Digital cameras need software to operate, and that software can be updated for improved functionality and performance. This software in your camera is called firmware, and it acts much the same as software on your computer. And please, no arguments about the terms firmware and software… that’s not what this article is about.
Updating your camera firmware can improve things like menu navigation, bracketing options, noise reduction, high ISO performance, focusing precision, auto white balance improvements, and more. Updates to firmware can also include proper functionality with new camera accessories such as vertical grips, flash units, and lenses. And, brand new cameras will often have some “bugs” that get resolved through firmware updates (“5D’II black dots” ring any bells?).
So here’s the basic process of updating your camera firmware — it’s not hard, you just have to follow the directions given by the manufacturer. And this stuff should hold true for ALL digital cameras, not just dSLR cameras.
- CHECK YOUR FIRMWARE VERSION
Every camera has a different way of doing this, but most cameras should have the ability to display the firmware version. Instructions for checking the version can likely be found in your camera manual or through the manufacturer’s support website.
- CHECK FOR FIRMWARE UPDATES
Once you know which version you have, check the web for the latest version of the firmware. If the latest version isn’t the same as the version you’re using, it’s time to update.
- DOWNLOAD NEW FIRMWARE
Navigate to the correct page through your manufacturer’s support website, read everything, and follow the instructions to download the firmware.
- UPDATE YOUR CAMERA FIRMWARE
Again, each brand or camera has a different way of actually updating the firmware. Instructions for completing this process can be found on the website you downloaded the firmware. And always update your firmware with a full battery.
- CHECK YOUR CAMERA SETTINGS
After the update is complete, run through your menus and check that your settings are correct. You may even have some new settings that weren’t there before. After you check your menus, take a few test shots and make sure the camera is working properly.
Here are some of the support websites for the various camera manufacturers. Do note that other websites may be more appropriate for non-US photographers — some camera manufacturers have separate support websites for other countries. DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility if you mess up your own camera while trying to update the firmware. Do this stuff at your own risk, and read the manufacturer’s instructions VERY CAREFULLY.
So how often do you update your firmware? And do you have any other tips for those who haven’t done this yet?