POWERING SMALL RECORDERS
Q I own and use a Zoom H4 and a Tascam DR-60 external recorder. Both work great, and I use them on almost every shoot. I’ve found that both recorders are real battery hogs, though; I spend a lot of money on AA batteries. On a recent all-day shoot with the Tascam, I went through four sets of batteries (16 batteries total) in one day while shooting long interviews. I know about rechargeable AAs, but it’s still a pain to remove the cover, pop out four AA batteries, pop in four fresh AAs and replace the cover on the DR-60. Any other ideas about how to minimize battery changes?
A I, too, use both of the same recorders you do. One of the best options I’ve found for powering consumer-level external recorders is to use a Lithium-ion external battery. I recently purchased a New Trent iCarrier 12,000 mAh Portable Dual USB Port External Battery Charger/PowerPak. This battery is available for under $40 and has 12,000 mAh of output, utilizing two USB outlets. These small battery packs are designed for powering and charging tablets, smartphones and other consumer electronics, but I’ve found they work very effectively for powering both my Tascam DR-60 and Zoom H4n recorder at the same time. The battery is fairly small (3.9×3.6×1.1 inches) and light (13.6 ounces), and even can be mounted on shoulder rigs or tripods without too much ado.
I recently did a shoot where the director of the project had located himself right next to the tripod where I had the Tascam DR-60 mounted below the camera we were using. It would have been physically impossible for me to change the AA batteries without disturbing the director, so I tried utilizing the New Trent battery to power the Tascam DR-60. We shot six 90-minute interviews that day, and the New Trent battery still had plenty of power left by the end of the day. Since then, I’ve also utilized the New Trent to simultaneously power the Tascam DR-60 and the Zoom H4n, and the battery had no problem powering both recorders for three hours straight.
Another possible option would be to utilize a USB AC power supply; just make sure the power supply matches the power specification your recorder requires. One caveat for you in utilizing either a Lithium-ion battery power supply or a USB AC power supply: Keep new, fresh AA batteries in your recorder. If the New Trent battery runs out of power, or if the AC power supply is interrupted by a brownout or a power dip, or if someone accidentally kicks the plug out of the socket, the Tascam and the Zoom will switch over to the AA battery source instantaneously. Don’t ask me how I learned about this function.
16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: Zoom, Tascam and New Trent didn’t compensate me to write this article. The companies didn’t send me review units to try out the hardware; I own both recorders and the New Trent battery, and I purchased them at full retail cost from Amazon.com. No material connection exists between the manufacturers mentioned in the article and myself.
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