Should you update your camera’s firmware? This is a good question. The simple answer is yes, but if you’re like me, you are perhaps a bit hesitant in doing so. If your camera is working fine, why bother?

I am going to be very honest here … this is not something I had ever done before. So I was a little hesitant and nervous. What if I get it wrong and damage my camera? That’s usually my go-to worry. Guessing at how many people have probably done this before me, it was a needless worry and not as difficult to do as I thought.

So why you should update?

There are usually varying reasons as to WHY you should do a firmware update, from bug fixes to new features or improvements to existing ones. I bought my Sony a7R III a few months ago, and I adore it. It’s a great camera and everything that bugged me about my Sony a7 II has been fixed. There are some great features and it takes a beautiful picture. There was a lot of hype online about the new Animal Eye Autofocus that was provided in the new firmware. There was also an update available for Sony’s Play Memories platform.

I don’t really photograph nature or animals so why would I bother? And it IS a valid point. But I was told by a street photographer friend that she updated her Sony and it was great for taking snaps of her dogs! I have dogs and I am frequently trying to get some nice shots of them too … so I thought, sure, why not?

How do you know there’s an update?

The best way to know if there is a firmware update available for your camera is to visit the manufacturer’s page. Look up your model and there is frequently a download or information section, or check the Support section. You can also Google “is there a firmware update for [insert model]?” Often if you are a member of various photography groups you will hear about things too, just like I did.

If there is nothing listed, it is possible that the maker currently does not have a firmware update for your model yet. Double-check the version number is higher than the version currently on your camera before starting the update.

How do you do it?

Each camera is different, so please check the instructions in your manual or your manufacturer. I must confess to being a little confused by Sony’s instructions for my a7R III, and I ended up watching a quick tutorial online. Essentially it involved downloading the software onto my PC from the Sony website, then running it and following the prompts. At one point I connected the camera to the computer via USB cable to finish the update.

Make sure you 1) have a full battery and 2) remove your SD Card.

Then what?

Once the firmware is completed, the camera (in my case) rebooted. Now it’s time to pop in an SD card and try it out. If your firmware was something specific, try THAT feature out. I did the update for the Animal Eye AF, so I grabbed my camera and started stalking the dogs! I think I may still need some practice with the new feature.

What do I do if it doesn’t work?

Thankfully mine worked perfectly, but if something goes wrong, contact your manufacturer’s support page immediately, or even try your retailer where it was purchased. Check out the FAQ on your maker’s website; there is usually help there on what to do, too.

Some advice

If like me, you are nervous about doing a firmware update on your camera. And why not? They can be quite the investment. Take your time. Read the instructions, I mean REALLY read the instructions, not just a cursory once over. Perhaps chat to someone you know and trust who has done it before. Watch a few videos online — there are bound to be lots. When you are ready, make sure you have plenty of time, no distractions and are in a fairly relaxed mood. Trying to do this in a hurry or in an anxious state will NOT help. Remember to let the camera and PC do their thing. Don’t hurry or pull the plug BEFORE it is finished.

In this digital age performing firmware updates is going to be a regular service item for both camera and lenses, so learning to perform them on your camera is going to be required somewhere down the line. To be honest, I was worried about nothing — it only took a few minutes and it was quite simple to do. Next, I am going to look at doing firmware updates on some lenses.

This is 15-month-old Dexter, who quite frankly can’t sit still for very long. I was quite happy with the end result photo. At f/2.8 his eyes are quite sharp, but I think I still need some practice even after the Animal Eye AF update. Shot with a Sony a7R III and Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens at f/2.8, 1/400s and ISO 100.