selfaware soup

Esther Weidauer

A Weird Battery for an Old Camera


I have an old analog SLR, a Praktica BC1. It was made in the 1980s and still works to this day. And I’d like to take it out and actually shoot pictures with it again after going digital for many years.

Photo of an analog SLR (Praktica BC1) sitting on a desk

It had an issue though: It would ignore your selected shutter speed and always use 1/1000 second which is not very helpful. I first assumed that something was actually broken but a little bit of research on analog camera forums revealed that this camera actually needs a little bit of power to apply the shutter speed.

The BC1 is a semi-automatic camera with built-in light metering which requires a small battery. that battery lasts for years usually but this thing has been sitting in a drawer for over a decade so the battery was probably entirely dead.

So, I needed to replace it and that’s not exactly trivial as the BC1 takes a 4LR44 size battery which is very uncommon these days.

Photo of a 4LR44 battery, small cylindrical shape

These batteries used to be common during the 80s and 90s in film cameras that had some electronic components, but with the rise of digital cameras, they fell out of use and almost no shop will actually have them in stock now.

However, the 4LR44 name gives a hint: this is actually a battery made of 4 individual LR44 cells, just repackaged into one unit.

photo of 4 individual LR44 button cell batteries

the LR44s stacked up next to the 4LR44

LR44 cells are widely available as they are used for all sorts of small devices like clocks, thermostats, sensors, toys, etc. I actually still had 4 of them, so with a little masking tape I made myself a DIY version of a 4LR44.

the stack of LR44s taped together with masking tape, next to the 4LR44

Turns out, that little stack of 4 LR44 cells is not quite as tall as an actual 4LR44 so it doesn’t make contact on both ends in the camera’s battery compartment.

the taped stack of LR44s in the camera's battery compartment, it's a bit too short to reach both contacts

But that’s nothing a little spacer made of aluminium foil won’t fix.

a little piece of folded up aluminium foil wedged in on one end of the batteries to bridge the gap

A quick check through the view finder shows that the light metering works again and so does the shutter speed setting.

look through the BC1's viewfinder with the metering LEDs lit up

This camera is ready to go again. Now I just need to go out and buy some film. Luckily that’s pretty easy in Berlin. So I’ll get myself some trusty Ilford HP5 and give it a go.