From Erick: Today, we’re introducing a new feature at Photocrati, Q&A with Peter Burian. Peter has joined Photocrati as a contributor and will be writing detailed field reviews for digital SLR cameras as well as other gear-related articles. Once a week, he’ll also be choosing one question from our readers to answer. So if you have a gear question that’s been bothering or eluding you, send it to email@example.com.
What is your view of firmware updates for digital cameras? I often see that some manufacturer has posted yet another firmware update. Why do the companies release cameras before they are ready and then fix problems with new firmware? J.C.
As you indicate J.C., new firmware — the operating system for an electronic camera — is often issued. An update is simply a new binary file that will change the processing parameters or add certain functions. Modifications of this type could be made to a high-tech 35mm auto-focus SLR camera as well, but the installation process required a trained technician. While some firmware is designed to fix a technical problem, others actually enhance a camera with even better speed, accuracy, versatility or image quality. (It’s easy to find firmware updates with a Google search; use the keywords Support Firmware and the name of the manufacturer and the camera model.)
In any event, I decided to pose your question to one of the camera companies, and here’s their reply. “Designing and building any highly sophisticated computer controlled device always involves an ongoing process of fine tuning and testing of every possible combination of its features and capabilities. As demand for more features and better performance grows, we diligently test and re-test new designs in a constant quest to deliver the best product possible without glitches or bugs. But because firmware can be updated as necessary by the user, it’s a great way to correct quirks that occasionally come up or to add a new feature that becomes available after a camera is introduced.”
It’s worth checking for firmware updates once a month. (Save the pertinent Web page as a Favorite in your browser for easy access at any time.) Owners of Olympus, Panasonic and Sigma Four Thirds lenses and flash units (as well as owners of Metz flashes and the Nikon SB-900) may also find updates for those accessories. While installing any new firmware, be sure to follow the Instructions to the letter to avoid damaging the equipment. The updates from all manufacturers are available free of charge and they’re not difficult to install. That combination makes this an ideal method for keeping your equipment up to date and delivering the best possible performance.