By Bob Dean
The Camera’s Brains:
Our DSLR cameras are really computers with a few mechanical and optical parts. Computers are built around integrated circuits that perform the tasks dictated by software programs, or in the case of dedicated processors, like in cameras, a variation called firmware. The difference is not really important but what is important is that these devices can have problems because of “bugs” or flaws in the firmware code. We all (hopefully) keep our personal computers up to date by installing the updates from our computer hardware and software providers (as well as the security patches from Norton, McAffee or whichever security app you use).
How many of us regularly update our camera firmware? Many of the newer cameras have WiFi capability which leaves them vulnerable to hacking by the unscrupulous folks in the world. The camera companies regularly release firmware upgrades that are pretty easy to install on your camera. The upgrades address both the bugs and security issues. Just recently a security weakness was discovered in the firmware of some Canon DSLRs in the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) that could compromise the camera. This issue is not known to have resulted in any serious problems, but Canon quickly released an upgrade to the firmware. The downside is that they don’t proactively notify owners of either the problem or the availability of the fix!
It is a very good idea to regularly check your camera firmware level against the latest one available on the camera manufacturer website. These websites will allow you to download the most recent firmware and instructions how to extract the file and install it on your camera. Follow the instructions exactly because if you do something like power the camera off during a firmware upgrade, be prepared to send the camera in to the service center to get it working again!
Here are the websites for Canon, Nikon and Sony. You can find others by searching the internet for firmware upgrades for your particular camera brand.
To find out your camera’s firmware level, check your camera manual for instructions. As an example, for a Canon 5D Mk III:1) Turn the camera on2) Push the menu button3) Scroll over to the tools menu (the wrench symbol) section and go through the menus until you see “Firmware Version.”
I hope this has been a valuable journey into camera brains!