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Firmware: Update required?

A digital camera is also a mini-computer. Software updates fix bugs and add new features. Here’s how it works.

The firmware version can be checked in the camera menu.

Essential Firmware

Without power, our digital cameras are blind. Without firmware (the firmware that runs the camera body and lens), they are paralyzed. Computers, smartphones, and tablets regularly report updates to their operating systems, drivers, and so on. Digital cameras are also real computers. They run on firmware.

Fixing bugs and adding features

As with computer operating systems, early versions often have bugs that only become apparent with use. Upgrade versions offer fixes: autofocus, video recording, light metering, and so on. They also innovate. To mention just one of the most recent, version 2.0 of the Nikon Z8 adds the Pixel Shift mode, which was missing at release: it allows higher resolution images to be captured by combining multiple frames thanks to sensor displacement. Most cameras have two firmwares, one for the body and one for the lenses. Independent lens manufacturers, such as Sigma or Tamron, offer a docking station to update their specific firmware.

Check the firmware version

New cameras are sold with the latest firmware version available when they leave the factory. Is it then necessary to systematically update your camera with new firmwares? The answer is yes. In the absence of new features, they correct bugs reported by users in the field. Updates can be performed by customer service, an authorized service provider, in certain stores, or by yourself.

You don’t have to be a geek to perform the update. Checking the firmware is done through the camera’s menu. You note its reference and compare it with the updates available on the camera manufacturer’s website. This check is also very useful for used cameras that might be sold with old firmwares. Depending on the camera brand, the update is performed via a computer (e.g. Sony) or a memory card compatible with the camera body and formatted beforehand with the camera whose firmware you wish to upgrade (Canon, Nikon, etc.).

The camera manufacturer’s site shows the current firmware version, as here on the Nikon site.

Download the firmware

The procedure to follow is indicated on the site. For example, to update the firmware of a Nikon, you need to open the downloaded file F-D600-V104M.dmg (file for an Apple computer file) or F-D600-V104M.exe (file for a Windows PC computer file) , which becomes D600Update for a D600 body. Inside D600pdate is D600_0104.bin, the camera’s firmware whose extension is “.bin”. Using a card slot or card reader, copy D850_0130.bin to a memory card that has been formatted in the camera. The firmware must be copied to the root (top) directory of the memory card. The camera will not recognize the new firmware if it is placed in a folder below the root directory.

Battery charged

The card is then inserted into the body. Updating can begin once the device has been powered up, as shown in this step-by-step guide. Updating requires a few precautions. The first is to fully charge the battery to avoid any risk of interruption during the operation, which often takes at least two to three minutes. If the battery is not fully charged, a warning may appear, requesting a full charge and preventing the update. No buttons on the camera should be pressed during this process.

After firmware installation, the device is switched off and the memory card removed. When the device is switched back on, the new firmware is installed.

Discover the photography courses at Spéos

Spéos offers various training courses ranging from simple one-week photography courses (initiation and advanced level) to 3-year courses. The long courses to become professional photographers allow you not only to master all the photographic techniques and its vocabulary (blurs, hyperfocus, sharpness zone, depth of field, backlighting, focal length, shutter release, autofocus, wide-angle, rule of thirds, etc.), but also all the stages of shooting and image processing.

Visiting the school allows you to discover the premises, the studios and the equipment, and is undoubtedly the best way to familiarize yourself with your future way of working. This is why, in addition to the open days, Spéos offers throughout the year personalized visits by appointment to come and discover the school with a member of the team.

Text and photos: Philippe Bachelier, teacher of Printing techniques at Spéos

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