Oly battery chargers and AC adapters for Oly C-series digitals

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Last updated July 27, 2004


Marks the paydirt, adequately verified to my satisfaction.  Click to review Limited Warranty section on the home page. NB: This article focuses primarily on Olympus-brand plug-in power sources—chargers and AC adapters. Camera-specific information is limited for the most part to the Oly D-340x and C-series cameras. Batteries, battery packs and non-Oly battery chargers are discussed in detail in the dpFWIW article Batteries for AA-compatible digital cameras.


Older Oly NiMH Chargers

The Discontinued B-20CU

The charger/battery set I purchased in early 1999 was the long-discontinued Oly model B-30SU. The lightweight, compact single-voltage (110V) B-20CU travel charger safely charges 1-4 NiMH AAs at a maximum rate of 650 mA per AA without cooking the chemistry, even if left plugged in overnight. The Oly B-30SU charger and batter set from the front. Click to see 1280x960 original. [D-340L]
Fold-down socket prongs make this charger easy to pack. In fact, between charges, it’s small and light enough to serve as a spare battery caddy in my mid-sized camera bag. The Oly B-30SU charger and batter set from the back. Click to see 1280x960 original. [D-340L]

The bundled 1350 mAh Oly NiMH AAs were of high quality, as Oly-brand batteries tend to be. In fact, they’re still going strong after over 2 years of service.

Fragile Lid

The charger’s rather fragile lid deserves your protection: It doubles as a power switch allowing charging only when the lid’s tightly closed. One of the hinges on the B-20CU’s plastic lid broke a while back, but a wide, stout broccoli-style rubber band nicely holds the lid in place.

Odd Numbers

The B-20CU’s 4 AA bays are arranged in 2 “sides” labeled A and B. Each side has its own charging and monitoring circuit and its own LED indicator. Because the individual AAs are not monitored independently, it’s very important to…

Marks the gotchas Avoid mixing AAs of different make, model, condition or charge state in a single B-20CU “side”.

Within those constraints, the B-20CU can safely charge any number of AAs from 1 to 4, including odd numbers, because it charges the 2 bays in each “side” in parallel. Since a lone AA in a half-filled side will see twice as much charging current as each AA in a filled side in this arrangement, the odd man out in a trio of matched AAs will always reach full charge first.

This flexibility makes the B-20CU a good companion for portable CD players, handheld PCs and other electronic devices taking fewer than 4 AAs. My B-20CU nicely handles sets of 3 AAs for our Talkabout FRS 2-way radios.

I still use my B-20CU charger quite a bit, especially on trips to civilized portions of the US, but the Maha C-204F conditioning charger from Thomas Distributing is hands-down my overall favorite—especially for car travel away from wall sockets.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Mike Schuster and Dave Martindale for bringing me up to speed on B-20CU charging and monitoring details.

Now It’s a Kodak and an Epson…

The great design of the Oly B-20CU now lives on in the Kodak PhotoLife charger, also available from Thomas Distributing.

The Kodak and the B-20CU make great complements to the Maha C-204F because they can safely charge odd numbers of AAs. (The Maha charges only in pairs.) That’s particularly handy when it comes time to re-sync a AA set—say, when one NiMH AA of four needs to be replaced. However, see the warning above.

According to Dave Martindale, Epson also markets a charger very much like the Kodak and the Oly B-20CU.

… And an Oly Again!

Sometime before early 2001, Oly once again began offering an NiMH charger very much like the old B-20CU in its branded accessory line.


More Recent Oly Charger Offerings

The Oly B-100E travel charger that replaced the B-20CU first shipped with the C-2500L camera around mid-1999. This less compact multi-voltage charger (100-240V at 50-60Hz) had a detachable cord rather than a fold-down plug, presumably to accommodate optional cords for various foreign sockets. Gone is the B-20CU’s fragile hinged plastic cover. The B-100E’s body is a bit larger than the B-20CU’s, and the entire setup is quite a bit heavier and bulkier if you count the cord. The B-100E is also a bit slower at 490 mA per cell, down from the B-20CU’s 650 mA. Just how smart the B-100E is, I don’t know, but it does sense battery temperature. Like the B-20CU, the B-100E can safely charge 1-4 AAs, presumably with the same precautions note above for the B-20CU.

My late-model C-2020Z came with a B-100E and a set of very long-lasting Oly-brand NiMH AAs rated at 1600mAh. The B-100E is great for foreign travel, but I prefer to pack the more compact B-20CU within the US.

As of 4Q2000, the B-100E charger can still be purchased as part of the Oly B-40SU package, which also includes four Oly-brand AAs of unknown capacity. For a dual-voltage NiMH AA charger requiring only an inexpensive wall-socket adapter for foreign use, the buy.com price of $40 isn’t bad.

My C-5050Z came with a B-30U  240 mA overnight charger and four 1700 mAh Oly NiMH AAs. The charger has folding prongs usable only in US sockets.


What, No Charger?

After the C-2020Z, Oly stopped bundling NiMH chargers and AAs with their a number of their C-series digitals in favor of non-rechargeable lithium CR-V3 batteries. Judging from RPD, that upsets some first-time digital camera buyers, but IMO, it’s better for all concerned.  If you need an NiMH charger and AAs, you’ll do much better value-wise with third-party products like those discussed in the dpFWIW article Batteries for AA-compatible digital cameras. If you already have such equipment, as many upgrading customers will at this juncture, why pay for them again in the camera price? Just be thankful that Oly still makes their cameras AA-compatible.

BTW, the CR-V3’s 10-year shelf life and long runtime make it an excellent backup battery, both for unanticipated power shortages and for freezing weather, which tends to make NiMH AAs behave like batteries of much smaller capacity. If you find 3R-V3s in your Oly box, resist the urge to shoot them up and carry them as backups instead. Then go out and buy a third-party NiMH charger and batteries for routine use. Again, see Batteries for AA-compatible digital cameras for details.

Older Oly AC Adapters

Oly-brand AC adapters are expensive, but you’re paying in part for the security of a regulated adapter that won’t fry your camera, which cost 15 times more. But before springing for any AC adapter, make sure you really need one.


The Oly C-6AU Adapter (discontinued)

I own one of these, but I’m no longer sure why. I seldom carry it—in part because it’s fairly large and heavy, but mostly because I’ve fpimd carrying extra battery sets far more worthwhile. Worse yet, its plug doesn’t fold down for packing.

The now discontinued regulated C-6AU outputs 6.5VDC and 2A via a 4.8 mm OD center-positive plug. Rated for 20W, AC input is listed at 110-120V at 50/60 Hz.

I originally purchased my C-6AU for my Oly D-340L, but it works with the C-20x0Z as well.


Marks the paydirt, adequately verified to my satisfaction.  Click to review Limited Warranty section on the home page. The Oly C-7AU Adapter—Universal No More

Per Olympus, the C-7AU is designed to work with its entire line of digital cameras, so its camera plug is presumably the same as that of the C-6AU model it replaced.

The C-7AU’s DC output is 2A, like that of the C-6AU. From pictures, its wall plug doesn’t look foldable.

The original C-7AU featured dual voltage (110-120V, 220V) AC input, but it’s newer incarnation takes only 110-120V. If you need 220V compatibility, you’ll need the C-6AE instead. The original C-7AU went for $40-50 mail order.


The Oly C-6AE Adapter (220V only)

The C-6AE outputs 6.5VDC and 2A via a 4.8 mm OD center-positive plug. AC input is listed at 220V.

A Viable Alternative to Pricey Oly AC Adapters

Many RPD posts have discussed alternatives to the reliable but pricey Oly-brand adapters. Most of these posts have been of the “I’ve gotten away with it so far” genre.

It’s clear enough that 6VDC is adequate to power Oly digicams via their DC power connectors. How much amperage is required is not so clear, but the answer lies somewhere in the 800-2000mA range.


Honey, I Fried the Camera

Whether one should trust an expensive digital camera to a cheap unregulated power supply is another question entirely. Connecting your Camedia to any old 6V, 1A adapter amounts to a potentially costly leap of faith, since most inexpensive, off-the-shelf AC adapters are unregulated, as are many of the adapters supplied with other electronic devices—even expensive ones!


The DigiPower Direct AC Adapter

Thanks to digital photographer/engineer dpFWIW contributor Dave Totosian, however, I can now confidently recommend a safe and affordable regulated alternative to the Oly adapters in the $20-30 price range.  Dave thoroughly tested the DigiPower Solutions Direct AC digital camera power adapter and found it suitable for his C-2020Z:

Not wanting to jeopardize a $700 camera to a $20 adapter, I used my lab-quality digital volt meter along with my trusty Tektronics ‘scope to do some careful analysis before using it with my camera.

Open circuit voltage = 6.73vdc, 120mv ripple @105khz (switcher frequency)

With a 1.0amp resistive load = 6.59vdc, 80mv ripple @105khz

With a 1.5amp resistive load = 6.51vdc, 100mv ripple @105khz

After 20 minutes driving 1.5A, the unit was barely warm to the touch.

Very impressive performance characteristics. They got this one right. All measurements were taken using 110vac/60hz input, but this unit will also work on 240vac/50hz.

In follow-up, Dave notes that he’s powered his C-2020Z with this adapter with batteries loaded many times over several months now without incident.

The DigiPower adapter is suitable for the C-30x0Z as well. A good source is Thomas Distributing.

Do You Really Need an AC Adapter?

First off, let me state unequivocally that

Marks the paydirt, adequately verified to my satisfaction.  Click to review Limited Warranty section on the home page. Most digital camera users will be far better off spending their money on extra NiMH battery sets and a smart, fast charger than on an AC adapter.

AC adapters for digital cameras are most commonly used to power

  • Serial cable image transfers
  • Image viewing or recording sessions via TV or VCR, typically at home or in a hotel room
  • Printing directly from the camera via serial or USB cable
  • Studio work
  • Webcam and surveillance applications (birdfeeders, cookie jars, etc.)

The first 3 items are just as easily done under battery power—if you have enough batteries. The last 2 items stand as the clearest if not the most common needs for an external power supply like an AC adapter. The studio situation is obvious, but the surveillance need deserves some explanation.


Surveillance

Surveillance applications require an external power source, if for no other reason than to defeat the Camedia’s otherwise welcome battery-saving sleep feature, which automatically powers down the camera after at most 180 seconds of inactivity in the absence of an external power supply. You could of course rouse the camera every 180 seconds by walking up and diddling with the [OK] button, for example, but for many surveillance applications, this kind of user intervention just won’t do. (It certainly won’t play well at the birdfeeder.) Worse yet, the IR remote won’t bail you out here: It’s ignored when the camera is sleeping. However, anything supplying an appropriate voltage to the camera’s external power input will keep it awake as long as the power’s applied.

In many surveillance situations, however, an external battery pack may well be preferable to an AC adapter.


Need Assessment

Unless you have a specific need for an AC adapter—e.g., surveillance, frequent studio work, or long or repeated printing sessions directly from the camera—ask yourself, why bother with an AC adapter if you have extra sets of NiMH AAs and a medium to fast charger?

Few experienced digital camera users rely on the painfully slow serial transfer these days, most prefer USB card readers over direct USB cable transfers, and video sessions tend to take place in settings where the time and wherewithal to replenish any battery capacity used are readily available.

FWIW, I haven’t used my AC adapter in well over 2 years now.