Updating your camera’s firmware

Tools, Hammer, SpannerOne of our members asked how to do camera firmware upgrades.

First a caveat. Updating firmware carries a slight risk of malfunctioning that could render your camera inoperable. It is therefore widely accepted that you should only install a firmware update if it specifically corrects a problem you have or provides a new feature or performance increase you can benefit from. If your camera is working fine now then you may just want to skip updating the firmware.

There is no generic way to describe how to install firmware updates as this will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and can even differ from device to device from the same manufacturer.

It is my experience (from using many electronic devices, which is what DSLRs are) that wherever a manufacturer provides firmware updates they will also provide explicit instructions on how to install them. It is very important to follow these instructions to the letter or risk "bricking" the device. If this happens you will at least need to have a service centre return the device to its factory default state, and there might be cases where a device needs to be returned to the factory to have this done. In isolated cases there might even be no way provided for the manufacturer to do this, meaning the device will permanently be nothing more than an expensive paper weight. However this is unlikely to be the case for digital cameras and usually affects cheap devices where manufacturers ignored this need to cut design and manufacturing costs.

If you think there may be a firmware update available for your camera here is what you should do.

Visit the support section of the manufacturer’s web site and look for a section that provides downloads. Once there you may find a list of available downloads to look through, or you may have to enter or select some choices to narrow down the camera you have.

As most of our members have either Canon or Nikon cameras, I have provided some specific info on this for these cameras. Bear in mind that these refer to web sites that may change in future, which could mean these no longer match what they are at the time of writing.

  • Canon – select your country, product and model in the For you section and click the Go button. On the next page select the Firmware download type (click the circle so it gets a black dot in it) and a list of available firmware for your camera will be displayed. Find the latest update available for your camera, paying attention to whether there are different versions for Mac and Windows computers and click on it. You will now see a page with details of what has changed, a legal disclaimer and a button to accept and download the update. The download file is a ZIP archive that includes both the firmware update and instructions on how to install it.
  • Nikon – page through the list to find the latest update available for your camera. Click on it and you are presented with a page explaining what features have been changed, how to verify which version you currently have, instructions for upgrading, a legal disclaimer and buttons to download the updates for either Mac or Windows computers.

If you feel uncomfortable with performing such an upgrade yourself you should approach a specialist camera store such as Orms who will be able to advise and possibly assist you. If they are unable to perform the upgrade for you they should be able to refer you to a service centre that can.

Published by Steve Crane

Programmer and amateur photographer.

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