The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is probably one of the most successful cameras from Olympus to date. With so many people having their hands on it, it wasn’t surprising that for a time their original BLN-1 battery got a shortage of supply making consumers turn to 3rd party manufacturers for that extra juice. Not to mention that these Olympus OM-D Third Party BLN-1 Battery alternatives are aslo cheap but with some drawbacks. We take a look at two 3rd party batteries I was able to use for a couple of months now – the iSmart Digi and the DSTE Battery BLN-1 and see how they fare.
3rd Party BLN-1s
Right now there are already several brands making BLN-1 batteries for the OM-D. While their capacities and quality differs, one thing in common with them is that they wont work with the original Olympus BCN-1 Charger for Olympus so some of them package the charger with the battery. but I did try charging these batteries across their packaged chargers and they do work.
iSmart Digi BLN-1 from Filter Exchange
The first battery I got to try was the iSmart Digi from Filter Exchange. The battery cost Php1000 (US$25) and they delivered the battery in a couple of hour after I ordered by phone found on their website (now that’s what I call ultra fast service). The battery build feels a lot solid and the label claims a capacity of 1220mAh similar to original Olympus BLN-1. Upon testing and shooting a sports event in burst mode, I was able to squeeze out about 325 shots shooting Medium quality JPG + RAW on a class 6 Sandisk Extreme SD Card. I’m pretty surprised with its capacity considering its not original, so far it has maintained its capacity for a couple of months use. The only drawback I have with this battery is the charger as its plug doesn’t really fold. It sticks out sorely making it hard to store.
DSTE 1450mAh 3 piece + Charger set from Ebay
A 3 piece battery plus free charger for US$32?! That’s too good a deal to be true since the original BLN-1 cost about Php 3200+ (US$ 77) here. And as I found out not everything seems rosy with this unit. Some guys at ClubSnap dismantled the battery and found out it’s not a 1450mAh battery as advertised nor is it Sanyo made but its a 1020mAh capacity and a Zhongshan Tianmao Battery made. Other than that it’s pretty safe to use since they found balancing circuitry inside. I also asked some people who have used it with the OM-D for some time and reported no problems with it. Last thing I want to happen is having my OM-D bricked by a cheaply made battery.
So I got my DSTE Batteries without a problem and its not as sturdy as the iSmart build on hand. In fact one of the battery was a lemon. It was too thick to fit inside the OM-D battery compartment. I emailed DSTE about replacing it and they immediately sent a new one without me paying for anything. So all the battery fits perfectly in the compartment. Now testing it on the OM-D, I was only able to get around 200-225 shots from each battery shooting JPG + RAW on my Class 6 Sandisk Extreme on full charge. I also like the charger that comes with it as the plug can be folded on the side.
Both batteries seems to work well with the OM-D without a problem, for how long we don’t know. The only hassle I see using 3rd Party BLN-1 is bringing the extra chargers. Good thing the 3rd party chargers works with each other except from the original one from Olympus letting me bring the DSTE one solely. Charging time for the DSTE is about 2 hours while the iSmart is about 2.5 hours. The quality of the iSmart Digi seems to appeal to me more even if it was a little more expensive than the DSTE. While the DSTE works, somehow it’s a gamble not to get a lemon unit like I did. While I would really prefer the original, I had experiences with 3rd Party batteries before with the PEN and hadn’t had problems with it.