I recently bought a used digital camera, complete with 6 lithium-ion batteries.

The batteries all have different date codes on them, but some of the older batteries seem to last longer than the newer batteries.

I want to determine the relative power capacity of each battery, to learn which ones will take the most photographs.

The simplest, but most time-consuming, way to accomplish this is to:

  1. Charge a battery
  2. Take pictures until the battery depletes
  3. Count the number of pictures
  4. Repeat for the next battery

This likely will take many hours to complete.

Is there a faster, reasonably accurate way to determine the relative power capacity of each battery (I hope I'm using the correct term)?

I do have a simple digital multimeter at my disposal.


Per request, here is what the batteries look like: Sony Type N Battery Image

And for reference, here is an image of a compatible battery showing the electrical contacts:

Generic Type N Battery Image with Electrical Contacts

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why taking pictures until the battery is dead would be time-consuming? (or more so than building a custom rig from scratch, especially if you have to state that you have a multimeter) Just build (or buy) a trigger and have it do automatically (i.e. the time lapse ones). Or alternatively, you could record videos until it dies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wesley Lee
    Apr 9, 2018 at 0:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is it a smart battery or std 18650 LiPo? Probably smart battery... then instrumenting the battery for load tests requires custom setup. But constant current load, with lowest dV/dt has most capacity. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2018 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TonyStewartEEsince1975 How do I tell? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2018 at 2:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ provide pictures \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2018 at 2:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ buy a battery tester and keep records. amazon.ca/Promaster-Universal-Lithium-Battery-Tester/dp/… \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2018 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


You will need a constant current load. To find out the current required, connect the camera to the battery via the multimeter and record the current draw while it is taking a photo in burst mode. Now make a constant current circuit for that current (not a trivial task, but not too difficult either). Fully recharge each battery and then discharge it through the load to find the time it takes to go down to 3.7V or so. That is the time available for active shooting. There will also be a time for when the camera is on but not taking photos, where the current draw will be less. Make sure not to discharge the battery too quickly, or too much.

Some more expensive battery chargers might also have a discharge function which will tell the mAH capacity of each battery. They may also have an option to set the discharge current. This is probably the easiest method.

The term is energy capacity. Energy is power x time. Power is measured in Watts, energy measured in Watt hour. Watt = Volt x Ampere. Battery capacity is measured in Ampere hour. Li-ion batteries have a nominal voltage of 3.7V (and you probably don't want to discharge them below 3.6V regularly). So battery energy is 3.7 x mAH. You can measure mA with the multimeter, but you need a load drawing a fixed mA to find the hours. mAH is printed on the battery, but that may not be reliable, and varies with current (mA) draw.


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