Cinematographers love talking about gear. Whether we're discussing our favorite rinky-dink articulating arm or a pricey anamorphic lens, we’re simply yappers. But one polarizing topic for filmmakers is power solutions—vital components of any camera rig. Naturally, SmallRig’s latest venture into the power world, the VB99 Pro Mini V-Mount battery, has us filmmakers talking, so I decided to test it out and see if it should be on your gear list. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty darn awesome.
Small ’n’ Mighty
V-mount batteries are notoriously cumbersome, to the point that they might be the heaviest part of your camera rig. A bigger battery generally means longer battery life, and many previous attempts to compact that power into a more convenient form have been unsuccessful. With small size and portability, you can generally expect less power output and shorter battery life.
SmallRig upends these expectations with the VB99, a power punch that hits miles above its weight class. As its name implies, this is a 99-Watt Hour battery that boasts up to a 14 amp draw at 14.8 volts. All of that oomph is contained in a surprisingly compact and lightweight 4.1 x 2.9 x 2.1" body, weighing around 1.2 pounds.
Picking it up for the first time, I was immediately reminded of a dense, rectangular baseball. It was pleasantly surprising to see how handholdable and portable this little guy is—a feeling I can’t say I’ve experienced with other existing v-mount batteries. The compactness occupies minimal space on my camera rig and is eminently transportable. It’s also beautifully sleek, which is a definite bonus in my book.
The color display is another handy feature for monitoring stats like capacity and output, among other things. Unlike other displays, I found the VB99’s to be extremely easy to understand with just a quick glance. This readability is crucial when you’re down to the wire—sometimes you need to know exactly how much battery life you can squeeze out. With the click of the power button, you can cycle swiftly through the percentage and other parameters. It’s the kind of minimalist efficiency that belongs on a futuristic spacecraft, yet it’s here in the palm of my hand.
The Ins and Outs of the Outs and Ins
No worthy V-mount battery is complete without ports. I love ports, I need ports, and I’m prepared to wash my hands of the VB99 if it doesn’t deliver. Luckily, I don’t have to do this because the VB99 has a diverse array of inputs and outputs. It offers the traditional 14.8V D-tap output that you would expect on any V-mount battery, but it also has two USB-C ports that output up to 100W.
The convenience here is unreal. You can easily power anything with USB-C connectivity, which pretty much covers most current camera systems. Both ports are labeled with an OUT on them, but to my surprise, one of the USB-C ports is also labeled IN. You already know what that means; BI-DIRECTIONAL PORT—WHOOP WHOOOOP. This is huge. No more lugging around a giant power tower to charge your v-mounts, you’re finally free. Go get yourself a high-wattage compact USB-C charger for your travels to save your space and sanity.
Another great feature is the ability to charge and discharge the battery simultaneously, meaning you can charge the battery via the input while powering something else with the output. SmallRig has also gone out of its way to drop in a USB-A output, which is quite a generous choice amidst the standardization of USB-C. I appreciate it. While a USB-A port might not be necessary for everyone, it’s a huge convenience for those of us who have USB-A-driven equipment. I can plug in my iPhone charger with the option to charge my mirrorless cameras or even a compact LED all at once.
Additionally, the VB99 has two Barrel outputs. One is a 2.5mm 12V output and the other is a 2.1mm 8V output. There are also multiple safety measures in place, including regulated ports and a built-in chip to prevent overcharging and short-circuiting.
Here’s the deal: this battery is sick. It checks all the boxes.
Compact and lightweight, measures 4.1 x 2.9 x 2.1" and weighs 1.2 lb
Gorgeous yet informative color display provides easy-to-read charge/power indicators
Numerous regulated ports (D-Tap 14.8V, 1 Bi-directional USB-C, 1 USB-C Out, 1 USB-A Out, 2.5mm Output 12 V, 2.1mm Output 8 V)
Aesthetically pleasing, sleek design
Current, short-circuit, and overcharge protection
Fast charging, compatible with a PD fast charger
I couldn’t be happier with the battery. It does exactly what SmallRig has designed it to do with a ton of well-implemented features. I am curious to see how it holds up in the long run, because it’s still so new, but it definitely impressed me in this initial review. Well done, SmallRig.
Well, readers, what do you think of the VB99? Do you think you’re going to try it out? What are your must-haves in a V-mount battery? Let us know in the Comments section, below!