Camera technology has made some incredible advances over the past few years. What once was a mechanical wonder, is now a very complex computer processing system. In bygone days, cameras changed very little over their life cycle - and most had life expectancies much longer than today’s cameras.
It’s not that the quality of a camera today is lower. Quite the contrary. In film days, once the film was exposed, the job of the camera was pretty well done. Today, once the image is exposed, the real work has only just begun. Cameras must process all the data that is generated by the sensor and that is no small feat.
Your digital camera uses a set of computer instructions that defines the functionality of the hardware. This read-only code is called Firmware. And, like any computer code, it can be updated periodically to either fix unintended issues or add functionality to your camera.
In fact, firmware can be found in a wide range of products, including lenses, flash units, scanners, remote triggers and much more.
During the life of your camera, the manufacturer may update this code to support new products that weren’t on the market when you bought your camera, or add functionality to an existing process. Either way, it’s a good idea to keep your camera firmware updated to ensure smooth operation.
The currently installed firmware version is displayed within the menu system of your camera. And, all manufacturers have areas on their website that have the most current firmware version available. Canon users, click on the Drivers & Downloads option at the top of the website; Nikon users go to Support > Update Firmware in the menu at the bottom of the web page.
There is no standard process for updating the camera’s firmware so be sure to read the manufacturers instructions for your specific camera model. Nikon has a confusing array of firmware designations like “A”, “B”, “C”, “L”, and “S” firmware. But check look for the firmware for your specific camera model and it should be pretty straight forward.
Don’t stop when you update your camera. Check if there is an update for your flash and flash triggers.
Finally, don’t forget to keep your image processing software on your computer up to date. We recently shot a job using a Canon 5D S, a beautiful camera that produces 50mb files. For the job we used an X-Rite Color Checker Passport to ensure the best color. The problem was that I couldn’t get the Color Checker software to produce the profile needed to process the images.
It turns out that the original software released with the Color Checker Passport would not support files over 40mb. A call to X-Rite uncovered the problem and the newest version of the software on their website was downloaded and fixed the problem.
Anytime you are using a fairly new product, you run the risk of compatibility issues. When a new camera model is released, it may take companies like Adobe a little time to update their systems to support the new camera.
So, update your gear and keep shooting.