The Canon R5 has monster capabilities, and with it, monster power draw when used in certain high-performance modes. To account for this, rather than reduce the maximum capabilities of the camera, Canon did two things: they created different modes that the camera could fall to when it was supplied with less power; and it created a battery – the LP-e6NH – that provided a higher wattage for a longer period of time.
They also finally enabled USB charging *with* running the camera while on. Some of these learnings – like the fact that USB batteries of 30 watts or greater will power the camera in addition to charging batteries when the camera is off – are undocumented in Canon materials.
Many incorrectly believe that the LP-e6NH has slightly more usable power than its predecessor the LP-e6N, or the original LP-e6. Real-world tests using dozens of individual batteries over a half-year period with special hardware prove that the newer models don’t push more milliamp hours of power out to the camera over the course of a full charge when battery age and use is accounted for. But the newest batteries do have a special capability: they can keep their wattage up over a certain threshold through the use of about 2/3rds of the battery, maximizing the ability of battery users to employ the most power-hungry modes of the camera – particularly the highest framerate while using mechanical shutter – 12 frames per second (FPS).
The Massive Differences Between the LP-e6, the LP-e6N and the LP-e6NH
To add even more variables to the mix, sometimes the best solution for certain users is to use external batteries attached to a “dummy battery” shaped like an LP-e6 and connected via a D-Tap interface (shown below). Higher end video users will be familiar with this sort of battery arrangement, but it is less commonly seen in the stills community. This article will introduce the benefits of D-Tap and the cost-efficiency of buying the larger video-oriented batteries for some projects.
We tested all of these solutions (and several other, crazier ones that we don’t recommend) and have collected field input to chart out the capabilities, limitations and real-world notes. No EOS R5 cameras were hurt over the course of this project. The last time we conducted experimental battery tech, we blew up a 5D Mark IV and a 70D using an unregulated dummy battery cord made in China, and later one of our own (apparently poor) design. [Ed. note: Canon Professional Services replaced main boards in both cameras at no cost, despite our honesty in describing exactly how we’d abused the cameras. They’ve been a consistent ally.]
This article is the product of half a year of intense, deliberate use of two R5 bodies and one R6 body, with the cameras being left outdoors multiple times in below 0 Fahrenheit temperatures for days or weeks at a time. Earlier CFexpress card tests, burning up hundreds of thousands of mechanical shutter clicks, were exploited for double duty to get information on battery effects.
Even with all of that direct, real-world experience, there were many things we would have missed had not the online communities on FredMiranda.com, CanonRumors.com and DPReview.com hosted intelligent, data-driven conversations on battery issues. Many learnings were first observed there and confirmed with tests. This article could not have been written without those contributors in the community. We hope this article will partly return the favor.
Ways to Power an R5
Think of it this way: an R5 has two plugs into which power can flow. There is the battery compartment, and there is the USB-C connection. Both of those receptacles can attach to several different types of power sources. Both can attach to USB batteries or a wall plug. The battery compartment can also take LP-e6NH batteries and similar. It can also – via a dummy battery – connect to a seemingly endless number of other batteries in various ways.
The battery grips Canon sells just allow putting two batteries in at a time. Interestingly, whether gripped or ungripped, the USB power appears to be routed through the batteries, as in neither case will the camera power on with just a direct USB connection.
Let’s Start Simple: Real-World LP-e6NH Performance Comparisons
Camnostic tested 22 LP-e6NH batteries over the course of the six months since their release. The data over that time included up to 15 full depletion and recharges shows a gradually descending power capacity, moving from an average of 2.04 amp hours to 1.93 amp hours…
The granular data are messier than the red trend line above suggests. To the right are the individual courses over time for the batteries.
If extrapolated for a decade or so, one might expect the NH version of the batteries to meet the current performance of the aged LP-e6 and LP-e6N versions. We had the opportunity to test unused LP-e6 and ‘N variants, and they behaved similarly to the new ‘NH versions.
The blue and orange bars to the left show the average recharge performance of about a dozen used and abused LP-e6 and LP-e6N batteries respectively. The LP-e6N batteries do outperform the LP-e6 batteries, but this is likely due to the “N” batteries being about five years younger on average. When new versions of those batteries were tested, they were all about equivalent to the ‘NH batteries.
The main downside to using one of the older batteries is that the R5 and R6 cameras’ firmware treat those older batteries differently, disallowing the fastest mechanical shutter frame rate modes. This means that your 12 frames per second (FPS) shooting – considered by many to be a perfectly acceptable or preferable to the electronic shutter’s 20 FPS – suddenly drops to 9 FPS, or heaven forbid, 7 FPS.
The same disadvantages seen with obsolete Canon batteries happens with third party batteries imitating the LP-e6 and LP-e6N types. But, worse, more modern camera firmware will put up a dialog box upon first turning on the camera with one of these third party batteries, asking if you recognize that this isn’t a genuine Canon battery. This “feature,” seemed at first a nice effort to try to winnow out of the market manufactures who were selling fake Canon batteries. But the main result today is that if you have a remote camera out in the field, and it needs to restart for any reason, your remote rig is now useless unless a solution is figured out to keep remote cameras on indefinitely.
Unfortunately, all current dummy batteries are treated as third party LP-e6 batteries, not the native NH variant, no matter the power source to which it connects. This means that no dummy battery solution will access the full framerate for mechanical shutter – although silent shutter will of course still provide the even higher 20 FPS. We have found that most use cases for the remote cameras – where this problem would toll the greatest – are exactly the ones where electronic shutter is appropriate, such as remote cameras outdoors on wildlife sites, or remote setups in sports arenas, so this does mitigate the number of times this problem proves a frustration.
Sweet, Sweet GH+
Mwah, Mwah, Mwaaah
Below you can see a bar chart of the frame rates achieved by the various modes. Canon uses an icon (seen above) on the left-hand side of the viewfinder or back screen to indicate what frame rate mode the camera is in at the time. Electronic shutter shows 20 frames per second across the board. It’s lower power draw allows it to be unhindered by the batteries. We’ll concentrate on trying to achieve the fastest mechanical shutter frame rates, particularly the Green H+ (above left and referred to in this article as GH+), which indicates shooting at 12 FPS. If your H+ turns white (above right), you’re shooting at about 9 FPS, and if it starts to blink on you, you’re already down to 7 FPS.
Even though the older batteries can provide the needed wattage – if for a shorter period of time – they do not identify themselves as an LP-e6NH battery, so the R5 does not allow them to access the larger power draw modes. Interestingly, four companies are now producing third party “NH” batteries. Those brands are Big Mike (BM), Watson, Powerextra and Neewer. All of them will identify to the camera as an LP-e6NH, and all of them will access all framerate modes. However, they will do so for only about half of the duration of an actual Canon NH battery before the camera automatically reverts to lesser modes with lesser power draw. Below we show a comparison of all five available “NH-reporting” batteries.
All Currently Known LP-e6 Form Factor Batteries that Successfully Report as LP-e6NH
Real-World LP-e6NH Performance Comparisons
The chart shows the blue columns representing the gross usable power in the battery, with Canon winning by about 10-15 percent (left scale). The orange columns (right scale) represent the percentage of the battery’s power that is applicable in the higher wattage mode allowing for 12 FPS before the waning wattage fails over to a lesser framerate mode.
It is here that the Canon batteries are plainly superior. Users who shoot only in electronic shutter may never notice a functional difference between battery brands, but those who use mechanical shutter and require 12 FPS certainly will. A third party battery causing the GH+ 12 FPS mode to go away isn’t as terrible as it might seem when one can always just switch to electronic shutter and get a consistent 20 FPS. Few applications (rapid panning, for one) do call for mechanical shutter necessarily.
The Battery Grips
The Canon WFT-R10A grip – the $1,000 one – is significantly less capable than the $350 BG-R10 version in some key aspects. This is primarily because even if the wifi feature is turned off, it forces the R5 to consider any limitations associated with wifi to be in force. This means that the maximum framerate of the R5 employing this grip is 9 FPS, down from 12. There is no way to make the camera fully perform in mechanical shutter using that grip. Several calls to Canon Professional Services eventually confirmed this with some surprised CPS reps having to repeatedly double-check with higher-ups. This limitation does not seem rational, especially considering the specific market for which the WFT-R10A was designed: pro shooters with live hookups to photo desks. In the now-fraught choice of flagship cameras for sports, the Sony A1 now provides faster mechanical shutter.
The simpler BG-R10 (pictured above) works as one would expect. Not only will it allow for two NH batteries to be used to maximum effect, it will even allow a single Canon LP-e6NH battery couple with a third party LP-e6NH copy and maintain the higher frame rate mode until just the Canon battery gets below its threshold (typically <35 percent). This is the configuration in the image above, with a Neewer battery mated with a Canon NH battery. Because the third party batteries show roughly 90 percent the gross power capacity of the Canon versions, this means having one of each in the grip will almost double the time two third-party batteries will run at 12 FPS, as the firmware runs the batteries down together, not serially. Running two third party batteries would hit the lower FPS mode when they reached about 75 percent of capacity, about half that time. Interestingly, running either one or two older LP-e6 or LP-e6N batteries, however, would set the framerate down to 9 FPS from the get-go, indicating that those battery types are sensed and treated differently.
Using Power from the Grid
Canon includes a high-quality USB-C cord for connecting to a computer or to an external battery, but not a power supply that can connect to a wall. For that, Canon sells the optional $129 PD-E1, which will both charge and power the camera. A battery needs to be in the camera or grip in order for the wall power or external battery power to run the camera.
We tested the use of the PD-E1’s USB connection with just an unconnected dummy battery in the battery compartment to see if the wall power USB interface would work in that situation. It did not, even as it indicated a battery was charging with the little lightning symbol. An actual battery needs to be in the receptacle for the USB power to work. This is further evidence that the camera operates off of the battery even when it is plugged into wall power.
Unfortunately, the highest power output for the power supply is 9 volts at 3 amps (which makes for 27 watts, as you multiply volts and amps to get the wattage), below the threshold for 12 FPS in mechanical shutter. Our test showed an average of 9.3 frames per second with the PD-E1 power adapter. There is another way, though…
Using a High-Watt USB Battery
It isn’t a high proportion of them, but some USB batteries allow for higher wattage output. Using a good USB-C cord that supports the PD standard and a battery that outputs enough wattage will power the camera and charge the battery. As with the PD-E1 wall plug, this arrangement will allow for the 9 FPS capability and not the 12 FPS capability. [Ed note: Reader reports indicate that a 30-watt battery is sufficient for most, although there are cases where some 30-watt batteries do not work, including a couple of our own. The 45-, 60- and 90-watt batteries tested all work without exception so far. We are conducting more tests and welcome reader feedback on their own findings.]
The RavPower 90W 30,000 mAh PD External Battery Charging Away (Note the green light on the BG-R10 indicating which battery is soaking up the juice)
One downside to running the camera this way is that you have a cord sticking out of the left-hand side of your camera, and if someone stumbled or knocked the battery down, it could break USB connection. As Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz found in their tear-down of the R5, the USB and other ports on that side are attached directly to the main PCB – essentially the very expensive brain of the camera. The image below is from their excellent LensRentals blog tear-down post and is used with permission.
One partial protection from this would be to use the cord protector that came with the camera – that little, odd-looking plastic bit with a screw that you probably threw away or lost some months ago. Oddly, there doesn’t appear to be an aftermarket version of the cord protector available that doesn’t involve first nesting the camera in a video rig cage. Some L-brackets do provide some protection if offset such that there is some stand-off room between the bracket and the side of the camera with the ports.
If you use a battery that outputs 18 watts, it will charge the LP-e6NH (and only NH batteries) inside it when the camera is turned off. It will not run the camera, or charge the battery if the camera is on. A battery of less than 18 watt output, connected via the USB cable, would not do anything but to serve as an opportunity to crack your motherboard.
To run the camera with an external battery, it must provide more watts. This story was first published stating it required 45 watts, but at least one reader reports that a 30 watt battery was sufficient. We do know that some 30 watt batteries do not work, but we have not yet determined whether this is as designed, or a sign of wear. [Update, we purchased a 30-watt battery recommended by that user, and can confirm it can indeed run the camera.] We will report further.
The biggest downside to USB batteries – for some people at least – is the fact that they all seem to have firmware that causes them to sleep after a period of time with no draw, and a surprisingly high proportion of them require a button press or a USB port re-insertion to wake up. This makes using regular USB power bricks fraught for applications that require long periods of waiting. Some intervalometer setups, and certainly remote rigs for sports or wildlife can be ruined by this.
One way to mitigate it is to use a Tether Tools Case Relay connector (pictured above) between the USB battery and the camera. The Case Relay product not only provides a connection between a dummy battery and a USB battery, but it also has its own (roughly 1,000 mAh) internal battery that it uses as a buffer, allowing hot-swapping of USB batteries and also allowing it to sent “wake” signals to the USB battery when needed. In practical experience, though, this has proven to be flaky. It is difficult to determine which component causes failure in any given instance, but we do know that there have been times when USB battery firmware has prevented the wake signal from working after an extended period of time, and we also know that there have been times with the Case Relay battery has frozen in the cold much earlier than the larger USB battery, causing a general system failure – which of course fails to recover upon thawing due to Canon’s battery copy protection startup dialog boxes.
A Safer Solution
Some applications – like wildlife remote cameras – require lots of power to last days or weeks, and often in very cold conditions, where batteries can see their power halved just from the temperature. Camnostic will be producing a series of stories and interviews on that use case in the future. In the meantime, we tested out the large video camera batteries that have an established an at-scale market already with batteries that commonly reach 270 Watt Hours, or a little more 16 times the LP-e6NH’s actual measured performance.
Our favorite turned out to be a 98 watt hour battery from IndiProTools.com (Pictured at right…). It has the trifecta of useful interfaces: a D-Tap connection; a 7.4-volt 2.1mm connector compatible with most dummy batteries; and a simple USB port. All three work to power the R5, depending on what connection your dummy battery employs. It costs $99, comes with a charger, and costs only 25 percent more than a single Canon LP-e6NH battery, yet has the power of six of them. The non-D-Tap version is more popular and is more frequently sold out, but the most desirable one is the one that includes the D-Tap connection.
Unfortunately, like the other dummy batteries, the D-Tap-to-dummy-battery connectors available on the market so far act only as LP-e6 batteries, rendering the frame rate the “White Blinking H+” mode, or 7 FPS no matter the voltage. For remote setups, this is often a perfectly acceptable compromise in order to get the large, cheap batteries that provide reliable power without overly-clever sleep routines, but most times with those setups users are employing the e-shutter at 20 FPS anyway, making the power-related framerate irrelevant. The larger battery sizes available also lead to less freezing and generally higher reliability in the field.
For a particularly long remote camera set requiring no human intervention for weeks at a time (bobcat den), we drilled holes into a grip to provide for two dummy batteries to be placed, connected to two large D-Tap batteries, providing for six weeks of power. We used another battery, hacked to a thermostat part, to provide 5 volts to a small heating pad (originally designed to keep lizard tanks toasty) when the temperature in the cooler-enclosed battery pack got too cold. Setups running on an intervalometer turn out not to need the heating pad, as the slight consistent draw from the battery provides its own warmth from the inefficiency of battery-delivered power, provided the battery rests in an adequately-insulated cozy. For adequate insulation, we found that a well-wrapped battery inside a six-pack cooler worked great for this.
A single 98 Watt Hour battery photographed a barred owl nest on an intervalometer for more than 72 hours before finally reaching the last indicator light of power. The heat generated from simply taking a picture each minute kept the uninsulated battery from freezing in nights that reached 15 degrees F below freezing. The same setup running on the same night, but on an infra-red trigger rather than a constant-draw intervalometer froze solid, preventing the chemical reactions involved in the production of electricity.
The upshot is that the D-Tap batteries designed for video use can provide almost limitless power, without the danger of having something stick out of your USB slot. The D-Tap connector shoots over to the camera via a dummy battery in the battery slot. The downside: you don’t get maximum framerate in mechanical shutter because the known dummy batteries are LP-e6 dummy batteries and not LP-e6NH dummy batteries. Perhaps some enterprising engineer will figure out how to make one of those in the future.
Other Reasons for Slower FPS
Canon tells us we’ll get 12 frames per second so long as certain conditions remain true:
- The temperature needs to be warm enough, with the benchmark set at about room temperature
- It indicates that a Canon LP-e6NH needs to have at least about 60 percent juice left (although our tests show this can go consistently down to 35 percent and still perform at the fastest speed, provided it’s a Canon NH battery)
- Shutter speeds must be high enough to not infringe on the FPS rate, of course
Not Going to Cut It…
- Not connected to wifi
- Flicker reduction turned off
- Set to maximum aperture
To this we can add that power must be drawn from the battery compartment, rather than the USB interface.
As ever, field observations by readers prove very valuable. Have an additional tip, correction or another observation that might improve this review of power options? Please contact us here.