Firmware, what is it and why do you need it?
To start with, firmware is the software that runs your camera. It is very important in the operation of you camera, since it controls the camera. Should you update firm ware – yes and no. Does it need to be updated from time to time – yes and no.
So to give you firm answers to these questions let me start with:
Should you update the firmware? Yes, in my opinion you should, if it fixes or adds to the things you will use. On the Olympus OM-D EM-1 the firmware has gone through several updates. See info page here. In this example the first one was minor, the second one actually updated the camera with new features, effectively giving you many new features that ordinarily you would have to buy a new camera to get. As you look at the list, there are improvements, as one makes your frame rate go from 6.5 fps to 9 fps. Again, in some brands this is a reason to buy a new camera.
The Nikon D7000 camera has a minor update that corrects distortion control. If your are shooting your kids with a normal or telephoto lens, this is not going to effect you much.
The Canon 5D Mark III firmware fixes an exposure issue with certain tilt-shift and macro lenses. If you never use these lenses, and if you are a video guy, this has little effect on you. But I would do it, just because it corrects the exposure and makes all lenses respond they way they should.
How often should you update? With the Olympus camera, you are going to have to check and update the camera on a regular basis. So you could check it every 6 months or so. If you registered your camera with the manufacturer, they will often send out alerts to notify you of these updates. Then again, you have to keep up with them and read them.
Does it really matter if I never update the firmware? No, not if you are happy with the features, functions and operation of your camera. Or if new features and firmware will do little or nothing for you.
Should you check? Yes, at least once a year you should see if anything important has come out. If it looks like something you would never use, you don’t need it. If it looks like it might effect you, or if it fixes focus or exposure problems then always do it. Even if you don’t use those lenses making sure exposure, focus and flash are always working is a good policy.
What if I mess it up? If you follow the instructions to the letter, you cannot mess it up. If you mess it up – it has to go back for a repair – firmware update mess ups that you do are not covered by the warranty.
Need help? If you’re not sure, let us know and we will help. This is one of those things where it is important, but should not be all consuming in your life. It’s just something you need a friend to tell you what to do.
Do lenses have firm ware? Yes they do, and that is a story for another blog…