Carry that weight

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Travel season is in full swing. And even magazine editors get the occasional vacation. But as I was packing the other night for an upcoming trip, I felt a familiar wave of resentment. It’s the feeling I inevitably get when it’s time to pack the battery chargers and cables I’ll need for my devices—traveling companions I wouldn’t think of leaving home without.

There’s the white brick for my laptop, the gray cradle for my cell phone, various cables for my iPod. But the worst of the lot is the digital camera’s charger. This brick of a device is actually bigger than my camera and comes with one long, thick cable that attaches to the wall and another long cable that attaches to my camera. All in all, it’s a heavy, obtrusive burden that never fails to stir bitterness—especially when I’m hauling my luggage around some distant city.

Camera manufacturers put a lot of thought into the design of their cameras. Every button and menu item is carefully laid out for maximum efficiency—at least if the engineers do their jobs well. And there’s been a huge push to make cameras smaller, lighter, and more portable. But when it comes to designing batteries, many of the same companies seem to assume that you’ll never be away from home long enough that you’ll need to recharge.

And power bricks aren’t the only problem. On top of that, some cameras require a special docking station (again, almost as big as the camera itself) to download your photos to your laptop and free up space on your card. You can purchase a card reader to avoid this, but that’s another thing you’ll have to lug around. Frankly, any good camera design should make using one of these stations an option—not a requirement.

A well thought out battery pack, on the other hand, plugs right into the wall (no extra cables required) and has a place to snap in your battery. This means you can buy an extra battery and charge it up while still using the first—so you’ll never get caught with a dead battery. Although this design is becoming more common it is by no mean the standard (Olympus and Canon are among the few to include this design, and even they only include it with certain cameras). Until customers begin putting their collective foot, it probably won’t be. But I for one will never ever buy another camera without first giving its battery pack a good hard look. My aching back won’t let me.

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