A definition of Firmware
As with other electronic devices digital cameras are programmed to operate in a certain way. Along with all operative and display functions, the software inside a camera will be responsible for all aspects of processing images, knowing just how much sharpening, noise reduction and any other alterations to apply. More commonly referred to as firmware, this is determined by the camera’s manufacturer, and will typically see minor revisions throughout the course of a camera’s lifetime.
Firmware updates, which are also issued for accessories such as lenses and flashguns, are made available after a manufacturer or early users spot potential issues with a camera’s behaviour. These may concern oddities arising in images or certain functions not working properly, as well as sometimes expanding a feature, such as a camera’s sensitivity range.
Once the firmware update is announced and made available, the user will need to download it from the manufacturer’s website, before transferring it onto a memory card. From here it may be installed through the camera, a process usually explained in more detail in a camera’s instruction manual. If you’ve missed an update, you can typically find it – or at least information on where to obtain it – in the Support section on most manufacturers’ websites.
There’s no obligation to install an update if one becomes available for your camera. Sometimes these can can concern very minor issues, although manufacturers have, in the past, used them to deliver features as significant as Raw shooting to certain models.