Hate your battery charger? Switch to USB.

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I have long hated the battery chargers that come with most cameras. They’re big, bulky, expensive to replace, usually quite slow, and their user interfaces are inconsistent and inscrutable — does that flashing LED mean it’s charging, or is it done charging? Or is that a failure mode warning? These aren’t consistent within a brand, much less between different manufacturers.

I’ve always kept an eye out for alternatives, and I’ve experimented with a couple of third party chargers that used battery-specific charging plates or some other kind of customization, and ended up not really liking any of them.

And then a couple of weeks ago I had a thought: USB has become a universal charging tool, almost by accident, and I wonder if anyone is doing camera battery chargers that get their power from a USB source?

It turns out the answer is yes — there are upwards of half a dozen vendors doing this — so I did some research and decided to test out the chargers from Neewer, because I’m familiar with the company and have used other products from them.

The Neewer USB chargers are small, light and inexpensive: about $10 each. Two of these Neewer chargers are about the same size as one of Canon’s chargers for the 7D cameras.

For my most recent trips, I carried only the USB chargers with me. I have them both for my Fuji X-T1/X-T2 and for my Canon 7DmkII.

And so far, they’ve performed fine. Plugged into a standard powered USB hub, it takes 2 hours to fully charge a completely discharged battery for my Fuji. That’s as fast or faster than the Fuji stock charger. There’s a meter on the device that gives you a clear view of where you are in the charging process.

You do need to have a power source to plug these in to, but that can be your computer, or a powered USB hub, or one of the USB charger blocks (I like Anker) and since I expect most of us are already carrying chargers with us when we travel for our phones, tablets, watches and earbuds, you don’t need to add that one more thing to the mix to handle battery charging, so switching to USB chargers will save you a bit of space and remove the contention for those too-rare hotel outlets in your room.

So far I’m really liking these: light, cheap and seem to be reliable. Neewer makes them for most camera and battery types, and they work well in my office and simplify my life a tiny bit on the road, and that’s never a bad thing. And no more large ugly power bricks with cords tangling up everywhere!

And if you think about it, most of us now have USB chargers in our cars, too — and these make nice ways to re-juice your batteries in transit as well, or while taking a break for lunch. I love the flexibility they bring without needing to think about it or keeping around extra types of chargers for different uses.

These are my new go-to chargers and well worth you checking out. And at the price, I’ve grabbed two for the Fuji and might add a third, just so I can bring in the batteries and charge them all at once after a day of shooting, and then switch the power block to the phone and tablet when I go to sleep that night. And no more wondering if I need to bring a power strip in case the room doesn’t have enough outlets for all the chargers…

Definitely recommended.