Some Thoughts on Firmware Updates

Here’s what a body and lens firmware update looks like when complete on a Nikon.

Here’s what a body and lens firmware update looks like when complete on a Nikon.

I recently did a presentation on firmware updates for my camera club at the request of a member. I discovered that there is a lot of bull out there about firmware, updates to firmware and whether or not it makes sense to keep firmware up to date.

I also learned that when folks had taken their cameras into their local camera store for help, they were told that the store would not do these updates, in case something went wrong. That’s really about liability protection if a staff member messes up and not about the viability or reliability of firmware updates. Having been in a lot of camera stores, I certainly would avoid asking the question in a chain store as the folks behind the counter have little training and were probably selling yoga pants the prior week. A dedicated independent camera store is going to be different, but they are suffering because they are used as information warehouses by non-customers who take the knowledge and then go buy online to save $3. Those kinds of non-customers are of the genus assholeus giganticus

Does It Matter?

There are plenty of good reasons to keep your firmware up to date.

  1. Fixes publicly known bugs, as well as those that the vendor discovers

  2. Brings increased stability to the product

  3. Some vendors add functionality to existing products through firmware updates. I have personally experienced this with Fujifilm and Olympus

There is only one reason not to do a firmware update and that is attached to the timing of the release. Don’t do an upgrade in the first 30 days following release unless you have a dead in the water issue. There is no bonus, or payment for being an early adopter. It has happened, albeit rarely, that an update breaks more than it fixes.

We have seen this often, since firmware is really just your camera’s operating system. As an example, in the space of two weeks we saw two updates to iOS 13 following release to fix bugs. Same deal with cameras.

Newer lenses also have CPUs and so also have their own firmware. When you go to the maker’s web site to download camera firmware, be sure to check for lens firmware as well.

Where Do I Get Firmware Updates?

As to how to get firmware updates, you do so through your manufacturer’s website. Usually but not always, updates are found in the Support section. Some update processes are really simple. You download the update, copy it to an empty card, put the card in the camera and run the Firmware updater in the menu. Some makers insist that you download their firmware update software. As a predominantly Mac user, I find most of these applications look like crap, often fail to install properly and try to run roughshod over operating system security. Camera makers do mostly crap PC and Mac software. They are trying to create a simple experience and making it unnecessarily complex in the process. It’s very annoying, but they do not care what I think and will persist.

Will A Firmware Update Wreck My Camera?

A firmware update will not brick your camera IF you read the instructions and FOLLOW THEM. There are people that I know, whom I have told not to do firmware updates, because they have the attention span and ability to follow directions of an agitated wasp on meth. Since you are reading this, I doubt that you fall into that group.

This is easy stuff and you will get more out of your camera and your lenses if you keep them up to date. Go ahead, be brave. Or at least not an ostrich. Have fun making images!

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I'm Ross Chevalier, thanks for reading, watching and listening and until next time, peace.