Sunday, February 20, 2011

No-solder external battery solution for GH-2

One of the few downsides of the otherwise amazing Panasonic GH2 hybrid camera is the limited life of the factory battery. At 1200mAh, it stores less energy than the battery in the camera it replaces, the GH1. To make matters worse, Panasonic decided not to include an AC power adapter with the GH2 -- an accessory that was standard with the GH1. And spare batteries have been hard to get, since battery production is just now starting to catch up with demand.

As a result, some GH2 users have complained of being a little power-starved, especially those traveling in remote places or pros who use the camera for day-long event shooting.

It's not surprising, then, that people have started to come up with their own solutions (like Phil Hover's GH2 Custom Battery Solution). Phil, of Soar Productions, has put together a battery pack with about 50Ah of storage (!) for the GH2 using a lithium polymer battery pack from the RC vehicle world. This thing stores so much energy that the limit on video shot time becomes the size of your SD card!

Sadly for those (like me) who are not very handy with a soldering iron, Phil's idea requires a soldered connection between the battery pack and the DC Power Plug and Cable that connects to the GH2's DMW-DCC8 DC Coupler ($14.95 from Adorama). So I needed another solution.

Fortunately, my personal solution was already in my laptop bag. I've been using an old lithium-ion Duracell Powersource Mobile 100 for a couple of years to power laptops and cell phones on the road. Why not use it to provide mobile AC power to the GH2 through the DCC8? At 4Ah, it wasn't going to provide the marathon power of the li-poly, but it was the equivalent of 3+ of the GH2's battery packs -- plenty for a day long shoot and much more than I need. So, following Phil's example, I bought a third party Universal AC/DC Adapter for Digital Cameras ($25 from Amazon), switched it to the 8.4V setting, and plugged it into the DCC8:

Then I replaced the GH2's battery with the DCC8:

...and then plugged it into the little Duracell. It worked! No soldering required!

Since the Duracell is now out of production, if I were doing this from scratch, I'd get the Black & Decker 20W watt Power-to-Go AC Power Supply ($45 from Amazon).

So, for a total of about $90, you can have the equivalent of 3 GH2 batteries -- and shoot all day without battery changes. Not bad.

Or, if you happen to have one of the old Black & Decker VPX power tools, you can convert its battery output from DC to AC for about $16 with a VPX inverter. If you don't have VPX power tools, the standalone battery pack and charger are only about $50. So, you can buy the external equivalent of a GH2 battery for $66 -- and it's available now (as long as supplies last - the VPX has been discontinued).

This really makes GH2 power a non-issue. And with external batteries, you can swap out packs without taking the camera off the tripod. More power to the people!


  1. I don't get it. what plugs into what with the option that you mentioned (the non soldering option)? this is crazy that panasonic hasn't addressed this issue!

  2. Yes, and to make things worse, since I wrote this post, retailers have run out of the Panasonic DCC-8. People are making them themselves out of blocks of wood! (see this thread on dvxuser:

    To answer your question on how this works - 1) take the battery out of the camera; 2) plug the DCC-8 into the battery compartment; 3) plug the AC adapter into the DCC-8; 4) plug the AC adapter into either the wall or your AC battery pack.

    Sorry that this is so confusing. I intended to post a video about this, but I sold my backup camera. I'll post a few stills soon.