Battery status has gone

On a previous 'How to' guide  - Link I discussed alternative methods of powering your cameras when working remotely or for very long exposures (Star Trails). Technology moves on so I thought it would be a good idea to update/run through powering up the latest Olympus OM-D, E-M1 (mk3) camera. When the mk3 first landed I was keen to explore methods of remote powering, something I utilised frequently historically with my night sky work, in particular star trails. With older versions of Olympus cameras I was using power packs, AC power hook up and multiple batteries. The idea of powering the new camera via a simple USB power device, I thought was a marked step forward. Simple, effective, compact and more practical/cheaper than bulking out the camera with battery grips or external batteries.

Everyone has a USB power device  in their locker, good for charging phones and other electrical gizmos. What could be easier than hooking up one of these to the E-M1 mk3, right? Well no, wrong.... sort of! 

I must have tried 3 different USB power devices I had at home. I connected each one to the E-M1 mk3 and nothing! I frustratingly kept seeing a blank LCD screen with "One Moment" and which would not disappear. Hmmm, time to do a bit of research!

After browsing the Olympus website and some Googling it became clear the USB PD solution was not as simple as originally thought (or as simple as using any old USB power device). USB charging is possible, including via the HLD-9 Power battery holder (but I did not want to go down this route as I wanted straight connection to the camera), by using a recommended accessory - the Anker PowerCore 26800 PD. 

Right I thought, solution solved, now off to an online store. Or at least I thought problem solved!

I made a simple mistake of not reading the guidelines/instructions properly so hopefully this guide will prevent you going down the same route!

Whilst browsing Amazon for Anker devices, one popped up at a sale price. It looked fine, badged as an Anker PowerCore 26800 mAh, dual input for double speed recharging and 3 USB port, and reduced from 50 quid down to 32. I'll have some of that and next day was opening the box.

So out it came, nice I thought, sturdy, quick charging, lots of ports and this was going to keep me shooting through the night easily I mused. Connected up to the OM-D mk3 and guess what.... "One Moment".,,,, Aaaargh I screamed, wtf is going off here? I actually thought there was a fault with the camera or worse that PD devices won't actually work on this model.

Anker Power Bank, but the wrong one!

Anker Power Bank, but the wrong one!

Anker Power Bank, PowerCore 26800mAh Portable Charger with Dual Input Port and Double-Speed Recharging,

So back to the drawing board. Once again I hit the Olympus website and watched YouTube videos. It would appear I had not read the full specification properly (although in my defence I felt it was easily misinterpreted). The Anker Power Bank I purchased was 26800 mAh although not the PowerCore + 45W, designed for laptops, cameras etc. The version I had purchased was only for Smart devices! Easily mistaken huh?....well that's my excuse & I'm sticking with it!

Next step, return the original Anker device & get the correct spec version!  Back on Amazon I sourced the correct Anker PD - Amazon UK shop & it was a bit more expensive at 89.99, although with a 10% voucher I got it for 80, so not bad I suppose - IF it works!

The device arrived next day (got to love Amazon!) and once again, with trepidation, I unboxed and setup. I hooked up an Anker USB to USB PD cable (something I purchased during the previous saga!) and connected to the OM-D mk3. Note this was not the cable included within the PD device box. To my horror it never worked and yet again "One Moment'. I could have cried in exasperation. Then I connected the boxed cable which is a USB PD (on PD device) to the USB PD (on mk3). Rejoice.....it worked :-) You would not believe the relief.

Post article release edit - To clarify, the USB cable bundled with the Anker PD charges the PD (via Mains) & also connects to the Olympus camera for powering remotely. You will not need to buy any other cables. Also note the L-ion battery within the EM-1 camera (BLH-1) MUST be kept in the camera for the Anker PD to work.

My pain and journey is shared to your advantage I hope!

Anker PD cable

Anker PD cable

This connects the PD to the Olympus OM-D, EM-1 (mk3)

Post article release edit - To clarify, the USB cable bundled with the Anker PD charges the PD (via Mains) & also connects to the Olympus camera for powering remotely. You will not need to buy any other cables for charging the PD or powering the camera (unless you want spares). 

To reinforce, the L-ion battery within the EM-1 camera (BLH-1) MUST be kept in the camera for the Anker PD to work.

<------------ This is a pic of the cable. Note it has dual usb ports. One port connects into the Anker PD, the other connects to the camera.                                                                                         

------------> This is a pic of the Olympus OM-D, E-M1 (mk3) showing the USB port to which the Anker cable connects (It is the bottom port).

EM-1 (mk3) USB port

EM-1 (mk3) USB port

This is where the Anker USB cable connects to power camera.

Well that took me a bit longer than expected, but I'm there! :-) The Olympus OM-D, E-M1 (mk3) solution to remote powering.

As previously mentioned, the purpose of a power device, is to let me run the camera for long periods, particularly during night sky work. As winter nights are getting longer this brings opportunities for shooting longer exposure time star trails. This can either be done by using the really useful in-camera 'Live Composite' timer mode. I have used this on many occasions and the camera carries out all of the hard post processing 'stacking' work producing a single composite image. The length of the Live Composite timer can be set in the menu up to a maximum of 6 hrs. The  camera bundled BLH-1 battery, whilst excellent, will push 4 to 4.5 hrs in a single continuous use. If you want longer than that, whether the 6hrs max (via Live Composite) or even longer than 6 hrs (processed out of camera) this is where the Power Device will come in handy. 

In addition, the standard USB ports on the Anker power device will also allow connection of a dew heater (mine is usb powered). Dew heaters are very important when leaving camera/lens outside for long periods. Once again I have a useful guide on this - "How to stop that lens fogging up"

During these long nights I can run a star trail for up to 12 hours and beyond. This length of continuous shoot cannot be processed in-camera and will require external post processing to stack the images. Not a problem just a bit more technical. I talk about this more in my guide 'How to Shoot Star Trails'  

Of course, a power device is not just about long exposure work. There are occasions when shooting in remote environments, without electric hook up, will allow you the relief of reducing batteries, power packs, reducing weight and ultimately cost.

The Power Bank solution (for the E-M1 mk3) might not be for everyone, but for those who shoot in genres and environments that need more juice than the standard camera battery it will be a useful tool.

I will update this guide throughout the winter (and Lockdown) to see how long the power device will last, in continuous working use, so do watch this space!

Stay safe everyone.

Star Trail - Long Exposure work

  • Fall Trail - 4hrs (in-camera processed)

    Photo captured 7th October from my home in South Leicestershire, East Midlands. The clocks have gone back and now nights are really longer, which is good for star trails :-) Autumn is in full flow and trees are transformed and now losing leaf. This Autumn star trail was captured and processed all in-camera (no post stacking processing) over 4 hours. BEHIND THE LENS Camera:- Olympus OM-D E-M1 (iii) Lens: Olympus 7-14mm Tripod Live Composite mode - 15s exposure time, F4 , 4hrs, ISO 500 I mounted the camera on a tripod and set up the composition using a 7-14mm lens framing the horse chestnut tree and the North Star (Polaris). Finding Polaris is easy - Follow the last two stars from the blade of The Plough. The star trail was captured by using the Olympus in-camera function called Live Composite (Setting B on top dial). I chose 15s exposures and let the camera shoot for a period of 5 hours. The mk3 battery will lasted 4hrs easily, but even if you set for longer (and battery dies) this does not stop the composite completing in camera (how cool!). No post processing required for stacking - all this is done via the Live Composite mode in the camera. The resulting image reveals 4 hrs of Autumnal Earth spinning. Stay safe.

  • Autumnal spin - 10 hrs

    A barmy 20C, perfect clear sky night and opportunity for 10hr star trail. Over 2500 exposure composite. October 2019.

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