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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

REVIEW: PRO V-Mount Compact Batteries from BAXXTAR

The BAXXTAR Compact-Serie PRO V-Mount batteries with the BP-2CH Dual Charger 

Introduction
For as long as I can remember, V-Mount batteries have always had a certain size and style. They are quite bulky and heavy, but they are an industry standard for most professional cameras and accessories. The more power they store inside, the bigger and heavier they get. The German company Bundlestar, who's been active in the battery business for a long time, had a unique and fresh approach with their PRO high-end V-Mount batteries. They made them compact!

These V-Mount batteries reduced in size, still provide you with the same reliable power as the bigger ones and are of course fully compatible with all equipment that has a V-lock system. I was intrigued when I came across these new BAXXTAR Compact-Serie V-Mount batteries and was very eager to review them and let you know what I think about them. Later on in this review, I will be discussing the BAXXTAR BP-2CH V-Mount charger, which is definitely worth checking out also. But for now without further ado, let's have a closer look at the new BAXXTAR PRO V-Mount batteries.


Video about the new BAXXTAR Compact-Serie V-Mount batteries:





Compact
When talking about compact size, exactly how compact are we talking about? First of all, when I opened the neat packaging that contained the BAXXTAR batteries, I was quite surprised. The batteries, especially the V50 and V95 are extremely lightweight and small. Quite a big difference with the standard V-Mount batteries we're so familiar with. In fact, it's difficult to believe they actually are capable of producing the same amount of power! But more about that later on in the review.

The complete Compact-Serie range of BAXXTAR PRO V-Mount batteries.
The BAXXTAR PRO V-Mount batteries seen from the side.

In the pictures above you can see all of them from the front and from the side. On the far left you see the BAXXTAR V50 (3200mAh / 47 Wh / 14.8V), next to it the V95 (6400mAh / 95Wh / 14.8V), then the V145 (9600mAh / 142Wh / 14.8V) and on the far right you see the highest capacity battery, the V190 (12800mAh / 190WH / 14.8V). The V145 and V190 both have the same dimensions, but the V190 is slightly heavier. It's around 850 grams, so still well under one kilogram, which makes it very manageable in the field. The pictures above don't provide a good reference point to really show you their compact size, so I took a few comparison pictures with standard sized V-Mount batteries and my camera, to be able to show it much better.

The compact BAXXTAR battery left, next to a standard sized V-Mount battery on the right.
Both these batteries offer the same power, but the BAXXTAR V95 on the right is clearly smaller.
Here's the V95 mounted on the back of my camera, leaving a very small footprint.

As you can see in the comparison pictures above, the new BAXXTAR Compact-Serie PRO V-Mount batteries are roughly about 40% less in length and around 20% less wide then the standard sized V-Mount batteries. The name 'compact' really does it justice! But why is it so important to have smaller and lighter batteries?

For starters, when you have to carry around a heavy camera on set like the one shown above, which is about 10 kilograms, it's nice to be able to reduce added weight wherever you can. I even have a quick release system in place to be able to quickly put on (or take off) my on-camera light. When I don't need it, I simply take it off to reduce that little bit of extra weight. So you can understand how much of a difference these BAXXTAR batteries can make! Especially with the V95 compact battery. It's extremely lightweight, but still powerful enough to power this extremely power hungry camera for about two hours! I still have a hard time digesting that myself to be honest.

When broadcasting live you often don't need an expensive satellite truck anymore. You can simply carry a HD 4G wireless mobile broadcasting backpack powered by V-Mount batteries. A perfect example where you can reduce weight for the cameraman by using these compact but powerful BAXXTAR batteries. And how about LED panel lights on light stands that need to be moved on set all the time? They often get their power from V-Mount batteries mounted on the back and are also a perfect match for the BAXXTAR Compact-Serie. And lets not forget about external monitors either. The list goes on and on. All this equipment can greatly benefit from V-Mount batteries that are reduced in weight but not performance.

But it's not just about reducing weight. How about storage? The standard sized V-Mount batteries can take up quite some well needed storage in your camera bag or case. Now, you can store two compact batteries in the same space of one standard sized V-Mount battery. Even better, you can place the V50 and V95 in smaller side pockets in your camera bag where the older V-Mount batteries would never fit. And as an added bonus you don't even notice you carry them with you.

The smallest and largest BAXXTAR Compact-Serie PRO V-Mount battery.

Battery capacity
Now that we have established that the compact size makes a real difference, it's time to talk about their performance. The capacity stated on these batteries are the real capacity they have to offer. What on earth do I mean by that I hear you ask? Well, they have LG lithium-lon battery cells inside them, which provide incredible reliable power. Something you notice as soon as you start using the BAXXTAR batteries. The remaining power indicator lights work accurately and on the camera you can also get a perfect readout of remaining power without power dropping off quickly near the end of depletion. You get constant power with a linear drop instead of thinking you are still at 50% remaining, while in reality you are closer to 20%. They are very reliable. I've had V-Mount batteries from other manufacturers that claimed to have a certain power dosage, but in reality delivered less then what they suppose to. I guess that's what happens when you try to go for cheaper V-Mount batteries of an unknown brand. Luckily for us, the BAXXTAR batteries are both affordable and offer high quality and are from a company who've been in the battery business for a long time. So you get the best of both worlds. Well actually the best of three worlds, since they are also small and lightweight to boot. Oh, I guess that makes it four.


Extra features
These BAXXTAR PRO V-Mount Compact batteries come packed with a few nicely added features which make them very versatile. For starters, you have a D-Tap connection port. Just like what you would expect to find on most V-Mount batteries. But like I said before, the creators of these compact batteries had a fresh and unique approach when designing them, so they did something special here as well. They placed a so called D-Tap 'Twist' port on the battery (with a maximum output of 100W). At first I was a bit puzzled about what that means. A new type of D-Tap connection that requires a different kind of cable? Should I have to replace all my old cables? No, nothing like that and it's actually pretty cool. Normally there's only one way to connect your D-Tap cable to a D-Tap connector port. And sometimes this means running into problems with your cable management. You can have a difficulty reaching the D-Tap port from a certain angle on the battery or it get's in the way with other cables. But with this new D-Tap Twist connector, you are able to connect your standard D-Tap cable however you like. From either the left or the right side.

D-Tap cable connected with the cable running on the left side.
D-Tap cable connected with the cable running on the right side.
As you can see in the pictures above this new twist connector will help you with your cable management. No Matter from which side your D-Tap cable is coming, it won't cause any problems. A very nice touch which is very helpful. And talking about connections, next to the D-Tap Twist, you'll find a USB port behind a sliding dust cover. Yes they really thought about everything!

Next to the D-Tap Twist connector you'll find a USB connector port. 
It's a USB-A type connector which supports 5V/2.4 and 9V/2A output, which means they can be used not only to power some of your camera accessories, but even your smartphone or tablet when on location. I was even able to charge standard AA and AAA batteries through the USB port of the V-Mount battery by connecting it straight to an AA/AAA battery charger. Even if you think you don't need these features, it's very nice to know they are there in case you suddenly do. It even supports fast charging (E.g. for smartphones) and will automatically match the corresponding voltage. It also has an auto power off, 10 minutes after detecting less output then 50mA. Apparently it's a very smart battery!

Furthermore you can check the remaining capacity of the battery, by shortly pressing the button on the side. The four green indication LED's will then give you an accurate indication in steps of 25%.

You can check the remaining battery capacity by pressing the button on the side.

And speaking about this particular button, if you keep pressing it for a couple of seconds a bright LED light will switch on at the back for 10 seconds, providing you with a handy light. Ideal for when you need to go through your camera bag in the dark without your phone present (we've all been there!) or to check certain settings when there's not enough light.

A handy LED light that will stay on for 10 second.

Although not really a feature, there are a few things that I noticed and would like to share with you as well. When mounting the battery on the camera, it locks really firm into place. And with firm I mean that you can probably carry the whole camera setup by just holding the battery! But do so at your own risk. I really recommend you to not do that. To be honest, at first I thought that the old style V-Mount batteries needed the entire length of the battery to really create a firm connection with the V-Lock part on the camera, but this is not the case at all. In fact it locks tighter into place then most of my other V-Mount batteries. I surely wasn't expecting that! And I should probably have a closer look at my other V-Mount batteries about what's going on there...

Second thing I noticed is that these compact batteries are very easy to stack. When designing them, they really went above and beyond in creating the perfect V-Mount battery. What they did is they placed little slots at the back of the battery that perfectly line up with little pins on the front of the batteries. This way they can be placed neatly on top of each other for easy storage! But fair warning, they don't lock into each other. So carrying them in stacks still need some proper guidance.

Little slots at the back of the battery, neatly line up with...
...little pins at the front of the battery!
The entire PRO compact V-Mount range stacked next to just one standard V-Mount battery.

Having all of these options might seem and feel like a luxury, but in fact they turn out to be a necessity in the field (well... except for the stacking thing, that is purely a cool little luxury!). A lot of V-mount batteries don’t offer any or all of these options, while most modern camera setups do require many different accessories to be powered by an external battery. Having a single compact, light and easy to handle V-Mount battery that can accommodate most of the required power needs on set, makes it even more versatile and desirable to have. That's why I would highly recommend every filmmaker or cameraman to have at least one of these compact BAXXTAR batteries with them on every shoot. Which one in particular? The answer might surprise you and will be made clear in the upcoming part.


The BAXXTAR V50 Battery
I felt a strong need to devote a separate topic to the smallest compact BAXXTAR battery, the V50.  Since it really impressed me for several reasons. In the picture below you can see the V50 (with 3200mAh / 47 WH / 14,8V of power on board), next to my external smartphone charger. Yes think about that for a second... That is really my smartphone charger you see next to it!

The BAXXTAR V50 V-Mount battery next to a smartphone charger.

I was really surprised to see that they are almost identical in size. Yet the V50 is packing A LOT more power juice. It paints a pretty clear picture of what a compact V-Mount battery actually means. You can easily take the V50 with you on a shoot for backup, or use it with your LED panel light (or any other accessory) and hardly notice it's there. The weight is also almost next to nothing and you feel the urge to tap it and ask "is this thing on?". Truly incredible.

Becoming more and more curious about this little battery, I decided to put it to the test and see how long it would be able to power my beloved Litepanels on-camera light with 140 eager LED’s. Little did I know, starting the timer in the evening... Two hours later the battery indicator told me it was still nowhere near being empty. I decided to call it a day, the BAXXTAR battery had won and I decided to continue this experiment early next morning, so there would be enough time to test it capabilities further.

The BAXXTAR V50 being put to the test.
The camera light kept working for a total of 5 hours and 15 minutes on the V50. I was very impressed by that to say the least. It made me think back about a few years ago, when I was filming as a kid. I needed one of my friends to help out carry a power belt around his waist during a day long shoot, since I was already carrying a heavy camera and tripod around. The power belt kept my camera light working for around one and a half hours and was used sparingly during the day. We even had to charge it in between filming and this belt was almost as heavy as my camera at the time. Nowadays, you get several hours of light out of something so small and light, it can fit in your pocket! Sure, having LED helps a lot too, but this little battery really comes packed with an impressive amount of power inside. It's even somewhat equal in therms of power delivery, to the good 'ol heavy battery belt I used back then. Crazy if you think about it. So I decided to take it one step further and placed the V50 on my camera to see how long it would last.

The BAXXTAR V50 battery is hardly noticeable on the camera. 
The V50 battery is extremely compact and lightweight.

Here you can see the BAXXTAR V50 battery mounted on my camera. Or should I say "here you can't see" since it's barely visible at the back. I quickly found out that The V50 might not be the best match for my camera. Not due to power shortage, but because it's making the camera very front heavy by missing a counterbalance when it's on the shoulder. It's perfect for doing tripod shots and having to deal with much less weight on the camera, but for filming from the shoulder not so much. Having a hefty ultra wide angle on the front isn't helpful either. But I still wanted to see how much power the V50 would be able to feed to my extremely power hungry camera. The results came in at almost an hour of use! And I didn't go easy on it either, by doing a lot of recording, playback, zooming and by using mounted accessories that also needed power. Basically, I asked a lot more of the V50 in a short period of time then you would normally do during an actual shoot.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I became an instant fan of the V50 and I will definitely be buying at least one of them to have on me at all times. And not just as a spare or backup battery for my camera. But also for powering a LED light and other camera accessories or simply to use as an external smartphone charger when being in a pinch. I can simply throw the old external smartphone charger out, since the V50 stores MUCH more power to begin with and is just as small and easy to take with me. Two birds (or several birds actually), one stone!


The BAXXTAR V190 Battery
After spending a lot of time talking about the V50, the smallest battery in the group, it's high time to talk a bit more about the highest capacity V-Mount Compact-Serie battery from BAXXTAR, the V190. As stated before it provides 12800mAh / 190WH / 14.8V of power. A true power house that is perfect for your all day long shooting needs. Although a bit heavier, it still has that compact form and balances out my camera nicely with the ultra wide lens in front. Here, the little bit of extra weight actually helps to cancel out the camera being very front heavy. This makes filming from the shoulder a lot more comfortable. Especially since the V190 still isn't a truly heavy battery to begin with, staying well under a kilogram. It really helps to reduce the overall weight of the camera. And since the weight is concentrated further and lower at the back of the camera, it makes it a perfect match. I would choose this over the old style V-Mount battery, every day of the week without ever thinking twice.

For size reference, here are a few pictures where you can see it mounted on the camera.

The largest and highest capacity BAXXTAR V-Mount battery, the V190, mounted on the camera.
A closeup of the V190 battery, showing the empty space above it.
The BAXXTAR V190 on the left and an old style V-Mount battery with less power on the right.

Of course I also tried out the run time of the V190 on my hungry camera to see how it would perform compared to the V50 and V95. I was expecting it to last about 4 hours of continuous shooting when really putting it to good use and it did. When using it in the field during a normal shoot you can probably last all day with it, because you normally don't leave the camera continuously on and aren't using it at heavy as I did for this test. But that's exactly why I really pushed the limits. I wanted to see how it would perform under less then ideal circumstances on a high power consuming XDCAM camera and was really impressed by the results. I have a similar V-Mount battery (power capacity speaking) that will get me less runtime then this compact V-Mount battery from BAXXTAR. So I applaud them for being able to create a compact V-Mount battery that provides a new shooting experience.

The BAXXTAR BP-2CH V-Mount Dual Charger.

BAXXTAR V-Mount Dual Charger
Last but definitely not least, it's time to talk about the BAXXTAR BP-2CH V-Mount dual charger. It's a perfect addition to the compact class PRO V-Mount batteries from BAXXTAR, although it's good to mention here that the charger can also be used to charge any other standard 14.4V/14.8V lithium-ion V-Mount batteries. As soon as you power up the charger by switching the on/off switch at the back of the charger to the 'on' position, an AC power LED on the front will light up red. And when you attach batteries to both sides of the charger a second (and third) LED, reading "Battery online" will light up blue, indicating that the batteries are properly mounted. At this point charging will begin instantly and the "Charging" LED's will light up red as well. As soon as they turn from red to green this tells you that the battery is charged for 85%. The "Charging" LED will go out when the batteries are fully charged.

Two batteries are properly mounted (blue LED) and are being charged.
The BP-2CH has a support stand that can be closed for allowing a smaller travel size.

This is all pretty straightforward and works like most other V-Mount chargers. Something you might not find on many chargers, is the ability to connect the included XLR cable to supply power to a camcorder (and other compatible equipment). This is fantastic to have, because normally you would have to buy an expensive camera power supply to get to use your professional camera on AC power. But with the BP-2CH you get this functionality free of charge. They even included the XLR cable that you can use to connect it to your 4pin XLR "DC IN" connector, found on most professional cameras. Something I really appreciated about the included cable, was that it was very long. So you get more freedom to move around when using AC power, instead of having to stay right next to the charger. One thing that you should be aware of though, is that using the DC output means that you can't charge batteries at the same time and vice versa (i.e. can't use DC output while charging). Although this makes perfect sense, it's good to mention in case you weren't aware of this. Also, charging one battery is a bit faster (quick charge function) then charging two batteries at the same time. Though this isn't really noticeable when in use, simply because you never sit next to your charger waiting for the LED's to go out. But it's nice to know you have this quick charge functionality at hand when needed.

Getting back to the DC output function, there's another reason to be exited about having this on the charger and that's something you might not think about at first. What if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to be able to keep your camera up and running for a long time, but there isn't AC power close by and one battery simply won't suffice and, to make matters worse, you also can't interchange batteries during filming? With the BP-2CH you are able to mount two batteries and use them simultaneously to provide power directly to your camera (or other equipment for backup) through the DC output without the need of AC power. So you can keep your camera up and running for the runtime of two batteries! And I haven't tried this yet, but perhaps you're even able to continue without any interruptions on a third battery attached to your camcorder, when the batteries on the charger are depleted.

You can keep your camera up and running for hours without the need of AC power,
by simply connecting two batteries to the charger and use the DC output connector. 

Prices
In this review I've already talked about the BAXXTAR batteries being affordable, so it's time to discuss prices. You probably already know that V-Mount batteries have never been cheap to begin with. The amount of power they have to produce to get our cameras rolling isn't something to take lightly and normally comes with a steep price. Sometimes you see some cheaper V-Mount knockoffs of an unknown brand that might be better to skip and quickly pass by. If you are scared (and rightfully so) to buy these kind of V-Mount batteries, you might go for a premium brand instead, known for being reliable. But then you also pay a hefty price for their logo stamped on it. This leaves many filmmakers and production companies in search for a good alternative. But what if you can get something in-between, both reliable and also affordable? That's where the BAXXTAR compact PRO V-Mount batteries and their dual V-Mount charger come in and that's the reason why I'm so enthusiastic about them. The compact form factor, while offering reliable power thanks to the LG power cells, combined with an affordable price makes the BAXXTAR PRO V-Mount Compact-Serie batteries a highly wanted product. Pricing starts at around 150 euros for the smallest compact battery and going up to 320 euros for the highest capacity battery. The BP-2CH Dual V-Mount Charger can be yours for 249,- euros (3m XLR power cable included). In therms of quality and affordability this is impossible to beat!



Conclusion
Everyone has to deal with budgets. And as a filmmaker you try to cut corners wherever you can as long as it doesn't affect the quality of the end result. While you move up the camera equipment ladder, the prices will go up quickly as well for all accessories involved. Starting with a simple digital still camera to shoot your movies, accessories can be quite inexpensive. But when you start using more professional camera equipment, you get in a different price range. For example, a lightweight tripod for your digital still camera won't do any good for your heavier camcorder and so the list goes on. Even a simple microphone holder can suddenly become 200 euros (I wish I was kidding...). The same goes for batteries. A battery for your digital still camera is quite inexpensive since it consumes MUCH less power then a professional video- or filmcamera. That's why most of these cameras rely on V-Mount batteries that are aimed towards the professional market. Power is the backbone of your equipment and should be a reliable source, hence the higher price tag when in need of some serious power for your camera and related equipment.

As a freelance cameraman or independent filmmaker you need to spend your money wisely, but you still try to get the best worth for your money. If you're lucky you'll come across real gems hidden in plain sight. Companies who went above and beyond and are able to give you just that, quality and reliability at a cost effective price. The BAXXTAR batteries are a great example of that. That's why I can highly recommend picking up one, two or even a few of them and get smaller, lighter and easier to handle V-Mount batteries for a fraction of the price normally associated with V-Mount batteries, while still getting incredible reliable power. These batteries are awesome and I urge you to check them out for yourself and see why I believe this should be the new standard for V-Mount batteries!


       




2 comments:

  1. Hi Derran,


    I was wondering how that Baxxtar battery has been treating you? If it it still performing up to par and if you had any issues with charging/discharging etc.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, I'm still very happy with the batteries. The V145 has been my main battery for every shoot since it's lighter, but still holds a lot of power. And the V95 for whenever I get the chance really. :) Since you hardly notice it on the camera, but you get less runtime on a power hungry camera. Haven't run into any problems with charging or discharging. Been loving the product so far!

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