Saturday, December 15, 2012

A charger that charges all batteries

"Vivitar Series 1" is a classic lens series that are still loved by today's M43 camera users. Vivitar gave the same name to its universal charger for a good reason - this charger will be the classic for years to come.

AA, AAA, cell phones, cameras, even computers, you name it, as long as they are 1.5V, 3.6V or 7.2V, this Vivitar Series 1 charges them all! At home or in a car, and for only $19.

AA/AAA, one or two, charged separately:

Cell phone's battery (such as this Samsung Galaxy S):

Camera's (such as this Panasonic GF2):

Computer's (such as this Viliv X70EX):

The initial version had a very stupid design flaw though: you had to use a little stick (included) to move the contacts:

The second version fixed that problem, now you can move the contacts with two knobs found on the bottom side:

Both wall (100V-240V) and car (12V) adapters are included:

Make sure you get this newer version:

If you happen to have the old version, there is an easy fix. Just cut a hole that's large enough for your fingers to access the movable contact seats:

Most smart chargers such as the very popular La Crosse are picky on the condition of the battery; they refuse to charge or stop charging too early if they think something wrong with the battery. This Vivitar Series 1 does not do that, it simply works, always.

In the last 20 years I've tried almost all chargers I could find, but only above two are worth of mentioning. All others are garbage. So disappointed and hopeless, I made my own chargers (0.1C constant current using LM317) and have been using them at home. I use the Vivitar when travel and no longer use the non-dependable La Crosse.

For my battery pack, I've been using this one, 100% reliable and dependable:

Last night we had a power failure, and this is what I found this morning:

The batteries had been in the two chargers and fully charged before the power failure. The two in La Crosse are less than 1 month and had been used for only about 3 times while the two in the Vivitar are 8 years old and only 50% capacity left. As you see, the La Crosse is still charging one, wrongly, while the Vivitar has stopped correctly. This is just one of the many times when the La Crosse behaves erratically. Too often, I put batteries into the La Crosse before I go to bed and, the next morning, the batteries are either still charging or not charged at all. Not a dependable charger.

Another example that the La Crosse misbehaved. This time, it stopped charging too early. The one at the rightest side was stopped after only 1 hour and 19 minutes:

So, I take out the #4 cell, leave it outside for a day and put it back into the La Crosse. This time it was charged for a good 4 hours and 25 minutes:

After wasted so much money and time on those "smart" or "fast" chargers, I was hopeless and finally made my own dumb constant-current charger. It is very simple, just a LM317 and a 22 ohm resistor (or 6.2 ohm for AA). It's been absolutely dependable. I simply threw my batteries into it and, no matter what condition they are, they will be always fully charged the next morning. No worry about over charge, because it is the standard safe 0.1C rate.

Those dumb chargers sold in stores are garbage. They are not constant-current, using only a diode. If the battery is too old and has high internal resistance, the charging current will be too low to charge them up. Some such dumb or timer chargers use too high current, 2x or even 5x, will over charge your batteries soon or late.

The bottom line: the only absolutely dependable charger is dumb 0.1C constant-current type but nowhere to buy one. If you need a fast charger when travel, the Vivitar Series 1 is currently the only option; it is quite dependable and it charges almost all your batteries - AA, AAA, cellphone's, camera's, camcorder's and even computer's!


  1. It’s good to have a charger that can charge different types of batteries. It can save you a lot of money from purchasing different chargers for each gadget you have. Plus, it is handy, especially for people who always travel. It will keep them from bringing bulky luggage because they have to fit all their chargers in their luggage.

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