On Wednesday, Sony posted new firmware for the alpha 7 and the alpha 7R. The Internet immediately echoed with tales of bricked cameras. I waited a day, and upgraded both an a7 and an a7R with no troubles.
I think all the upgrade sturm-und-drang was the result of an unforced error on Sony’s part. Most camera manufacturers do their firmware updates by having you download a file, copying it to a flash card, sticking the card in the camera, clicking a few buttons, and sitting back while the camera updates itself. It’s a reliable procedure because there are few variables not under the control of the camera manufacturer. The camera can check the file for integrity, and from there on everything happens in a known software environment. I suppose it’s possible for a defective flash card to gum up the works, but that’s about it.
In Sony’s case, you run the software, then connect the camera up to your computer with a USB cable after you’ve put it in mass-storage mode. Sony cautions you to use the micro-USB cable that came with the camera. What are the odds that a user can find that cable? What are the odds that she can tell if she’s found that cable when she’s holding it in her hands, since it looks for all the world like any other micro-USB cable? This is Sony trying to control the uncontrollable.
After you’ve hooked up the camera to the computer and clicked through some screens, the software tells you to eject the camera, say OK to a message on the back, and click a button. Then the firmware upgrade finally starts.
This is an updating method fraught with danger. First off, Sony has to produce versions of the updating software for many different computing platforms, and test all those versions. They can’t possibly try every combination of hardware and OS software. Second, Sony doesn’t know what else is running on your computer. They tell you to shut everything else down, but there are many programs that run in the background, and will be missed. Then there’s antivirus software, which looks askance at any mass storage device connected to a USB port.
It’s a miracle that most users are able to upgrade with no problems.
Chris Livsey says
Is this how all the NEX series are updated or a new step into danger? Sounds a bit like Hasselblad where every part of the camera has a seperate software version and the update order is critical, but at least they have supportive dealer network.
Well, at least there’s only one version for the whole camera. No separate firmware for lenses, AKAIK. Funny you should mention Hasselblad. I updated the firmware in my H2D-39 a couple of weeks ago, and I must have gotten the order wrong, because the camera stopped working. However, I was still able to communicate with it via Firewire, and re-updating saved my bacon. And then there are the updates that require you to remove the lens and finder, and those that require you to leave them on…
Thank goodness Sony hasn’t gone that far.
I don’t know about the NEX cameras.
Chris Livsey says
Yep, the same !! 17 steps including reference to “Kernel Extension” second nature to a NEX 7 user I’m sure.