Using unofficial batteries in the Panasonic GH4 may corrupt your footage and can even damage your camera, but there are even more reasons why you should never use aftermarket batteries.
We all know that official Panasonic batteries are best, but aftermarket batteries are quite tempting– they cost less, yet they claim to last just as long as the real thing. Why pay for an official battery when there’s a cheaper option that’s just as good?
Unfortunately, aftermarket batteries rarely match the performance of official batteries. Worse yet, trying to save a few coins by settling for cheap batteries could ending up costing you a lot more.
Many shooters have gone down this path and suffered the consequences. Here are 4 of the biggest reasons why you should never use aftermarket batteries in the GH4:
1. Poor Quality Control
“All of 4 batteries were defective in my package. 2 of them had unstable voltage and lasted less than 15 minutes. Most clips I shot during the 15 minutes came out as corrupted. The other 2 batteries didn’t even charge…”
There’s no such thing as a free lunch– in order to sell batteries at a lower price than official batteries, 3rd-party battery manufacturers must find ways to cut costs wherever they can. This may mean they spend less time testing the batteries to ensure their safety and reliability.
These lower quality control standards mean that it’s more likely for a defective battery to end up in your camera, which could result in data loss or damage to your camera. A 3-year warranty doesn’t mean much when you’ve lost a once in a lifetime shot due to a faulty battery.
Bottom line: Low quality control standards means you’re more likely to get a faulty aftermarket battery that could corrupt your footage, or worse.
2. Short Battery Life
“These worked fine for two months but they last less than an hour now. Left me in a bad spot on a shoot yesterday.”
Lower quality cells used in cheap batteries do not have the same reliability or sustainability as those used in official batteries. As a result, while aftermarket batteries may appear to perform well at first, their life span can quickly decline after only a few charging cycles.
Instead of picking up an official battery and calling it a day, many shooters opt to buy more cheap batteries to compensate for the shorter run time of aftermarket batteries. These shooters end up being weighed down by spare batteries and are constantly swapping dead batteries out of their camera in the middle of a shoot.
Remember, more is not always better. How can you focus on getting the best shots, when you’re constantly watching your battery meter?
Bottom line: Aftermarket batteries run out of juice much sooner than official batteries, forcing you to carry more spares just to get through a shoot.
3. Lock-ups & Power Failures
“When using the bad battery, my GH4 will randomly and unexpectedly just lose power…and the clip was corrupted.”
I unfortunately hear reports like this from shooters all the time. Almost without fail, the abrupt power failure was caused by an aftermarket battery.
The GH4 is designed to recognize when an official battery is getting low and will safely stop recording and power down the camera before the battery dies completely.
However, aftermarket batteries often discharge completely differently from official batteries, meaning that the GH4 is not be able to detect if the battery is about to give up the ghost.
If the battery’s voltage drops too low, the GH4 won’t have the time to save the current clip– the camera just turns off. Full stop. When this happens while recording, the clip gets corrupted and recovering the footage is difficult, if not impossible.
Even worse, an abrupt power failure may damage your camera, just like cutting the power to a computer can damage its sensitive electronics.
Bottom line: Aftermarket batteries can lose power abruptly and without warning, resulting in corrupted footage and damage to the camera.
4. Damage to the Camera
“…some knockoff batteries can really mess with the electrics like the LCD.”
The GH4 is designed to operate within precise specifications. When power to the camera operates outside of these specifications, it can cause unexpected behavior.
Worse yet, a faulty battery could fry your GH4.
Modern cameras like the GH4 are essentially compact computers, packed to the gills with sensitive electronics. Therefore, every time an aftermarket battery causes a voltage drop that freezes or abruptly shuts off the GH4, you risk irreparable damage to your camera. Every. Single. Time.
When your camera freezes, your footage is almost certainly lost, but one of these days, you might lose your camera.
Bottom line: Cheap aftermarket batteries could fry your camera.
Your Footage is Worth It
This may come as a surprise for anyone who uses aftermarket batteries, but I only have 3 batteries for the GH4. This is more than enough for a full day of shooting, which means I can focus on telling a good story, rather than messing with a bag full of cheap batteries.
Perhaps you’ve been using cheap batteries in your GH4 for a while now and haven’t experienced any problems. I’m glad about that, because I wouldn’t wish these problems on anyone. As long as you are aware of the potential issues with using cheap batteries, you ultimately make the call on what you put in your camera.
That said, why quibble over the $25 difference in price between official batteries and cheap batteries when it comes to keeping your footage safe and your $1700 camera in good working order?
For me, dealing with unreliable batteries is just not worth my time. I get the official batteries and just focus on shooting.
Tip: Get your batteries from authorized vendors such as Amazon or B&H (links below) to ensure that you are getting authentic batteries.
When buying batteries on Amazon, make sure the batteries are sold by Amazon directly, rather than a 3rd-party merchant.