We talk a lot about battery form factors in our blog posts. Interestingly, one of the battery forms we rarely mention is the CR123. It is often referred to by other names, including CR123A, 123, SF123, and DL123A. The important thing to know is that these batteries can be primary or rechargeable batteries.
A primary battery is a single-use battery. You install it, fully discharge it, and throw it away (please recycle it of course). Regular Paleblue customers know our stand on that. We think single-use batteries need to go the way of the incandescent lightbulb. Modern rechargeable batteries are making disposable batteries obsolete.
CR123 batteries are cylindrical batteries with a nominal voltage of 3V. They measure approximately 17mm (diameter) by 34mm (length). Their primary benefit is the ability to deliver a high level of current consistently.
A Relatively New Battery
Compared to more common form factors like AAA, C, and D, the CR123 battery is relatively new. It was developed for portable electronics with high power demands. Digital cameras immediately come to mind. Digital cameras and their onboard flashes consume a lot of power. Not only that, but they also need power consistently.
As previously stated, CR123 batteries have a nominal voltage of 3V. Typical capacity is about 1500 mAh. Do not confuse CR123 products with RCR123A batteries, which have a higher voltage and lower capacity.
Primary vs. Rechargeable Batteries
CR123 batteries are based on lithium technology. However, you cannot recharge a primary CR123 battery. In fact, both manufacturers and battery experts strongly recommend never to attempt to recharge one. It is just bad news all the way around.
Fortunately, there are rechargeable lithium-ion batteries made to CR123 standards. You get the same nominal voltage, the same capacity, and the ability to recharge the batteries many times over. You can probably guess our preference. We would always recommend rechargeable over primary a CR123.
Common CR123 Battery Applications
So, what types of applications are CR123 batteries normally used for? We have already talked about the digital camera. There are plenty of other devices for which these batteries are appropriate:
- Flashlights – High-energy flashlights, like those used by police officers and firefighters, need extra power to illuminate larger areas. They are likely to be powered by CR123s.
- Tactical Lights – The military, SWAT teams, and other tactical units also rely on high-powered portable lights to do what they do in the dark.
- Security Devices – Security devices, like wireless cameras and motion sensors, are good candidates for CR123 batteries. Higher voltage and consistent discharge rates keep the devices working properly day and night.
Any manufacturer that needs a higher voltage battery with excellent capacity may choose the CR123 form factor. CR123 batteries are arguably not as popular as AAAs, AAs, etc. but plenty of manufacturers still find uses for them.
One last thing to know about CR123s is that performance will vary based on application and frequency of use. For example, a CR123 in a heavily used tactical light might last a month or two. A home security system hub powered by a CR123 could continue working for a year or longer on a single battery.
The CR123 battery isn't the most well-known battery in the world, but based on what we are seeing when visiting recycling centers, they are more common than ever. It's the best choice for small, yet high-powered devices that need a consistent power source.