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In general, I have a fairly strong preference for digital cameras that are powered by AA batteries over those which rely on a proprietary Li-ion cell. This is partly because a lot of my cameras are vintage models (or "old", if you prefer!) and finding good Li-ion batteries second-hand can be an extremely trying experience, as those who have tried to repower an old laptop computer will know. However, I'm not entirely inflexible on this point, and I do have one camera in particular – a Canon Ixus 82 – that I absolutely love, despite its use of a Li-ion battery. This is a small enough camera that AAs wouldn't actually fit inside it, in any case!
The accessory in question is called, with a distinct lack of imagination, the NB-4L. Thankfully Canon haven't (yet?) followed Panasonic's unpleasant lead in making their cameras incompatible with third-party batteries – something I think is sharp practice at best, and that should really be prohibited. However, in the case of the Ixus I do prefer to stick with the official battery. That isn't because the independently-produced ones are bad exactly, and they're certainly considerably cheaper (see below) but the difference in price doesn't seem worth it for what would be unlikely to be a large (if even existing) gain in performance.
Being a small camera, it's unsurprising that the Ixus 82's battery isn't very large, in either physical dimensions – it's less than twice the size of an SD memory card – or, rather more importantly, in capacity. Canon's NB-4L is rated at 760 mAh, which is by no means high; remember that AA rechargeables now go up to more than four times that rating. However, it does seem that the camera uses it efficiently, and so about 200 shots are usually possible before recharging becomes necessary. Also, unlike an AA cell it won't lose juice if you leave it sitting around for a long time between photo sessions. Third-party NB-4Ls are often rated slightly higher, at around 780 to 800 mAh, but that's a small enough difference that it can pretty much be ignored.
Another reason I don't usually like Li-ion batteries is that, unless your camera is one of those that can be charged directly (for example via a USB port) you will need a separate charger for each one – and when you have as many cameras as I do, this is a significant consideration! Luckily Canon's charger for this battery is very compact, in keeping with the NB-4L itself, and – probably thanks to that relatively low capacity – it charges fairly quickly, taking no more than a couple of hours to get back up to full charge. The battery is quite smooth and non-grippy, though, so it's all too easy to drop it when you're moving it between camera and charger!
As I mentioned above, this official Canon battery isn't exactly cheap: Amazon's current price for it is around £17, as opposed to well under £10 for some of the third-party equivalents. These things last a good, long time, though – Canon claims a lifespan of 300 charges – and so I'm not sure the few pounds difference is worth making that much of a fuss about. I don't think there's anything wrong with the independent brands, and I'd hate to see Canon insist on exclusivity as prices would probably go through the roof – but I do feel a little more peace of mind with an official Canon-branded NB-4L in my Ixus than I might with something else. This battery loses one star for its slightly high price, but is otherwise recommended.
Compatibility: most Canon Ixus models from 30 up to 80/82, Ixus 110, TX1
Pictures of Canon NB 4L Lithium Ion
Shown against an AA battery for scale
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