1.1 The control of all of the functions of DSLRs is loaded
as coded written instructions into special memory chips at the time of
manufacture. The combination of these program instructions and the memory
chip holding them is called firmware. Firmware controls everything that
happens inside the camera, from pressing buttons, turning knobs, the range
of options existing in menus and how the final image is optimized.
1.2 During the production life of each camera model, experience of use
by the global community often reveals unintended operational problems,
malfunctions or areas of optimization which can be improved. These can
be obscure items, of limited significance or extensive real problems which
are very significant. The performance of the DSLR in certain conditions
may also be capable of improvement. For instance, instructions which limit
the shutter speed range available when flash is used may be capable of
1.3 The performance and correction of malfunctions for any particular
camera model, is achieved by the manufacturer issuing firmware updates,
available as free downloads from their web site.
Do I need a Firmware update ?
2.1 The handbook for the camera, which may be downloaded
if not to hand, shows how to search the menu to find the current version
number for the installed firmware.
2.2 Visiting the manufacturer’s website, generally under support/downloads
and inputting the camera model number (sometimes the serial number is
required) will show a list of down loads for the particular camera. Finding
the firmware section will show the latest version available, together
with a list of functional problems which the up-date will correct and
performance improvements provided. If the current version is confirmed
to be the latest version, clearly no up-date is necessary.
2.3 If the latest version is not resident, generally the list of improvements
will readily convince most users that a firmware update to the latest
version is highly desirable. Clearly updates are not issued without very
good reasons and once installed the camera will become the equivalent
of the same model newly purchased.
2.4 There may be isolated cases where an up-date is not preferred, because
the improvement does not match personal preferences. For instance a processing
change may be included to make images taken in low light conditions with
high ISO settings less noisy (grainy in old parlance). If the user has
a preference for moody noisy black and white images, it would not be attractive
to up-date. Generally however, up-dating is the option of choice, because
many other benefits may accrue.
Risks and Warnings
3.1 As explained above the firmware is the central nervous
system of a DSLR and the up-date process must be safely completed without
interruption, in strict accordance with the detailed instructions supplied
with the new firmware download.
3.2 If the up-date process is interrupted prior to completion, the DSLR
would simply cease to operate and returning to the manufacturer’s
service department would probably be the only avenue to retrieve the situation.
3.3 Before starting the camera battery should be in a fully charged state
to ensure that it does not go flat during the process, thus causing the
process to stall.
3.4 Subject to applying common sense during the process like not turning
the power off or removing the battery, no problems are encountered.
3.5 The up-date process is very easy, not to be feared and is completed
in about thirty seconds or so.
The Firmware Up-date Process.
As mentioned detailed manufacturer’s instructions are obtained for
the particular DSLR model. It is wise to print them off and read through
them a couple of times prior to starting to ensure full understanding.
4.2 Heed the warnings and follow the instructions implicitly!
4.3 The process varies by manufacturer and by model number, but generally
follows the following pattern.
4.4 A memory card is newly formatted by the camera (any capacity will
do, but make sure it does not hold any images which have not been saved
4.5 A file or two files are down loaded and transferred to the newly formatted
card either by using a PC with the newly formatted card inserted into
a connected card reader or by connecting the camera to the PC with a USB
cable to download direct to the card whilst in the DSLR.
4.6 The downloaded executable file stored on the memory card within the
DSLR is activated using the cameras menu in the way indicated in the instructions.
An on-screen display identifies the firmware up-date process and pressing
the OK button shows a progress bar with completion showing a short time
4.7 Some cameras have a sequential two stage up-date process for two downloaded
executable files and for some models it is necessary to switch off, remove
and re-insert the battery after the completion indication has been present
for a few moments, in order to
complete the up-date.