FC-501 4+1 NiMH / NiCd Charger
This is the iPowerUS FC-501 5-Channel Fast Smart Charger. It rapid charges NiMH or NiCd type AA / AAA / 9V batteries with the precision that only microprocessor technology can provide. Designed with five separate charging circuits to handle one, two, three or four AA or AAA batteries independently of each other. It can also charge one 9V type rechargeable cell.
The FC-501 is called "Smart" because it uses a microprocessor to monitor each cell being recharged to make sure that it is charged to its maximum capacity. Each cell is analyzed before recharging starts. If a bad cell is detected the user is alerted by a blinking LED and that cell is not charged to protect its charger circuit from damage. During charging, the cell's voltage is constantly monitored. Using Negative DeltaV Cool Charging Technology each cell is fully and quickly recharged without overheating. Once it is fully replenished the charging current is reduced to prevent over-charging and to maintain the optimal capacity. An automatic "refresh" cycle will revive old and weak cells to enhance the battery life significantly.
Operation of the charger is very easy. Place one, two, three or four AA or AAA cells or one 9V battery in the charger and then plug in the power adapter. There are no switches to set or buttons to push, operation is completely automatic.
The FC-501 analyzes each cell before it begins charging, you'll see the LEDs turn green momentarily. If a damaged, shorted or dead cell is detected its LED will blink red. When charging begins all the LED indicators turn red until the charge cycle is completed. When finished, the LEDs turn green again to indicate that the charger is now in the lower current microcharge mode.
This auto trickle mode uses a safe, 35-50mA current and most NiMH batteries can accept this level indefinitely. I always leave a set of batteries sitting in my charger so I know they are fully charged when I need them.
The actual charging time is totally dependant on the capacity of the cell being charged. Refer to the following chart for approximate charging times:
You can use the FC-501 charger at home with the AC power adapter or in your car or boat or anyplace that has a 12V cigarette lighter plug with the included 12V power cord. You can carry your batteries safely thanks to the included battery holders. Each one can hold one to four AA or AAA cells.
The FC-528 "Worldwide" travel package (shown above) includes the charger, eight iPowerUS AA 2100mAh NiMH cells and two battery holders, a smaller universal 100-240V 50/60Hz switching power supply and European plug converter, and 12VDC card cord.
I have really come to appreciate the chargers that have independant circuits for each cell versus the ones that charge batteries in pairs. You don't have to worry about mixing and matching sets of batteries anymore which is quite handy when you have five or six sets of cells for your camera or flash unit. Each battery gets properly and fully charged regardless of its state of discharge. With the "pair chargers" there is always the chance the one of the cells is more deeply discharged than the other so it won't get a full charge before the charger kicks off to keep from over charging the other cell.
And it's really nice to have a quick charger that doesn't fry your batteries, this definitely shortens their service life. Charging up a set of 2100mAh batteries for about two hours in some chargers will make them so hot that you can't even handle them. With the FC-501 charger these same batteries are only warm to the touch after 120 minutes and you can be assured that they are at full capacity. I always leave a set of batteries in the charger on trickle charge. The NiMH type of batteries have a problem with air discharge which means that they lose their charge when just sitting. You should always charge your batteries the night before you need them or do as I do and keep a set on "hot standby" being trickle charged. You can safely leave modern NiMH batteries on trickle charge for an indefinite period of time with no damage to the cells.
This is an excellent charger and is useable at home or in the field. It's a great way to save money too. NiMH rechargeable batteries provide at least 3x more power for your digital camera than even the best technology alkaline and they're reusable up to 500 times. I hate seeing people buying one-use batteries as it won't be long before they'll end up at the local landfill and there's enough garbage there already.
The new iPowerUS 2100mAh NiMH AA batteries, very high capacity.