Nikon Off Camera Flash – Quantum battery pack

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In my previous post about using off camera flash with your Nikon equipment, I promised to follow up with another money-saving article on refurbishing used external battery packs. This blog post is that article.

The premise of writing on this topic is that readers of this blog are interested in developing their photography skills, and are more specifically interested in flash photography on a budget.

Background

Those who have read my previous post are aware that I use (rather old technology) simple speedlight flash units (Vivitar 285HV) that can still be purchased for less than $20 each.

Speedlights all run on battery power, typically four AA size consumer-grade batteries. You can use alkaline batteries, or even better, lithium ion “Photo Ultimate” batteries under the Energizer brand. Alkaline batteries cost approximately $0.60 each, and the lithium ion batteries area bout $2 each but they do last longer. Neither are rechargeable.

If you do a lot of flash photography, you will go through a lot of batteries. Rechargeable AA batteries are an option. This article compared six contenders for the best performance and found that the Duracell Rechargeable 2500 mAh battery yielded the most flashes in their test setup. These rechargeable batteries will set you back about $2.80 to $3.00 each – about $12 for each flash unit you intend to use. And you need a suitable recharger.

Alternative – External Battery Pack

Aside from having a much larger capacity of stored energy for your flash units, external battery packs also bring you much quicker recovery time after firing multiple shots in rapid sequence. None of the AA battery choices can match this performance.

Quantum Instruments has been in the photography business since the mid 1970’s and the battery products they produce for flash photography have been, and still are widely used. A Quantum QB-1+ battery pack purchased new today will cost you several hundred dollars:

I turned to ebay and wound up purchasing four used battery packs for my use. All had dead batteries – but I was able to buy replacement batteries and I now have four working, rechargeable Quantum QB-1+ battery packs. Total cost for each battery pack plus new replacement batteries: $48. These Quantum battery packs are rechargeable, yet the batteries do not last forever – but much longer than any of the AA options.

Replacement Batteries

The replacement batteries for a Quantum QB-1+ pack look a bit like D-cell batteries, but they are actually lead-acid chemistry and have a nominal voltage of 2V per cell. Each QB-1+ battery pack contains three of these connected in series.

Original (dead) batteries inside the QB-1+ battery pack.

The replacement batteries are: Enersys (Hawker) Cyclon 0810-0004 D-Cell 2 Volt/2.5 Amp Hour Sealed Lead Acid Battery. (Note: There has been a significant price increase for these batteries since I purchased nine of them in November, 2020. It may be prudent to do some online shopping for alternative sources.)

Step-by-step replacement

In spite of a recent price increase for replacement batteries, the comparative cost of a new QB-1+ is still much more expensive. The actual mechanics of replacement are quite easy:

  1. Remove four phillips-head screws from the QB-1+ case.
  2. Slide the case from the electronics (to reveal what is shown in the photo above).
  3. Using a soldering iron (or soldering station if you happen to own one), desolder the red (+) positive and black (-) negative leads from the old battery terminals.
  4. Remove and safely dispose of the dead lead-acid batteries.
  5. Assemble three new batteries, aligning the respective (-) negative and (+) positive terminals as such: (-)(+) (-)(+) (-)(+)
  6. Between adjacent batteries, bend over the respective terminals to connect (-) to (+) and solder the junctions to make a good electrical connection:
    (-)(***)(***)(+) so that the connections resemble that in the photo below.
  7. Next solder the black wire end to the remaining (-) post on the connected batteries, and then the red wire to the remaining (+) post on the other end of the battery pack.
  8. Once the soldered junctions on the ends of the pack have cooled, bend them over carefully so that the wires can run along the outside edge of the batteries.
  9. If you happen to have access to heat shrink wrap, cut an appropriate sized piece to slide over the batteries and heat with a heat gun to shrink wrap the bundle. Alternatively you may just use some electrical tape to wrap the batteries together to more easily handle them as a unit.
  10. The bottom of the batteries must interface with the bottom of the electronics board. Be sure to replace the cardboard spacer that was present during disassembly to insulate the circuit board from the battery pack.
  11. When your unit resembles the photo above, carefully slide it back into the case.
  12. Replace the four screws to fasten the case to the electronics board.
Desolder red (+) and black (-) wires to remove dead batteries.

Test it out

Before testing there are a couple of additional things you will need. The first is a battery adapter cable such as: Quantum AA Battery Adapter QB 1 – MG2 Module For Vivitar 283 & 285 Flashes. This item, available on ebay, is of course for my Vivitar flash units. If you have a different model speedlight you will need to find the right cable for your flash unit.

Secondly you will need to (eventually) recharge your QB-1+ pack. Replacement chargers are available at B&H photo, but there may be used ones available elsewhere (amazon, ebay, keh).

So with a battery adapter cable attached to your flash, connect the coaxial connector end to the QB1+ … and notice there are two connection jacks! Press the power button at the opposite end of the battery pack and all of the LEDs should light up. Turn your flash unit “on” and revel in how fast it charges to its ready state. Fire your flash unit several times to condition its capacitors.

One Quantum QB-1+ battery pack powers TWO speedlights simultaneously – and with a single radio trigger!

You are now ready to shoot with a robust speedlight setup for long sessions.

Happy Shooting!

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