About those battery life ratings

I added battery life as a factor in my recent review of cameras, but what does the reported battery life of a camera mean? Assuming the 2003 translated PDF is correct, CIPA standards for camera battery life amount to something like this:

  1. Take pictures continuously until the camera shuts down due to power loss.
  2. Fire the flash at full power for every other photo, if the camera has a flash.
  3. Operate power zoom with every photo.
  4. Keep any illuminated screens on throughout the text.
  5. Use default camera settings, except as noted above.

I hadn’t looked it up at the time I wrote that post, but now I have and it turns out Canon makes the following claim about my old Rebel XTi’s battery performance:

Approx. 500 (73°F/23°C, flash off), approx. 370 (32°F/0°C, flash off)

The above figures comply with CIPA testing standards and apply when a fully charged Battery Pack NB-2LH is used.

I’m not sure if the standards document I’m looking at is incorrect, or if the Canon is fudging it when they claim to follow CIPA standards while also not using the flash, but I can tell you that I’m getting way more than 500 pictures per battery charge. A typical timelapse series is about 1,800 exposures, and I can often get two or three series on the original battery. The two additional batteries I’ve bought since don’t perform as well, but they still give five times the stated battery life.

The Lumix LX3 is rated for 380 pictures by CIPA standards, but after 500 consecutive exposures it still showed a full battery in a test I did last night. Since the LX3’s score includes 190 exposures at full flash power, I assume it can actually do plenty more photos without.

I’m beginning to wonder if my criticism of some of the other camera’s low CIPA battery performance scores is mistaken.

Here are the CIPA scores for all the cameras in my list:

The LX7 is the only camera on the list with a power zoom to sap its battery, so its 330 exposures is actually a pretty good rating. On the other hand, given that the EOS M is the only camera in the list without a built-in flash, it’s pretty sad that it pulls in such a low score.