A SureFire Way to Save on CR123A Batteries
There once was a time that, if a camera or flash used batteries at all, it was powered by one or more trusty 1.5 volt AA (LR6 in some parts of the world) cells. More and more though, equipment manufacturers seem to be converting to either proprietary, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or else the new fangled CR123A cell. But while AA batteries were cheap and readily available, it's a bit harder to find good deals on quality CR123A batteries.
A common name for a CR123A battery is in fact a "camera battery." Delivering 3 volts in a package only 34.5 mm long, it provides double the power of a standard AA in a package roughly half the size. In the quest for creating pocket-sized cameras and other small electronics, CR123A cells are a powerful (if you'll pardon the battery pun) weapon.
If you simply walk into a store though, you will most likely find only a few if any CR123A's hidden on rack containing mostly AA, AAA and even 9-volt batteries. And at full retail price, CR123A's can set you back as much as $7 apiece. Ouch. As the latest technological marvel, these things command a premium, and retailers seem to know it.
My introduction to CR123A batteries came when Nikon released the R1C1 wireless macro flash kit in 2006. At the time I did some research to find an affordable source for batteries to power the included SB-R200 flashes and SU-800 controller. Based on a recommendation, I settled on batteries from a company called SureFire that specializes in high-intensity outdoor flashlights. Since they made a number of lights powered from CR123A cells, it seemed reasonable to assume they had a vested interest in providing the needed batteries too. And since they came direct from the manufacturer, the price from SureFire was far better than I could find locally.
A box of 12 CR123A's from SureFire currently lists for $21 which works out to $1.75 apiece. If you want more, they also sell a box of 72 batteries for $126, but since this means the same price per battery as the 12-pack I've never been tempted to go for this much gusto. Either way, this is far cheaper than most other sources of comparable quality.
Over the past few years, I've re-ordered batteries from SureFire several times. You can now get them not only from the company's own website but from places like B&H Photo as well. I just bought another box of 12 today which is in fact why I chose to write this article. It seemed like a good idea to pass this tip along to others so they could save a few bucks on batteries too.
Although they do make such things, I've never found a good source for rechargeable CR123A cells. All of them I've looked into hold a charge for far too few flash firings to be useful. At some point such things will probably be practical, but not yet in my opinion. Until then though, I'm happy with SureFire.