitoring for the Strobe cost around $4.00 (if you are a wise shopper). However, each roll of 36 exposure slide film cost about $7.00, and about $6.00 developing ($10.00 on an island), not to mention the cost of the trip. All this cost just to find out that $4.00 worth of batteries were not any good.
Next, most people expect the battery supplied with the camera to be good for many years. However, as explained on page 77 of your instruction manual, "the battery packed with this camera . . . . . . is for test purposes only so its life span may be shorter than usual."
Last and most important is the fact that a Nikonos V will only operate properly if the camera battery power is above 2.65V Below 2.65V, the LED's still work, but the shutter speeds (when camera is in "A" mode) no longer maintain a 1/90 Sec. electronically when coupled to a SB model strobe. In this case, the shutter speeds will vary from 1 / 10 to 1 / 15 Sec. giving a nearly 2 f-stop overexposure. If the power drops to 2.55V or lower, the LED's may just come on and go off immediately, but the shutter speeds will be operating up to 1/1000 Sec., causing the pictures to be black. (photo 1)
In short, the camera isn't thinking right due to its $4.00 battery headache.
For a Nikonos V, as explained on page 79 of your manual, there are only 3 types available: one lithium 3V (CR 1/3 type), two alkaline-manganese 1.5V (LR-44 type), or two silver-oxide 1.5 (SR-44 type). (photo 2)
Certainly not the type of 3V battery supplied with the camera. This battery is a lithium 3V (CR 1/3 type) which may have a 3-year shelf life but a very short "work" life. Remember, it is intended for "test purposes" of the camera. Also, its voltage discharge curve is a sloping curve and doesn't hold a voltage level for very long above the 2.65V required for the camera "to think" correctly.
As for the 1.5V alkaline-manganese (LR-44 type), it is designed to provide only an economical (cheap) source of power. It has also a sloping discharge curve which means that just like the lithium battery, it won't last long. Even when it's working, or at least you think it is, you can experience results like the 3V lithium.
Now, to the 1.5V silver-oxide (SR-44 type) batteries. Finally this is the one for you. But which one. There is a D-76, MS76, PX76, 357 and others: all silver-oxide, all 1.5V, and all the same size. (photo 3)
First and foremost, silver-oxide far outlast lithium or alkaline-manganese batteries, and their voltage discharge curves are flat at 1.5V over their long useful life. However, of the silver-oxide, the best are the "Photo Use" 76's and 357. By, the way, anytime you see the letter "P" on a battery, it always denotes photographic use intended.
Although the type 357 is labeled "Watch /Calculator Battery," both the "Photo '76" and the 357 have identical flat voltage discharge curves at 1.5V each and which should last 5-10 times longer than lithium or alkaline-manganese batteries in a Nikonos Camera. Remember, the camera's voltage requirements must always he maintained above 2.65V for correct electronic camera operations. Thus, the 357 is in my opinion the only suitable replacement battery if you can not get "Photo '76"ers.
This is a frequently asked question. (However. in terms of multiple choice answers, the answer is either: (1) A dumb question (2) No (3) Yes, if you want to destroy the expensive electronics (4) Don't ask me to be your dive buddy.) This is like asking if mounting the battery backwards on your car will cause damage. The answer is don't do it. You run the risk of damage to expensive electronics when you forgot they were put in backwards 6 months ago and begin operating the camera today.
Don't store batteries in the camera. Wrap them in paper or plastic to keep them from touching and use an empty film canister labeled "batteries" for a storage compartment.
No, if the cost of an unsuccessful photo/dive trip is of any importance to you. Even though these batteries are the best of the best, change them.
Believe it or not, all the equipment you need for checking the electronic operations of the strobe and camera is the equipment itself and a little knowledge.
The camera has 3 mechanical speeds when no electronic functions (no battery or weak battery) are in operation. These are: (1) B (time exposure) where the shutter is held open for as long as you like. (2) M90 (1/90 Sec.), and (3) all remaining speed settings which function at 1/1000 Sec. with no or very weak electronic current. Procedures:
The above checks will verify both the mechanical and electrical operations of both camera and strobe as being in good condition before diving.
Reprinted with permission from Bob Warkentin's Southern Nikonos Service Center, Inc.
9459 Kempwood, Houston, TX 77080 713/462-5436