Don’t lose a shot, Keep your Sony NP-FW50 batteries topped off, even without an AC outlet.
Like Boy Scouts, photographers must prepare for the unexpected. During a recent shoot, I discovered that I was rapidly running out of fresh batteries.
I am never without sufficient NP-FW50 batteries because I always carry plenty of them. However, a perfect storm of events interrupted my usual routine of rejuvenating my batteries after I returned from a shoot.
It wasn’t a complete disaster; I had sufficient photos from early in the day so I was covered. Still, I wanted extra photos to enhance my report of the event.
No access to AC power
The event was outdoors, and I had no access to AC power for my charger. My truck was on hand, but I had no adapter that would allow me to charge NP-FW50 batteries with my vehicle.
I started to conserve my shots, trying to eke out the power in my last remaining cell. That really isn’t my style, however. Long ago, I learned to shoot anything that seemed remotely interesting and then discard any unwanted images afterward. Sometimes these random shots turn out to be my best images from an event.
That’s when inspiration struck. I had a portable power bank jump starter in my truck. It was designed to jump-start vehicles, but it featured a pair of USB ports.
Using an A6000 as a boondock Sony NP-FW50 charger
I have never used a USB cord to charge a battery in the camera. Instead, I have always used a stand-alone charger so I could continue shooting while I was charging my spare batteries.
Without a charger that could be used with a USB cord, I had no way to charge my depleted batteries. Yet I did have my Sony A6000, which I carried as a backup to my Sony A7s. Both cameras use the same NP-FW50 battery cell. Would it be possible to use the A6000 as an improvised battery charger?
Digging through the selection of cords I always carry, it didn’t take long to find a 12-inch long USB-A to USB Micro cable.
Can you charge a Sony NP-FW50 battery cell with a power bank?
I plugged the USB-A end into the Power Bank, then the Micro USB connector into the A6000. My hope of resurrecting my Sony NP-FW50 batteries shifted to disappointment when nothing happened. Frustrated, I was about to abandon this idea, but then I noticed the two USB outlets on the power bank were marked with different colors. I shifted the USB-A power cord to the second outlet marked in black. Immediately the A6000 charge lamp lit up. Apparently, the black outlet provided sufficient power to recharge an NP-FW50 battery, while the other outlet did not.
Of course, you shouldn’t go around plugging strange cables into expensive cameras. But I had no choice. Sony intended users to charge the battery in-camera with a power cord. While I cannot say for sure, I assume Sony builds their cameras with circuitry which would limit incoming voltage and amperage to a safe level.
I also felt confident that the outlets on the power bank were designed to be safe for equipment like cell phones, iPads, and video lights. It seemed tame enough to rely on the power bank to charge a battery in-camera.
Yes, a Sony A6000 can act as a battery charger
With the battery charging in the A6000, I roamed around using up the last of the juice in the battery in the A7s. When it expired, I returned to my impromptu charging station and discovered the battery in the A6000 had charged to 78 percent. I transferred the battery to my A7s and had sufficient power to cover the rest of the event.
Neither my A6000 nor my NP-FW50 batteries suffered any harm in this stunt. Still, you need to use caution if you attempt to duplicate this idea. The original charging block supplied with the Sony A6000 outputs 5v at 0.5 amps. Again, I assume the Sony engineers designed the camera not to exceed a safe voltage/amperage limit.
While I managed to get through this event, I wanted to prevent a reoccurrence in the future. I needed a charging solution that could be powered by my truck’s cigarette lighter. While looking for a car charger on Amazon, I realized there were a host of chargers that connected to AC power with a USB cable.
Planning for future Sony NP-FW50 battery emergencies
Most newer vehicles have built-in USB outlets. Nearly every older vehicle features a 12-volt cigarette outlet. Adapters which allow you to convert a cigarette lighter port to a USB outlet are readily available.
I already owned a small charger that could be powered by a micro-USB or USB-C cable. As a test, I plugged it into a USB adapter on my truck and found it charged perfectly. I intend to purchase an inexpensive charger powered by a USB cord. This charger will live in my truck, so if I experience a dying battery situation in the future, I will have the means to charge my cells while in the field.
Of course, my makeshift solution used a big 2000 amp car battery jump starter. What about the more common cell phone power banks? Could one of these have enough energy to cope with a camera or battery charger?
My Anker 1300 milliamp external battery lives in my camera bag so I can keep my cell phone topped off in the field. I plugged my USB battery charger into it and it began charging the batteries. It probably won’t be as fast and won’t have the capacity of the big 2000 Amp automotive jump starter, but now I know it can juice up my batteries.
One tried one additional test. I plugged a USB cord into my MacBook Air and attached the battery charger to it. Once again the batteries began to charge. I didn’t test this procedure long enough to determine how quickly the laptop’s internal battery would be discharged, but at least I know that my laptop can charge my camera batteries if needed.
Be prepared with a plan to keep your Sony NP-FW50 Batteries topped off
I am sure many of you already knew you could charge your camera with a power bank and that you can power a USB charger through your vehicle’s USB port. But some might have been unaware or never thought about how to go about topping off your cells without access to AC power.
If this describes you, I suggest you experiment with different charging methods to find one that works for you. That way, if you ever need to charge your batteries without an AC outlet, you’ll be ready.
Even the finest digital camera is useless without battery power. By being prepared for a sudden battery emergency, you can save yourself from missing irreplaceable shots.