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One of the biggest advantages to digital photography that I can think of is the ability to update the firmware in your digital camera, and the software in your computer, to improve the functionality of your photography system.

Even consumer cameras get upgraded, as does the software we use to capture, manipulate, sort, keyword, share and store images.

When you buy a film camera, it cannot be reasonably upgraded. In the case of digital cameras, everything from autofocus, to metering to color balance and low light performance can be enhanced and improved over time. Likewise, computer software can be upgraded to take advantage of these enhancements.

It’s an amazing paradigm. Imagine if you will the opportunity to upgrade your car’s motor or your TV set’s tube, and at no cost!

If you are one of the few who is still on the fence about buying a digital camera, consider the value of updates and upgrades and jump on over to the digital side!

Join the conversation! 43 Comments

  1. That doesn’t sounds right to me. Some film cameras can be extensively upgraded, like the Nikon F, F2, or F3, with different finder and winder options. And those are nothing compared to, say, some of the medium format system cameras.

    What’s more, when you buy a digital camera, you’re locked into a specific sensor at the time you buy the camera. Film gives you the option of choosing many different emulsions. Fewer as time passes, unfortunately, but still.

    Digital is much more flexible in many respects — the ability to control ISO with a dial as opposed to changing film alone! — but the digital body itself is a far more fixed tool than many film bodies, firmware or no.

  2. That doesn’t sounds right to me. Some film cameras can be extensively upgraded, like the Nikon F, F2, or F3, with different finder and winder options. And those are nothing compared to, say, some of the medium format system cameras.

    What’s more, when you buy a digital camera, you’re locked into a specific sensor at the time you buy the camera. Film gives you the option of choosing many different emulsions. Fewer as time passes, unfortunately, but still.

    Digital is much more flexible in many respects — the ability to control ISO with a dial as opposed to changing film alone! — but the digital body itself is a far more fixed tool than many film bodies, firmware or no.

  3. But it is still OK to do both rigtht?

    I am about to buy a 17-35 Nikkor. And it will make an awesome street lens on my D80 for when I don’t use the 35 f2 or 50 f1.4 for discreetness on my F80.

    However, when I go to the Gobi desert this July, I can’t wait to whack that 17-35 on the F80 with some Velvia 50. 17mm on a 35 frame will be super wide! And then that warm nice, fine grained Velvia 50…..

    I love both. I want a view camera too as well!

  4. But it is still OK to do both rigtht?

    I am about to buy a 17-35 Nikkor. And it will make an awesome street lens on my D80 for when I don’t use the 35 f2 or 50 f1.4 for discreetness on my F80.

    However, when I go to the Gobi desert this July, I can’t wait to whack that 17-35 on the F80 with some Velvia 50. 17mm on a 35 frame will be super wide! And then that warm nice, fine grained Velvia 50…..

    I love both. I want a view camera too as well!

  5. Excellent point. Just wanted to add that a quick google for “[camera model/version] firmware update” probably gets you the updates… just upgraded my 40D to 1.0.8 :)

  6. Excellent point. Just wanted to add that a quick google for “[camera model/version] firmware update” probably gets you the updates… just upgraded my 40D to 1.0.8 :)

  7. Or looking at it from the other angle, a company can rush out a product, forcing customers to beta test and suffer and then release a fix that should have been there from the start.

    I’ve yet to see new features added by a company, only fix issues with existing features. They want you to purchase their latest model for new features.

    PS My car has had a firmware update to the engine/gearbox to make it run smoother (fix a bug).

  8. Or looking at it from the other angle, a company can rush out a product, forcing customers to beta test and suffer and then release a fix that should have been there from the start.

    I’ve yet to see new features added by a company, only fix issues with existing features. They want you to purchase their latest model for new features.

    PS My car has had a firmware update to the engine/gearbox to make it run smoother (fix a bug).

  9. A very good point, Scott. In the same vein, it’s worth noting that third party firmware add-ons, such as CHDK are also available for some point and shoots:

    http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK_Wiki:About

    Cool stuff.

  10. A very good point, Scott. In the same vein, it’s worth noting that third party firmware add-ons, such as CHDK are also available for some point and shoots:

    http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK_Wiki:About

    Cool stuff.

  11. It’s a great compliment to digital cameras, but how often do they actually add significant features to a body via firmware? More typical is to simply fix errors, or adjust menu languages.

    I understand that ‘hacked’ firmware could allow the older 300D to behave more like a 350D, and that Nikon have added functionality to the D300 recently, but have there ever been really large significant firmware updates?

  12. It’s a great compliment to digital cameras, but how often do they actually add significant features to a body via firmware? More typical is to simply fix errors, or adjust menu languages.

    I understand that ‘hacked’ firmware could allow the older 300D to behave more like a 350D, and that Nikon have added functionality to the D300 recently, but have there ever been really large significant firmware updates?

  13. As to fun….. and flexibility. I am now enjoying film so much more than digital. Digital is so utilitarian… film feels more creative and liberating.

  14. “When you buy a film camera, it cannot be reasonably upgraded.”

    What about using new types of film that come out? That doesn’t happen now, but it did when film was still in widespread use…

  15. “When you buy a film camera, it cannot be reasonably upgraded.”

    What about using new types of film that come out? That doesn’t happen now, but it did when film was still in widespread use…

  16. Most of you are missing the point – this wasn’t so much a digital is better than film post as a be sure to keep your camera upgraded. And film changes are a very poor comparison to camera upgrades. You don’t need a camera upgrade to accomplish a new look with digital – just a new plug-in, action, etc.

  17. Most of you are missing the point – this wasn’t so much a digital is better than film post as a be sure to keep your camera upgraded. And film changes are a very poor comparison to camera upgrades. You don’t need a camera upgrade to accomplish a new look with digital – just a new plug-in, action, etc.

  18. Cameras aren’t like PC’s. It would be nice if I could upgrade the sensor like I could upgrade the CPU in a computer. Or change the LCD like I can get a new monitor. Camera hardware is being upgraded in a similar fashion to how PC’s went from 286>386>486>Pentium etc. I think it’s great how digital cameras have improved. What you can get for a $1000, would have taken $10,000 just a few years ago. I just wouldn’t extoll the value of your idea of upgrading.

  19. Cameras aren’t like PC’s. It would be nice if I could upgrade the sensor like I could upgrade the CPU in a computer. Or change the LCD like I can get a new monitor. Camera hardware is being upgraded in a similar fashion to how PC’s went from 286>386>486>Pentium etc. I think it’s great how digital cameras have improved. What you can get for a $1000, would have taken $10,000 just a few years ago. I just wouldn’t extoll the value of your idea of upgrading.

  20. Tim once again you aren’t getting my point. I didn’t say cameras are like PCs. Although like you can upgrade the firmware in your PC you can upgrade the firmware in your camera. And the value is in accessing new functionality in your camera.

    Would you take the position that improving autofocus, shutter lag time, compatibility, start up response time, support for additional languages, new features and more is a bad idea? All these sorts of things have been upgraded in past digital camera models.

  21. Tim once again you aren’t getting my point. I didn’t say cameras are like PCs. Although like you can upgrade the firmware in your PC you can upgrade the firmware in your camera. And the value is in accessing new functionality in your camera.

    Would you take the position that improving autofocus, shutter lag time, compatibility, start up response time, support for additional languages, new features and more is a bad idea? All these sorts of things have been upgraded in past digital camera models.

  22. Scott
    It was my point that cameras over the past few years are reminiscent of the PC evolution. It is certainly a good thing if the camera manufacturer upgrades the firmware in the camera you currently own. It just doesn’t strike me as all that significant. How often do they really do that before they roll out the next model? Hacking the firmware like you can overclock a PC to get greater performance would be cool.

    The improvement in computer software for developing your images is significant.

  23. Scott
    It was my point that cameras over the past few years are reminiscent of the PC evolution. It is certainly a good thing if the camera manufacturer upgrades the firmware in the camera you currently own. It just doesn’t strike me as all that significant. How often do they really do that before they roll out the next model? Hacking the firmware like you can overclock a PC to get greater performance would be cool.

    The improvement in computer software for developing your images is significant.

  24. Good comments. As a long time novice in this field, I am learning more here than in the last 15 years. Thanks for the site and podcast. Thanks for your time Scott.

  25. Good comments. As a long time novice in this field, I am learning more here than in the last 15 years. Thanks for the site and podcast. Thanks for your time Scott.

  26. I had a thought/question on this topic spurred by your last remark Scott
    .
    With flash memory and internal software updates through firmware updates are there any 3rd party plug ins for these cameras. Say someone wants to enhance the auto focus or image stabilization over the factory settings. Can a 3rd party build a better routine? Are any cameras capable of this?

    As cameras become more and more a software platform is this in the future.

  27. I had a thought/question on this topic spurred by your last remark Scott
    .
    With flash memory and internal software updates through firmware updates are there any 3rd party plug ins for these cameras. Say someone wants to enhance the auto focus or image stabilization over the factory settings. Can a 3rd party build a better routine? Are any cameras capable of this?

    As cameras become more and more a software platform is this in the future.

  28. What a fantastic rant! When you make me LOL you’ve said it was well as is possible. No one should forget that 95% of a good image is the loose link between what’s being seen through the lens and the finger on the shutter button.

    Keep up the great work…

  29. What a fantastic rant! When you make me LOL you’ve said it was well as is possible. No one should forget that 95% of a good image is the loose link between what’s being seen through the lens and the finger on the shutter button.

    Keep up the great work…

  30. Not to derail your point, but man, I love the photo attached to this. It’s so mesmerising.

  31. Off the film point for a minute, here’s a good reason to wait a little while before applying an upgrade — Rob Galbraith is talking about an image corruption issue resulting from a D3 firmware upgrade.

  32. Off the film point for a minute, here’s a good reason to wait a little while before applying an upgrade — Rob Galbraith is talking about an image corruption issue resulting from a D3 firmware upgrade.

  33. My Canon EOS 1V HS is pretty upgradable.

    I agree with ukkurovaca on the option of using different film speeds.

  34. My Canon EOS 1V HS is pretty upgradable.

    I agree with ukkurovaca on the option of using different film speeds.

  35. Funny Belola – I own a 1V HS and don’t think it’s the least bit upgradable when compared with my digital bodies. Can’t change the data that shows up in the viewfinder – can’t change the dynamic range beyond that of current film – can’t upgrade the picture modes – can’t upgrade the FPS – can’t upgrade the battery life – can’t upgrade the LCD brightness – can’t upgrade using CHDK, etc. I could go on. These are all changes I’ve made using digital cameras that I can’t make using film cameras – but then again – this doesn’t matter since AGAIN I’ll say it as plainly as I can – this is less about digital v. film and more about making sure everyone knows to take advantage of the digital upgrade path that is available for them.

    If you want to have a digital v. film debate – feel free – the war is over and film lost – big time. The facts speak for themselves. Fewer film companies and film processing labs than at any time since the Great Depression – Digital camera outsell Film 9 to 1, etc. AGAIN I could go on -but no reason to since those who have stayed with the film format have a reason to do so that must trump these certain and undeniable facts.

  36. Funny Belola – I own a 1V HS and don’t think it’s the least bit upgradable when compared with my digital bodies. Can’t change the data that shows up in the viewfinder – can’t change the dynamic range beyond that of current film – can’t upgrade the picture modes – can’t upgrade the FPS – can’t upgrade the battery life – can’t upgrade the LCD brightness – can’t upgrade using CHDK, etc. I could go on. These are all changes I’ve made using digital cameras that I can’t make using film cameras – but then again – this doesn’t matter since AGAIN I’ll say it as plainly as I can – this is less about digital v. film and more about making sure everyone knows to take advantage of the digital upgrade path that is available for them.

    If you want to have a digital v. film debate – feel free – the war is over and film lost – big time. The facts speak for themselves. Fewer film companies and film processing labs than at any time since the Great Depression – Digital camera outsell Film 9 to 1, etc. AGAIN I could go on -but no reason to since those who have stayed with the film format have a reason to do so that must trump these certain and undeniable facts.

  37. Scott, what examples are there of major additions of digital cameras via firmware? Obviously, I’m relatively new to the field, so am unaware of the history in this regard. I’ve updated firmware for my bodies a few times, but nearly always it was to fix minor issues or update menus. Is this just more a sign of the times that camera manufacturers are now less willing to add features via firmware, instead rather have people buy new models for the features?

  38. Scott, what examples are there of major additions of digital cameras via firmware? Obviously, I’m relatively new to the field, so am unaware of the history in this regard. I’ve updated firmware for my bodies a few times, but nearly always it was to fix minor issues or update menus. Is this just more a sign of the times that camera manufacturers are now less willing to add features via firmware, instead rather have people buy new models for the features?

  39. Read the reply right above yours mrkoo – You can change the data that shows up in the viewfinder – can change the dynamic range beyond that of current film – can upgrade the picture modes – can upgrade the FPS – can upgrade the battery life – can upgrade the LCD brightness – can upgrade using CHDK, etc.

  40. With all due respect, the original post looks a bit like a sales pitch to switch over to digital which is totally fine. Not sure why though since everyone’s just about switched anyway.
    So why do people still use film? Why do people still run old cars? (Tinker with a carburetor? Are you kidding me?) I think most like to tinker with the old stuff not because it’s easier/better/cheaper/etc… just because they’re nostalgic tinkerers. That’s one reason I like to play with film. Maybe some don’t want to get on the upgrade cycle or can’t afford a new body every 5 years. Who knows and who cares… The way you arrive at the image matters not in the least.

  41. With all due respect, the original post looks a bit like a sales pitch to switch over to digital which is totally fine. Not sure why though since everyone’s just about switched anyway.
    So why do people still use film? Why do people still run old cars? (Tinker with a carburetor? Are you kidding me?) I think most like to tinker with the old stuff not because it’s easier/better/cheaper/etc… just because they’re nostalgic tinkerers. That’s one reason I like to play with film. Maybe some don’t want to get on the upgrade cycle or can’t afford a new body every 5 years. Who knows and who cares… The way you arrive at the image matters not in the least.

  42. @fscang you hit it on the head – why would I try to convince people to switch? It’s all over – nearly everyone did – it wasn’t intended as a sales pitch. I have nothing to gain here in that direction. I shoot both digital and film.

    Again – I say – this is not so much about switching to digital as it is about making sure you upgrade. And as I also said – if you want to have the digital – film argument – go ahead. The war is over – film lost.

  43. @fscang you hit it on the head – why would I try to convince people to switch? It’s all over – nearly everyone did – it wasn’t intended as a sales pitch. I have nothing to gain here in that direction. I shoot both digital and film.

    Again – I say – this is not so much about switching to digital as it is about making sure you upgrade. And as I also said – if you want to have the digital – film argument – go ahead. The war is over – film lost.

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