A Visual Guide to Spotting the Fakes
The NP-W126S is the current version of the battery used by Fujifilm X interchangeable lens cameras (X-A, E, H, M, Pro, and T series). Because the NP-W126S is a premium battery which sells at a premium price, fraudsters re-badge and repackage inferior batteries, to pass them off as genuine Fujifilm batteries, in a money making scam. This guide is specifically about counterfeits, meaning that the batteries (without authorisation) carry a copy of the Fujifilm brand logo, and are designed to resemble the original product so closely as to be virtually identical to it. They are designed for the purpose of deceit.
I will present practical tests which can be used to determine whether a battery claimed to be a genuine “Fujifilm NP-W126S” is legitimate, or counterfeit. The distinctions made in this guide, reflect the situation at the time of writing. However, Fujifilm, (or the battery’s manufacturer, Panasonic) could at any time, make changes to the battery, which might supersede this information: – “Specifications subject to change without notice”, as they say. Because of this, it is best to frame the results of your individual tests in terms of “normal or suspect”, rather than jumping immediately to a “real or fake” conclusion. Every occurrence of a “suspect” finding, contributes to the accumulating evidence that the battery may not be genuine. When the bulk of the suspicious evidence becomes compelling, then you can declare the battery a fake.
Many of the analyses shown here, can be made without the need of any instruments. If you are familiar with what to look for, you can positively identify a fake (even a very good copy), in about 2 to 3 seconds. To determine the authenticity of a particular battery claiming to be a genuine NP-W126S, look at:
[ 1 ] ORIGINAL PACKAGING
When purchased as an accessory, the original packaging of the NP-W126S battery includes the box, instructions and a plastic storage pouch for the battery.
The box and instructions are specific to the battery type (that is, they don’t use a generic box and instructions sheet that suit various models of lithium-ion battery).
Some counterfeiting is very un-sophisticated: In the following phoney box, based on packaging from the past, the battery diagram shows the wrong battery (they sometimes place a barcode label over this, to obscure it).
Other discrepancies are the lack of Japanese text, and the old style Fujifilm brand with the small “Fuji” symbol, which has not been used since 2006.
That logo is an anachronism for the NP-W126S battery, which was released ten years after the change to the present Fujifilm brand logo (with the distinctive font, and the “cutting-edge” design feature on letters I and F).
[ 2 ] PRINTING ON THE BATTERY
The battery is printed on two faces, and one end (the circular orientation patch). When examining the details of the printing on the battery in question, we can look at:
TEXT & GRAPHICS LAYOUT & CONTENT
These are the current printed faces of the NP-W126S battery. As far as I can find out, there is one design for all markets. The logos of the various certifying agencies indicate a global coverage. The Fujifilm branding, battery type, and power specifications are found on the front face of the battery.
On the reverse face, can be found the contact pin-outs, safety warnings, and country of manufacture. Please note that the “JAPAN ONLY” words on the reverse side, refer to the Recycling symbol, rather than to a distribution market.
The above photographs detail the textual content of the genuine batteries. In contrast, one recent counterfeit version, mis-spells the name “Panasonic”, on its front face, as “Panssonic”, and on the reverse face, it gives the warning “CAUTION: Risk of Fire and Bums”, instead of “Burns”. Because the Fujifilm brand logo incorporates unique characteristics, such as the “cutting-edge” device on the central I and F letters, it can represent a challenge for the counterfeiter. This is the genuine form:
The counterfeiter’s rendering might look OK without close inspection, but if you examine it with some magnification, you might find many anomalies:
The white print ink of the genuine batteries, is not an “intense” white, but could be described as a pale silvery-grey off-white. Likewise, the orange ink of the genuine batteries, tends not to be a “vibrant” orange.
In recent years, all NP-W126 class batteries have an orange coloured orientation patch on the end that faces out from the camera’s battery chamber. The later series NP-W126 batteries had a square orange patch, while the NP-W126S has a circular patch.
The colour is a “burnt” orange, and is not like a “high-visibility” orange.
SCALE, BOUNDARIES & MARGINS
If you have a known genuine battery, you can compare the scale of the printed area, and the dimensions of the text and symbols boundaries. Even if precise measurements of the print boundaries cannot be done, it is often possible to visually notice discrepancies to the margins.
On the front and reverse faces, the area for printing is very slightly raised (by about the thickness of a regular sheet of paper on each face). Under good light, you can easily see the edges of this raised zone. With the genuine batteries, the upper and lower boundaries for the printing go almost to the edge of this raised surface.
On the non-genuine batteries, there may be a noticeable space between the upper and lower boundaries of the printing and the edge of the raised surface.
Pay attention to the spacing between text and graphics. On one of the counterfeits, the electrical contact symbols are slightly smaller, and spaced further from the adjacent text.
Tiny layout errors can also be detected on minute examination of the text. For example, on the genuine battery’s front face (with the Fujifilm logo), the tail of the Y in the word battery, lines up with the centre line of the number 6 below it:
In contrast, on one fake version, the tail of the Y lines up with just over the leading edge of the number 6:
If you have a known genuine battery to compare against, you may be able to find many printing discrepancies on the suspect battery. On this genuine battery, notice the name of the city Wuxi, is enclosed in brackets, with spaces on either side of them.
On one counterfeit battery, the spaces are missing:
The following gives an example of a currently available counterfeit battery. For comparison, the first photograph shows the front face of a genuine battery. The points for examination are circumscribed.
Now compare the suspect battery. Easily seen anomalies are: An inaccurate copy of Fujifilm logo (especially the “hook” of the letter J), a missing space before “NP-W126S”, a dash that is too long in “NP-W126S”, a stroke missing in the ム (mu) katakana script, and spaces missing either side of “(Wuxi)”. There are actually many more inaccuracies, but these five are the most easily seen. Finally, of course, recall that the genuine battery is supplied with a soft storage pouch, not a hard cap.
[ 3 ] OUTER CASE DESIGN
When a battery production facility produces tooling for the battery case, that tooling, and the production methods used, will leave characteristic signs that point to that plant or factory. No matter how good the printing is, these signs easily distinguish batteries from different manufacturers.
On the electrical contacts end of the battery, there is a notched corner, which prevents the battery being fully inserted into the camera’s battery chamber, if the battery is wrongly oriented, either end-wise or face-wise.
You can check the shape of this notch, as an indication of authenticity.
This notch is for securing the battery in the BC-W126S (or BC-W126) charger, and also the battery trays of the vertical grips. The charger has a pawl which latches into this notch, so that the battery is held securely while charging.
At certain angles, the notch of the genuine battery appears to be “black”. Also, check whether the corners of the notch are “square” (which they should be), or “rounded”.
Gate-marks (or, gate-scars) are remnants of the injection molding process that produced the battery’s plastic case. They are tiny spots, about a millimetre in diameter.
The genuine Fujifilm battery has eight gate marks (four on one side, and four on the other side), and the positions do not vary.
Non-genuine batteries may have no visible gate-marks, or if they do have gate marks, they may be in different places, and a different number. Currently, observation of gate-marks is one of the most reliable discriminators between genuine and non-genuine batteries.
[ 4 ] ELECTRICAL CONTACTS
Under good light, the electrical contacts of the NP-W126S batteries, look quite different from those on many non-genuine batteries.
The colour should not be a “Hot” gold.
[ 5 ] SURFACE TOPOGRAPHY
On genuine NP-W126S and NP-W126 batteries, the printed faces have a slight concavity to them. They are not perfectly flat. The boundary of the face’s printed area (marked in the photograph as the B zone) is raised by several hundredths of a millimetre (enough that you can feel it) above the outer edge zone (marked A). In the central area (marked C), the case is thinner than at the edges, and can be depressed by about 0.3 mm, on each face of the battery (about 0.6mm in total). If you can view the face of the battery with light just glancing across the surface, you can sometimes see these zones.
The slight concavity can easily be sensed by rubbing the battery between the fingers and thumb.
A good way to objectively detect the expected concavity, is to hold a perfectly straight edge (like a metal ruler), against the face of the battery, and viewing against a bright background, examine how the straight-edge makes contact. You should see “daylight”, meaning that some light is able to pass between the straight-edge and the middle of the battery surface.
[ 6 ] MANUFACTURING CODE
On the orientation patch end of the genuine battery, there is an impressed / engraved, 8 alphanumeric character manufacturing code.
The first character indicates the year of manufacture and (for an “S” type battery) can only be:
Obviously, the I, and H are future codes, and cannot exist now (in 2019). The second and third characters are for production month and day. We don’t know with certainty the meaning of the fourth and fifth characters (a hypothesis is currently being verified), but the most common combinations seem to be “1A” and “2A”. The last three characters are “P”, “E”, and “W”, standing for “Panasonic Energy, Wuxi”, the manufacturer of the genuine batteries.
Check that the code conforms to the system, that the impression is fine and sharp (and not printed), that it is correctly positioned, and that it uses the correct font. Note that it is a narrow font (check the width of the “W”), and is without serifs. Check the spacing: The letters and numbers should not be “nearly touching”.
Look at where the production code begins and ends, in relation to other surface landmarks. For instance, on the genuine battery, the second half of the final W, should line up with one edge of the the retaining notch.
On the following suspect battery (image from a screen capture), the E is in that position, and the W is lined up with the centre of the notch.
(Incidentally, this notch has round corners, instead of the proper “square” corners, as in the image of the genuine battery).
[ 7 ] BATTERY WEIGHT
The weight of the NP-W126S (and NP-W126) batteries, is very uniform. Rounded to the nearest gram, the battery should weigh 47 grams (or, 1.66 oz).
Weights of non-genuine batteries might range between about 39 and 50 grams (about 1.38 and 1.75 ounces). The weight difference in non-genuine batteries, is due to different construction and chemical formula, and in the case of lighter batteries, may also be due to the use of smaller internal cells (with packing used, to fill up the empty space).
[ 8 ] MATERIALS
When photographed in Infra-Red (IR) light, different plastic types may show different levels of absorption and reflection, despite being the same shade in visible light. Gate marks also show up more clearly under the IR illumination.
In the above photograph, the upper and lower batteries of the stack were genuine Fujifilm batteries, while the middle battery was non-genuine. Under IR light, the non-genuine battery’s different type of plastic appeared much lighter. The IR photograph (converted to monochrome) was taken using an un-modified X-T3 camera, with Infra-Red only illumination (no visible light), but no special lens filter.
[ 9 ] THERMISTOR
The thermistor allows the battery’s charging and discharging temperatures to be monitored. In general, only the genuine OEM batteries have a functioning thermistor. If you have a digital multi-meter (DMM), you can easily check if the battery has a functioning thermistor. Measure the resistance between the [T] contact and the negative contact of the battery.
Take note of that resistance in kΩ (kilo-Ohms). At comfortable room temperatures it might typically be between 7 to 20kΩ.
Now slightly warm the battery by placing it under the armpit or between the two palms of the hands, for several minutes. Finally, measure the resistance again. There should have been a significant drop in resistance, of at least several kΩ. This temperature dependent variation in resistance indicates a functioning thermistor. If there is no functional thermistor, then the thermistor circuit will have been replaced by a fixed-value 10kΩ resistor, connected between the [T] contact and ground, on the battery’s internal power board. The non-genuine battery manufacturer has to do this, because the BC-W126S battery charger won’t initiate charging unless it sees an acceptable resistance at the [T] contact. In this (non-genuine) case, the resistance will remain at 10kΩ, continuously indicating to the charger that the battery is at a “safe” 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit), regardless of the battery’s true temperature.
[ 10 ] TYPE “S” INDICATION
A genuine NP-W126S battery will register as such when inserted into an X-H1 or X-T3 camera (it will have a white battery symbol, rather than the “non-S” type battery’s yellow symbol), however, earlier cameras such as the X-T2, will not display such a distinction.
Note that it is possible for a fake NP-W126S battery to trick an X-H1 or X-T3 camera into identifying it as an “S” type, and showing with a white display. This is because the camera distinguishes between “S” and “non-S” type batteries by interrogating the resistance on the [S] contact of the battery, and this value can easily be manipulated by an un-authorised battery manufacturer. You can verify this by placing a small piece of tape over the [S] contact of a non-S (genuine or third-party) battery, and loading it into an X-H1 or X-T3 camera: the battery will now register as an NP-W126S battery. Importantly, however, a genuine NP-W126S, will always show a white battery display, so showing yellow would indicate that it is not a genuine “S” type.
Even if you don’t have an X-H1 or an X-T3, you can still test whether the battery gives an “S” type indication, by using a DMM. This is tested by checking the resistance between the [S] contact and the negative contact of the battery.
The genuine “S” type battery will show a resistance of about 680kΩ.
[ 11 ] DISCHARGE CHARACTERISTICS
Because of their different chemistry, the non-Fujifilm batteries have different discharge characteristics. This causes the battery level display (which is calibrated for the genuine battery), to behave abnormally, during heavy usage.
[ 12 ] IN-SERVICE SIGNS
It is generally not possible for the user to open and chemically analyse a lithium-ion battery. However, the different chemistry and support electronics of the non-genuine battery, can be inferred by operational discrepancies. If a counterfeit is put into service, we may experience some of the following issues:
[ 13 ] SELLER ‘S ONLINE DESCRIPTIONS
A case study: This is from an offer by an eBay seller in the United States. Screen captures have been redacted, so that the seller is not identified. The first suspicious feature of this offer, is a price well below the genuine battery’s typical market price, without any reasonable explanation for the low price.
Next, although the “Fujifilm” brand-name appears prominently in the title, it actually points to the applicable cameras, rather than the battery. So, instead of saying the battery is a “Fujifilm NP-W126S Battery for X-T2 (etc.)”, it says an “NP-W126S Battery For Fujifilm X-T2 (etc.)”. And, if you read the “Item Specifics” section, the Brand is specified as “Unbranded”, despite the accompanying photograph showing a “Fujifilm” branded battery.
Significantly, the product description includes this message: “Note that this battery is not compatible with the XH-1 Camera”, (an absurd statement, since the NP-W126S battery is the prescribed battery for the X-H1). The reason for making this statement is because this fake battery would give a yellow battery-level display in the X-H1, alerting the user that the battery is not a true NP-W126S at all. Finally, throughout the description, the seller never actually refers to the battery as “genuine”. Based on these facts, it would appear that the seller is aware that the battery is a fake, but is attempting to sell on the basis of Caveat Emptor (“Let the buyer beware”). However, if the battery is a counterfeit (the pictured battery is virtually identical to an original Fujifilm battery, and bears the Fujifilm corporate brand logo), and if the seller knows that it is counterfeit, then it is a case of trafficking in counterfeits, which is illegal under US federal laws, as well as many other national jurisdictions.
[ 14 ] REPORTING COUNTERFEITS
Re-badging non-genuine batteries as “genuine”, and attempting to deliberately deceive buyers in order to secure unlawful gain, is a type of fraud, and as such, has serious legal consequences.
Typically, we don’t know who the original perpetrator of the fraud is. But we almost always know who the retail seller is, so you should seek redress from the seller. (The seller may not be aware that the batteries are counterfeit, although they really should suspect such, based on their lines of wholesale supply). Request that a full refund be issued, and that any other similar batteries to be withdrawn from the market.
If the seller refuses your request, and if the fake battery was bought on-line, you should escalate to reporting the fraud to the online marketplace that you used. Depending on whether the seller is within, or outside of, your own country, some of the following organisations may be interested in being alerted to vendors who are selling counterfeits:
Fraudsters depend on the potential buyer’s lack of familiarity with the genuine product, to be able to accomplish their deception. By educating yourself and others, you not only protect yourself from monetary loss, and possible damage to your person or camera, but you also decrease the attractiveness of the battery supply market as a place for fraudulent enterprise.
[ Last up-dated: 7 March 2019 ]
THANKS FOR READING !
If you would like to support me in continuing to produce high quality reference material, like this, please consider donating, maybe even the cost of a coffee.
I really appreciate it.
All images © 2018 Dom Varney