Turbo Batteries


This is a page for people using or interested in powering their flashes with Quantum Turbo batteries and/or 3rd party compatible products (pretty much pros and aspiring pros :) ). Basically it can be confusing but rewarding turf to tread on and I hope to centralize a bunch of information that's all over the place. If you already know the what, whys, and hows of TC batteries, feel free to skip to the good stuff. Bring on the Knock offs! Otherwise, read on!

Turbo Batteries?

First, What is a Quantum Turbo battery? (Let's call them Turbo compatible or TC batteries for the sake of brevity) It's a battery pack, external to the flash, that supplies high voltage (325v) directly to the flash's power capacitor. They're not to be confused with Quantum's "Battery 1" or 1+ which are low voltage and replace the AA batteries in flash. TC Batteries use a special cord to connect to the flash. More sophisitcated speedlights with onboard microcontrollers like the Canon 580ex II, 580ex, and 550ex actually still need the four AA batteries to power their low voltage electronics when using a TC battery.


Before we go much further, some words of caution. As always with flash equipment, TC batteries don't like water, keep them dry. Also -always- turn your TC battery off before plugging or unplugging a cable into/from it. Finally if you decide to open a TC battery up, you do so at your own peril. I have it on good authorty that the high voltage dissapates immediately upon switching the power off. Still, I'm not encouraging anyone without the appropriate electronics background to open these units up.

Why TC Batteries?

So, why would anyone use TC batteries. There are two reasons really with a third-ish. Flash cycling speed and electrical capacity are the two that many will consider. Lots of people on the internets claim that the key to fast cycling speed of flash using a TC battery lies in the actual battery. I do not believe this is as much of a factor as some think. Your regular Quantum Turbo uses a 8volt 3.2ah sealed lead acid battery (SLA). Compare that four NiMH batteries which are generally 5volt 2.5ah. At this point we're only worried about the volts and the difference isn't huge. Perhaps if we were talking about alkaline AA batteries which don't dump their charge as quickly the point would be more valid. The difference in the ability of NiMH batteries to dump their charge compared to SLA's is little to none. What I think really makes the difference is space. In a shoe mount strobe much of the space is consumed by the power capacitor, the largest component. Throw in four AA's and some exposure calculating electronics and there isn't much room for the components that ramp up the high voltage and regulate it. It's pretty much limited to whatever is the smallest possible way to do that. Add in the fact that 9 times out of 10 the manufacturer's second priority after space is effeciency (getting the most flashes out of a set of batteries) and speed takes a third row back seat. In a standard Quantum Turbo battery pack there's more than 10.3 square inches of circuit board space available for ramping up and regulating the high voltage (it also monitors battery capacity as well). This is like the difference between a Ford Festiva and Mustang. There's more room for a bigger "engine." How fast is fast? Fully charged energizer 2500 AA's power up my 580ex in about 5sec. The Quantum Turbo does the same in less than 1.5sec. In fact TC batteries can cycle a speedlight so fast you have to be careful when shooting in burst mode. When shooting lots of flashes in rapid succession speedlights can over heat. Some will give themselves a 5min "time out" to cool off while other, less smart strobes, will let you kill them. The second main reason to use a TC Battery is capacity. Most (all?) TC batteries just have more juice. Lets compare the volt amp hours (v multiplied by Ah) of some different TC batteries. 2500mah AA's (4): 12vah Quantum Turbo: 25.6vah JTL (old style with 4500mah battery upgrade): 37.8vah Quantum Turbo 2x2: 38.9vah These puppies hold some power! Generally I get around 500 TTL flashes out of my Quantum Turbo with a Quantum T5d. The Quantum T5d is roughly twice as powerful as the most powerful flashes offered by Canon or Nikon. With a 580ex I'd be surprised if you finished a Turbo in one wedding. The third-ish reason to use a TC battery is because that's the only battery your flash will take like a Quantum T2-T5d-r, Armatar, Jtl Mobilight 300, etc. With these benefits I'm sold! Why doesn't everyone use TC batteries?!?! .... Price. Bring in the knock offs!