This is a post about a useful device which is tangentially connected with my main interest, photography. It is a universal battery charger and is called a UniPal plus.
I’ve recently started increasing my collection of early digital cameras because they are at the point in their life when they are on the bottom of their value curve. You know what I mean I assume? A product starts off valuable and as it gets older its value drops because it’s replaced with newer versions. There comes a time when you can buy objects which were hundreds of pounds a few years earlier for only a couple of pounds. Then, as the objects become older, their value starts to rise again as they become scarcer and people view them with nostalgia.
Well, early digital cameras have reached the “that’s worth nothing” point and I’m increasing my collection of them. Hopefully at some point their value will grow again and my children will have a nest egg!
One of the problems with buying these cameras is that a lot of them have rechargeable batteries, but most of them are supplied without the original charger. Unfortunately, old chargers for specific camera models are not easy to find, or if you can find them they don’t seem to follow the ‘value curve’ rule above and they cost more than the camera. The trouble is that every battery has different connections and voltages and it’s not easy to create a universal charger – at least that’s what I thought until I came upon this device.
As I said in the introduction, it’s called a UniPal plus and is made by a company called Hähnel. I found it on amazon for about £23, and it allows batteries of many different shapes and sizes to be automatically charged and tested. It does this by having a sliding cover which holds the battery in position, and adjustable, spring loaded contacts which can be aligned with the contact points of the battery. There is also a tray to hold conventional AA or AAA batteries.
When the battery is first installed in the unit it will detect the polarity of the contacts and show a readout of the type of battery and it’s charge level, which I used as an indication that the contacts were making properly. Once you know the contacts are good you can connect the unit to a power supply and the charging starts. There is a nice LCD display which shows the level of charge and a standard ‘battery filling’ icon to show it’s working.
The unit is supplied with power units for both the car and the home, so it will also be useful for anyone who has multiple different battery types to charge whilst on holiday.
Of course it isn’t possible to fit batteries with really oddly positioned contacts; If the battery has + at one end and – at the other and doesn’t fit in the AA position it would be difficult, but the majority of Lithium Ion batteries used in vintage digital cameras have the contact points on one end and so should fit fine.
So far I’ve tested it with batteries from my Nex 6, Ricoh GXR and an Olympus E500 which I recently acquired and all three fitted well and were successfully charged. The Ricoh battery had to be stood on end to correctly work, but the sliding lid has a non slip coating which seemed to hold it quite securely.
Overall this is a really useful accessory for anyone who has lots of different shaped batteries to charge.