This is a review of the Bolt CBP-N1 Compact Battery Pack for select Nikon flashes. Whether used during a portrait session or at a wedding reception, a battery pack can greatly improve and extend the usefulness of an off-camera flash. My hopes for this battery pack are two-fold. First, I want it to extend the battery life of my flash’s batteries, giving me more shooting time without having to worry about changing batteries or waiting longer for my flash to recycle over the course of my shoot. Second, I want it to give me a consistently faster recycle time.
1) Product Specifications
Extends Portable Flash Capacity
Option of Using 4 or 8 AA Batteries
Alkaline, Lithium or Ni-MH Batteries
Thermal Switch Prevents Overheating
Fast Recycle Times Up to 1.88 Sec
Up to 524 Flashes Per Charge
Operating Temperature: -4°F-104°F (-20°C-40°C)
Operating Humidity: 85% or less
Dimensions: 6.7 x 2.8 x 1.0″ (17 x 7.25 x 2.5 cm)
Weight: 7 oz (200 g)
1.1) Supported Flashes
Compatible Nikon flashes:
Nikon SB-800 Speedlight
Nikon SB-80DX Speedlight
Nikon SB-28DX Speedlight
Nikon SB-28 Speedlight
Nikon SB-27 Speedlight
Nikon SB-26 Speedlight
Nikon SB-25 Speedlight
Nikon SB-24 Speedlight
Nikon SB-22 Speedlight
Nikon SB-20 Speedlight
Nikon SB-11 Speedlight
2) Packaging and Field Use
The Bolt battery pack is available with or without rechargeable batteries. Mine came with 8 rechargeable batteries and two chargers. Additionally, it ships with the battery pack with an attached cable for specific flashes, a nylon case for the pack and an instruction manual.
Setting it up is about as simple as it gets. There is no switch on the pack. Just insert your batteries, plug the cord into your flash and start shooting. Two small indicator lights on the pack let you know that it is providing power to your flash. Because the flash still needs batteries in it to function, if you don’t hook the battery pack up correctly, your flash will still fire. This makes the green indicator lights quite useful the first time you’re using the flash. I didn’t hook it up correctly the first time and noticed that, although the flash was firing, the indicator lights weren’t illuminated. I checked my connections and, once everything was connected correctly, saw that the indicator lights were lit.
Speaking of batteries, let’s talk for a moment about the Pearstone batteries that come with the pack. I was a little frustrated to discover that each battery is individually wrapped in cellophane, making the unpacking procedure quite annoying and time consuming. Once I got all of the batteries unwrapped and started charging them, they seemed to charge in a reasonable amount of time. I don’t think that they came precharged, though, so don’t plan on using them in your battery pack straight out of the box. I have another small gripe with the battery chargers. The plugs are placed such that two chargers will not fit into two plugs in the same outlet. In order to use both chargers at the same time you’ll have to use two different outlets.
If you’re using the battery pack with an on-camera flash, it comes with a screw that attaches it to the tripod socket on the bottom of your camera. I personally found this arrangement to be quite uncomfortable and would probably choose to strap the battery pack to my belt using the nylon carrying case instead of attaching it to my camera. If you’re going to use the battery pack to power an off-camera flash, you’ll have to figure out a way to attach it to your light stand. I had a velcro strap in my camera bag that worked just fine for this purpose.
Once I had my battery pack attached to the light stand and connected to my flash, it was time to start shooting. In order to really test the capacity of the pack, I decided to continuously fire my flash and see how many shots I could get off before it failed to fire. In all of my tests, from ⅛ flash power all the way up to ½ power, I could fire an average of 12 shots before the flash failed to fire while shooting with the battery pack. In comparison, without the battery pack I only averaged 4 shots before the flash failed to fire.
When I reviewed the photos, I noticed that the flash power was not consistent for all twelve shots. The first flash was definitely the most powerful and the next flashes were relatively consistent. I’d guess that they were no more than 1-stop darker from the first flash. In the real world, this isn’t ideal but it’s definitely better than missing a shot at a wedding reception because your flash failed to fire. As long as you’re using a relatively modern DSLR, that 1-stop difference can easily be recovered in post processing.
The recharge time of the flash while using the battery pack compared to just using in-flash batteries was much quicker. Although I didn’t get out my stopwatch to time the difference, I’d say it was nearly twice as fast. Again, if you’re photographing a wedding reception or some other event where moments don’t wait for your flash to charge, using this battery pack could mean the difference between capturing or missing a shot.
Finally, the battery pack does indeed give your much more battery life than just using in-camera batteries. The literature claims it will provide over 500 full-power flashes on 8 batteries. While I didn’t want to test this claim (and melt my flash in the process), I did try to see if I could detect any slowing of my flash’s recycle time as I used it. Typically, as you use a flash and drain the batteries, the recycle time increases. With the battery pack attached to the flash, I didn’t notice any change in recycle time, even after all of my testing. I’m going to assume that this means the battery pack provides extra battery life for your flash. Of course, it makes sense that using 12 batteries instead of 4 would give you longer battery life, but I just wanted to make sure.
In my opinion, a battery pack should do two things. It should extend battery life and improve performance. The Bolt CBP-N1 Compact Battery Pack does both of those things. It’s not fancy. It has no switches and only two small indicator lights. You plug it in and it does it’s job. Fortunately, it does that job very well. Not only was battery life extended, but performance was dramatically improved over just using in-flash batteries. I think that considering the only real fault I could find was not even with the battery pack but with the supplied batteries and chargers, this battery pack is a worthwhile investment for anyone who uses flash and doesn’t want to miss an important moment.