Do you have firmware deficiency syndrome?


TV-Bay Magazine
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For 5 days in June 2013 we did a survey on Facebook and our own website and asked how often camera users had gone online to check for firmware updates…
Checked online for a firmware upgrade…..
within last 30 days 18%
within last 90 days 9%
within last 12 months 3%
never checked online 70%
We could have gone further to see which users used what camera but the focus of this straw poll was really to see where we are in this ever changing software driven world.
“This entire subject (at least for traditional camera / hardware manufacturers like JVC) is becoming more important as products now have upgradeable firmware, so whereas in previous days, any performance improvement would have required a hardware change, now it often is simply a software upgrade” reports John Kelly from JVC.
So how do you know if there is an update and just how easy is it to find online?
We had a bit of time on our hands (yeah right!) so decided to select 8 cameras on the market, listed below in no particular order, fired up Google and simply followed the manufacturer and model number with the words “firmware update” to see what we got in the results. You’ll notice the presence of a mass produced, albeit often used in broadcast, consumer camera in the list…
  • Panasonic AF101 – First few results look promising with P2 driver downloads but we couldn’t locate a direct download from a search result. Arriving on a product page we see a download option and there is a very useful UK phone number which is a huge plus point. You will eventually get to eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp where you will be able to see a further download option. You’ll have to re-enter your camera model but it’s all in there, just a matter of finding it. Registration required. Useful link http://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/pro-av/support/content/download/EN/top.html
  • JVC GY-HM650 – 2nd result but very helpful and links takes us direct to firmware update released for the 600 series cameras. Registration required. Useful link http://www.service.jvcpro.eu/public/
  • RED EPIC – 1st result – straight to the download with a long list of benefits of the latest upgrade. Useful link https://www.red.com/downloads
  • Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – 2nd result leads us to the product overview page. The general “support” menu is obvious and although you have to enter your product model again it brings up all the latest downloads. Registration is required. Useful link http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/support/
  • GoPro Hero 3 – 1st result for updates in our search. As you’d expect from a camera aimed at the masses the process is greatly simplified with an online pictorial step by step guide. From first-hand experience updates on these cameras is frequent and often pushed to you when the device is connected to a PC / MAC. Useful link http://gopro.com/support/product-registration/hd-hero3-cameras
The list really is in no particular order; there is no scoring system or awards for this. The fact that registration is required we think is actually a plus point. “Best of all if you register on our website and you will receive an automated email every time we upload a new firmware version to our website” says Dave Stannard from Sony. “It definitely pays to keep your camcorder firmware up to date as we are continuously adding new functionality and improving camcorder performance throughout the product’s lifecycle”
Sony are of course not alone in offering this and as far as we can tell every manufacturer will push information out to registered users. Simon Westland, Blackmagic Design comments “One of the problems is as a manufacturer we don't know the names and have contact information for all our individual customers. We sell to a distributor, in turn they sell to a reseller, who then make the sale to the end user. If that end user registers the product online then we capture the details but this is only a small number of users. As such we look to get the information out using various techniques to try and ensure that all users have visibility of updates”
So we have two simple pleas….
To manufacturers – sales pages are excellent and almost without fail they appear in the top three Google results – a simple link on this page to the relevant firmware upgrades would be spot on without the user having to go to another page or re-enter product information. The entry of the GoPro Hero 3 in the search list was really to illustrate that it can be made very simple, pleasing to the eye and doesn’t need to look like a scary technical bulletin from which your camera may never recover! Users rely on their kit on a daily basis and from our research just the thought of installing an upgrade can put them off in case it all goes wrong.
To users – go to your manufacturer and register your product, if you buy new then do it the day you unpack the device, whether it be a camera, recorder or tripod (although tripods are slightly less likely to have software updates!). If they don’t know who you are then you will most probably have trawl the net looking and as we found out it is sometimes not as easy as it could be. The search results we did prove it is not impossible and sometimes very easy to find upgrades, but if you are registered you won’t even have to look, they’ll come and find you!

Tags: iss078 | firmware | updates | camera | survey | guide | links | blackmagic cinema camera | gopro hero 3 | panasonic af101 | sony pmw200 | jvc hm650 | canon xf305 | arri alexa | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus

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