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These mini V-mount batteries are better than power banks for photographers and drone pilots

You've probably never heard of V-mount batteries before. They're like power banks, but better.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Photographing a roundhouse in deepest, darkest Wales, with a  SmallRig mini V-mount battery powering my equipment

Photographing a roundhouse in deepest, darkest Wales, with a  SmallRig mini V-mount battery powering my equipment

ZDNET/Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

You can buy a power bank for a few bucks. And it might work. If you're lucky.

Then you can buy a decent power bank from companies such as Anker or Zendure and get a product that'll cost you more money, but you know it's going to work, work well, and give you years of service.

If I need a power bank for my off-the-grid activities, this is when I turn to something more professional. V-mount batteries.

What are V-mount batteries?

They're rechargeable battery packs that have a specific mount to connect them to photographic and video equipment. 

The name comes from the shape of the locking plate that is used to attach this battery to devices or stands. It's in the shape of a V. 

The "V-mount" that gives V-mount batteries their name

The "V-mount" that gives V-mount batteries their name

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Originally developed by Sony, the V-mount became a standard that's now found on all sorts of non-Sony equipment, powering cameras, lighting, displays, microphones, and other devices. 

Why do professionals use V-mount?

Well, a lot of pros started out using V-mount because something they own needed it. It was a reliable way of powering devices when there wasn't mains power available.

Nowadays, V-mount is chosen by photographers and videographers as a way to power their cameras, monitors, and other devices. A single V-mount battery can power multiple devices, so it means that you don't need to worry about keeping an eye on multiple batteries, swapping them when they get low and keeping them all charged up. You just have a single battery to care for.

But there have been a few drawbacks to the V-mount. Specifically, they were big and heavy, and you needed a specific charger to recharge them, which means that unless you were a professional willing to drop a lot of cash, they were prohibitively expensive to get into. For example: 

Evolution of V-mount batteries

Over the past year, I've noticed that V-mount batteries have evolved into multi-purpose power banks that feature not only the power outputs that you'd expect from a V-mount battery but also added USB-A and USB-C.

The addition of a USB-C port means that not only do you have a high-power port, but also a way to quickly recharge the V-mount battery without needing a bespoke charger.

This not only makes them really versatile, but also reduces the cost of using them.

Older V-mount batteries were also heavy and big, so you really didn't want to carry too many of them with you.

Modern V-mount batteries change this.

SmallRig VB50 and VB99 mini V-mount batteries

Enter the SmallRig VB50 and VB99 mini V-mount batteries. These have 50Wh capacity/50W max output and 99Wh capacity/99W max output, respectively.

There's also an upcoming VB155 with 155Wh/155W max output, but I have not yet had the chance to test this battery.

They're called "mini" because they are some 30% smaller than standard V-mount batteries, yet still retain all the features professionals expect from V-mount and come with additional features.

You can attach all sorts of plates and adapters to the V-mount.

SmallRig V-mount plate

SmallRig V-mount plate

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
SmallRig V-mount plate attached to battery

SmallRig V-mount plate attached to battery

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
SmallRig mini V-mount clamp

SmallRig mini V-mount clamp

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

There are 8V and 12V DC output barrel jacks, which have a wide range of uses when dealing with photo, video, and audio equipment. There's a D-Tap output that again is used to power a whole range of devices (I use D-Tap to power my Sony A7IV mirrorless camera when it's being used for video along with the Atomos Ninja V external monitor).

D-Tap port

D-Tap port

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

There are also USB-A and USB-C ports. That USB-C port is super handy for not just charging devices, but it's also a quick and convenient way to charge the V-mount battery without needing a special charger.

Lots of ports

Lots of ports

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

On the front is an OLED display that displays battery information. It's not bright, but that's by design because the last thing you want on video or photo sets is a glowing panel adding random lighting!

OLED display on SmallRig VB99 offers a good overview of that's going on

OLED display on SmallRig VB99 offers a good overview of what's going on.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Why the SmallRig VB50/VB99 are great for the modern photographer and drone operator

There are several features that I like in these SmallRig V-mount batteries.

First, V-mount batteries are designed to deliver power over multiple outputs. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen a power bank that's bristling with ports, but as soon as you try to use more than one, the power output becomes unstable.

That sort of thing is just useless.

These SmallRig V-mount batteries deliver the power when I need it. This is a top priority. 

Then there's the build quality.

These batteries are tough and designed to be used by people who aren't all that careful with things. The outer is a fire-resistant polycarbonate that takes quite a beating, and ports are covered by rubber protectors to prevent dirt and dust from getting in (note however that these are not waterproof). They have a working temperature of -10°C- 45°C (14°F – 113°F), which gives them great flexibility in the outdoors.

Then there's the fact that they do what they claim to do. I spend a lot of time making sure manufacturers are being honest.

There are no exaggerated power outputs and no fictional capacities here.

SmallRig VB99 Mini V-mount battery specs

SmallRig VB99 Mini V-mount battery specs

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

You get exactly what you pay for.

The "mini" nature of these batteries is also really appreciated. Modern drones and cameras need a lot of power, and batteries can become a big part of the load I carry. 

I also like the attention to little details. There are screw threads built into the V-mount plate to offer greater attachment flexibility, the rubber doors over the ports fit well and don't feel like they are going to break off, and there are also holes for a lanyard to be threaded through the battery.

Nice touches.

Not cheap, but worth the money

These batteries aren't cheap -- the SmallRig VB50 is $179, while the VB99 is $279 (the VB155 will be $379). The VB50 and VB99 is currently available for pre-order and will be out soon, while the VB155 is scheduled for release in October.

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