The diminutive size and weight yet large power capability make Mini V-Mount batteries like the Came-TV Mini 99 a valuable addition to your production gear package.
The Battery Past And Present
Back in the days of shooting film cameras and Betacams, we used to mostly utilize either lead acid battery belts that were huge and weighed a ton or large, heavy Anton Bauer brick batteries that were also huge, weighed a lot, not to mention that they and their accompanying Anton Bauer chargers were exorbitantly expensive. At the time, the most common mount was the Anton Bauer Gold Mount, a three-pin system that worked and still works very well.
There are still many users of Anton Bauer Gold Mount and other brand batteries that utilize the same system. As good as the Gold Mount is, Sony’s V-Mount battery system, named for the V-shaped wedge plate receiver shape it utilizes, has become the dominant professional battery-mounting system in the world. In 2021, many LED lights, video monitors and, of course, camera battery systems utilize the V-Mount.
We own four V-Mount battery systems, two 95Wh batteries and two larger, heavier and bulkier 175Wh batteries. All work well, have been reliable and power whatever device we use them with perfectly well. The primary downside of V-Mount batteries, though, are their size, bulk and weight. Another downside is that the more powerful V-Mount batteries are generally not allowed onto planes unless they are 100Wh or less, so you end up having to bring more of the smaller power batteries on a given shoot.
Enter The Mini V-Mount Battery
I don’t have an exact date for when the first Mini V-Mount battery appeared for sale, but I think it was perhaps a year or two ago? At any rate, the Mini V-Mount battery generally has the same power capability as their larger-size, low-power cousins, most of the ones I’ve seen on the market are generally 95-99Wh. But there are a few differences. It seems as if Mini V-Mounts must have better economies of scale than some of the physically larger “normal” sized V-Mount batteries because the prices on the Mini V-Mount systems have fallen pretty quickly.
A Couple Of Reasons To Go Mini V-Mount
The first user cases were our Canon C200 and C300 MKII camera rigs. I often shoot with either of these rigs, fully kitted out with a Ninja V recorder mounted on rear rails.
I generally end up needing a video transmitter for producers and clients to look at my camera’s output, often a Lectrosonics wireless lavaliere receiver and then I’m typically utilizing a heavier lens like the Canon CN E 18-80mm t/4.4 with front support rods, handles and lens support. Add in the Zacuto EVF Pro for the LCD screen and a grip relocator, and my “little” Canon rig is now tipping the scale at 20-21 pounds when I include the weight of my normal-sized V-Mount batteries to power the camera and the Ninja V as well as the Accsoon Cine Eye video transmitter. In short, I needed to put my BTS/EPK rig on a “diet” of sorts and lose a few pounds as well as some bulk.
Our second use case was that I’ve been assembling a small handheld micro cine rig, utilizing one of our Fujifilm X-T3 cameras. I also wanted to use the Ninja V recorder with this rig, and I needed USB power to power the X-T3 itself and it would be nice to also have the option of another D-Tap available to occasionally power a Nucleus Nano follow-focus system. A regular-sized V-mount battery dwarfed the entire size of the rig, so going to a Mini V-Mount seemed to be the best way to try to assemble the rig and make it work.
The Mini V-Mounts Arrive and Are Deployed
I was curious to dip my toe into the Mini V-Mount battery user experience, so I recently pulled the trigger on a pair of the Came-TV Mini 99 V-Mount batteries. I was intrigued by these batteries in particular as they were one of the few I could find that had not only two D-Tap outputs but also featured a USB 5V output as well. I did the research and found that just as in full-sized V-Mount batteries, you need to do your homework to learn what kind of cells are utilized in the V-Mount battery you’re considering. There are many V-Mount battery systems on the market that utilize generic cells that allow the entire battery system—which typically is required to supply between 16.2v to 14.4v—to function well with most pro camera systems and video lights.
Battery Cell Quality
The issue with the generic battery cells is that they’re only good for just a couple of hundred charge-discharge cycles, then they acquire memory or simply stop working. I ended up honing in on the Came-TV Mini 99 V-Mount Batteries because Came-TV makes a big deal that they utilize name-brand Samsung 18650 cells—eight of them—inside the Mini V-Mount battery shell. I have some Samsung 18650 cells that I use with my Zhiyun Crane 2 gimbal and I’ve experienced that these are generally very good-quality battery cells. By all accounts, using name-brand cells like these should allow the Mini V-Mount to have a much longer operating life with more charge-discharge cycles possible before the battery begins to retain battery memory or dies. Time will tell if this proves to be true.
The other factors that were instrumental in choosing the Came-TV over some of the competing products were that the Mini 99 features two D-Tap outs as well as a 5V USB output. Some of the competing batteries in the same category only feature a single D-Tap output or may have two D-Taps but no USB output. The Mini 99s also come with a handy lanyard so that the battery can be hung on a light stand tie-down if I’m using it to power an LED light. I also liked the amount of battery status lights. My current full-size V-Mount batteries only have four LED status lights, showing me if I have 100, 75, 50 or 25 percent charge left. The Mini 99 has five LED status lights allowing me a bit more granularity in estimating battery life. As you may or may not know, cameras will often simply display voltage input level, not actual time left in battery life when using third-party batteries, so having more indicators on the battery itself is handy. Lastly, I like the shape of the Came-TV Mini 99 batteries. They have rounded corners and are less boxy than my full-sized V-Mounts, which means fewer points to bruise my chest when I’m shooting with my Mini cine rig handheld with the camera and battery shoved into my chest as a point of contact.
Putting The Mini V-Mount To Work
To date, I’ve used the Came-TV Mini 99s on two client shoots. The first was shooting green screen performances utilizing our C200 rig for a small comedy film. The second was a b-roll shoot for another client utilizing my newly created Fujifilm X-T3 Mini cine rig handheld. There isn’t really much to report. The Mini 99 V-Mount batteries performed perfectly, powering our Canon C200 with the Atomos Ninja V for about two hours. The Mini 99 powered the Fujifilm X-T3 with our same Ninja V for about three hours as the Fujifilm X-T3 draws significantly less power than the C200. We use small, inexpensive free-standing D-Tap chargers to charge the Mini 99s via their D-Tap ports, they charge fully in less than two hours. Came-TV makes an accompanying dedicated two-station V-Mount charger, but to me, that’s just more size, weight and bulk I have to drag out on shoots. The inexpensive wall chargers work fine and are more flexible with how small they break down once you remove the detachable AC cables. Plus I already had them.
Regardless of which brand and model of Mini V-Mount you buy, do your research and buy the brand and features that will suit your needs best. Compared to our full-sized V-Mount batteries, the Mini 99s are about 30 to 40 percent smaller and weigh significantly less. Our 95Wh full-sized PowerExtra V-Mounts weigh 1.48 pounds or 675 grams, while the Came-TV Mini 99 weighs in at 1.16 pounds or 526 grams. I also have the add-on Came-TV V-Mount battery plate for the Canon rigs. It has 15mm rod mounts and is significantly smaller and lighter than our Wooden Camera full-sized V-Mount plate, saving us another 10 ounces. Shedding weight and bulk was really the bottom line for us, and switching to the Mini V-Mount battery saved us overall rig weight, bulk and size, allowing for a smaller, lighter camera build. I can highly recommend that if you can utilize the smaller size and power capability of 99Wh or less V-Mount batteries, the Mini V-Mount batteries will make your life easier by decreasing size and weight while retaining the same run/recording times you’re used to.