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Dolgin Engineering TC 400 charger

Get supercharged with the latest Dolgin charger By Douglas Spotted Eagle

If time is what we measure our lives by, time is pretty valuable. If your time isn't worth much, then read no further. On the other hand, if saving time is important to you, this is a product worthy of a first and second look.

Dolgin Engineering, long known for their dedication to manufacturing sturdy, yet inexpensive tools for professional and mid-level video producers, have created the TC400 battery charger. In the past, only high end camcorders have had access to accelerated battery discharge/charging systems such as those offered by Anton Bauer and other battery providers. The TC400 now provides this option to lower-cost camcorder batteries, thus saving their owners significant time, therefore optimizing their revenue-producing time.

What makes this charger fairly unique is the ability to charge batteries from any of the four leading mid-level camcorders. Canon, Sony, JVC, and Panasonic plates are all available, and up to four batteries may be charged at one time. If multiple battery types are required, no problem. The review unit we received has two Sony plates and two Canon plates, allowing a mix of battery formats. This is an excellent feature for the event videographer that doesn't have matching cameras. On the charger here, batteries for the Canon XLH1, JVC HD100U, and Sony HVR-Z1U are charging.

The "Gas Gauge" provides instant feedback for each battery, providing a display as to the charge/discharge of a specific battery. Available as an option, a Test/Discharge circuit is available. This option demonstrates the actual life/capacity of the tested battery, fully charging, discharging, and re-charging the battery. Without the option, batteries are only charged, not discharged first (batteries charge faster when the battery is fully depleted, vs starting with a partially charged battery).

Operation is simple and completely automated. Place batteries to be charged on the  charging plate, and that's it. The Gas Gauge will display the charge state of the battery in the LCD screen. Battery plates operate in parallel, so they are completely independent of each other. The four front LED panel status indicators read as follows:
Slow Blink-Testing battery level
Fast Blink-Currently charging
Fully On-Charge complete

Powered by a "cord wart," the power supply is hefty; about the same size as many laptop power supplies. According to Dolgin Engineering, this is necessary to charge all four batteries at the same time while providing full power to the accelerated charge process. "Hefty" is a word that seems to apply to virtually every product Dolgin makes. Their products withstand all sorts of abuse, being made from heavy steel.

Charging four batteries simultaneously with accelerated charging saves videographers a lot of time, but also saves space. The footprint of the TC400 is approximately 6.5 x  8.25, with a height of 2.25 (without battery installed).

Other options to enhance the production process provides the ability to power a camera directly from the unit with the cable that came with your camcorder. A single camera may be powered during the charging process, making this perfect for the studio and field shooter. Additionally, batteries may be charged in a vehicle, allowing field shooters to keep batteries ready to go while away from AC power (optional cable that may be purchased from Dolgin or most any electronics supply store). The TDM module is one accessory/option most users would find valuable, as fully discharging the battery prior to charge not only speeds the process, but helps assure longer battery life.

There are a couple of features I'd like to see improved or added to the TC400. For instance, the two line, 16 character LCD screen seems sparse, it could potentially offer more feedback. I don't know what that feedback should be, perhaps "Hey! I'm done charging" or something fun like that would suffice. I like communication, and this seems to be the first place the device could improve. However, it is completely functional as-is. Additionally, the unit is configured to lie on a desk or countertop. Adding a wall mount bracket or even just die-cut key holes so the unit could be wall mounted would be a beneficial feature. Batteries seem very tightly afixed to the plates, so there is no concern about batteries falling off, in my opinion. I was able to hold the TC400 upside down and shake it vigorously without fear of the batteries falling off.

To make some price comparisons, I searched the web for comparable chargers and found nothing. What I did find is that a single charger for a single battery is in the price range of $50.00 (third party), while manufacturer chargers priced in at around $90.00 on average. None of those devices provided discharge/charge ability, and none of them offered information as to accurate charge level.

Overall, this is one of those "gotta have" tools for a working shooter, as the benefits far outweigh the costs. With battery charging time cut nearly in half, accurate feedback on the level of charge, 12 volt vehicle charge ability,  access to AC power for the camcorder during charging, and ability to charge up to four batteries at the same time, it's difficult to think of a reason that one wouldn't want to have this unit sitting in their studio or production storage room. Congrats to Alex and Dolgin Engineering for yet another durable and highly useful product.
TC400 Retail cost  $495.00 USD  
Optional add-ons:  
TDM Discharge unit  $99.00 USD  
Cam Power/20w  $99.00-$169.00 USD  
Company website  

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DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE, Managing Producer Douglas Spotted Eagle is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy Award winning productions.

Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others.

Douglas is an accomplished aerial photographer who thrives in the adrenaline-filled world of fast-action videography. He remains active as a multimedia producer, trainer, and presenter, utilizing the latest technology as part of his workflow.

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