The full frame firmware updates

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by caledonia, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. I wonder what happened to the much vaunted full frame firmware updates that were supposed to be coming in late January.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Nikon provided firmware updates to the D810 and D750 in mid December:
    Otherwise, just like new products, Nikon typically doesn't pre-announce firmware updates. When they have new versions for update, Nikon will announce it and it will be available immediately. I wonder who is your source for those
    much vaunted full frame firmware updates that were supposed to be coming in late January​
    I hope it is not rumor sites. But in any case, you should check with your source, especially when their prediction or rumor doesn't come through.
  3. It is likely a hoax.
    For some cameras Nikon only issues minor firmware upgrades, but for others there is a major one typically 1-2 years down the road (2.0). I guess it depends on what kind of improvements are possible to add without hardware changes, what kind of feedback they get, and how popular and important a camera is. A designed "firmware update program" where such updates are "promised" would suggest the camera is badly designed from the beginning (so that there is room for "updates" and only fixed later. In my opinion it is much better to try to do it right from the beginning and only issue firmware updates if there is a problem, or if they can improve the camera's usability based on user feedback (presumably the in-house feedback was considered before the camera was released).
  4. What happened to those firmware updates is that the internet invented them, then hyped them, and then found out that the guy called "NikonCEO" in the forum in reality isn't the CEO of Nikon at all :)
    People expect miracles from firmware updates, but all the ones I've done so far on my cameras solved very specific issues that showed only in very specific well-defined circumstances; never the broad-sweeping internet complaints about how all model A cannot AF, all model B expose wrong and so on, that forums full of people claim should be fixed with a firmware update.
    While I in general agree with Ilkka that doing it right from the start is the way to go, I also think that what Fuji has done with the X-series, with big firmware updates addressing items that customers perceived as product issues, is not a bad move at all. It does communicate a sense of after-sales care and being in tune with customers that isn't bad at all; it's not necessarily admitting your product was flawed from the start, but being open to feedback and willing to adapt and improve. But, so far, Nikon doesn't seem to work this way at all, so I wouldn't hold my breath for large firmware updates for any Nikon camera.
  5. It was from the Nikon rumours site, the live raw histogram sounded so good.
  6. My problem with Nikon's firmware strategy is that it makes perfect sense to me that the low-end cameras should have mildly crippled functionality - although it was especially annoying on my Eos 300D that it was quite so crippled compared with the 10D entirely for software reasons. But still, if you want weird additional features that would confuse the average hobby photographer, I don't mind excessively if they're only available on the high-end cameras. If you're missing a feature, save up and you can get it.

    The thing is, Nikon never provide a camera that offers everything we want, at any price. Or, more realistically, they don't offer a camera that you can configure to do everything we want, at any price. If the D4s had a truly programmable interface that would allow me to implement most of the feature requests I sent Nikon (some were hardware - especially sensor rear movements...) I'd have found a way to buy one by now, even thought it's not really got the sensor I want for general use. The hacking community are trying, but it's nothing like as easy as it would be if Nikon just allowed a MagicLantern-style layer (and maybe even documented it).

    Left with some documentation and a bit of free time, by now I'd have added (many of these were emailed to Nikon a while ago):
    • Automated AF fine tuning (I think I saw a patent on this, which is probably why various people haven't done it...) - ideally with per-point adjustments
    • Per-zoom AF fine tuning (like Canon's) if this is configurable - or even a more Sigma-like 2D grid
    • Focus bracketing (take several shots at slightly different focus points; also for focus stacking)
    • The ability to remap all the buttons - including meter mode and AF mode, and put flash EC and normal EC on the same button
    • Configurable auto-ISO behaviour when using flash
    • Program mode defaulting to 1/focal length (I've not tried recently, and assume it doesn't...)
    • The old Canon A-Dep behaviour in manual focus (AF points light up as the focal plane hits the focus sensors), possibly including the blinking scheme I suggested to Nikon around the time of my D700 to show near misses
    • A similar blinking scheme for the "out of focus" indicators in the finder - or even a digital rangefinder display option like the low-end Nikons, using the exposure meter or the tilt view
    • A four-way split in live view with independent zooming (but a reduced refresh rate) allowing easy tilt-shift shooting (kudos for the two-way split on the D810, but it's not quite what I wanted)
    • ETTR, if the exposure system isn't hard-wired
    • Canon-style strobe shutter timing, if that's possible in Nikon's current framework, and have the option to stick to multiples of the mains frequency for longer exposures (1/50, 1/25, etc. in the UK)
    • Unmangled RGB output (without digital prescaling in the raw files), if that's not hard-wired; leave my data alone
    • Some automated release modes (motion sensing, light sensing, audio trigger)
    • Trap focus for manual lenses, where it would actually be useful, and some sensitivity settings
    • Safety shift exposure - take a shot, see if highlights are blown, automatically take a second exposure with reduced shutter speed and/or ISO if needed
    • Configurable exposure behaviour per-lens - for example, if I'd like to keep my 50mm between f/2.8 (for aberrations) and f/8 (for diffraction) where possible, keep the shutter above 1/50s where possible, and the order I'd want these rules relaxed; variable for zooms and savable, obviously, because this would be slow to set up in the field
    • Given the near ISO-less nature of some recent sensors, record the raw file at base ISO to avoid highlight clipping, but apply exposure compensation to the simultaneous JPEG file
    • Let AI-S lenses work like AF lenses (with the camera controlling the aperture) - you can't with AI, because the shutter isn't linear, but I don't see why AI-S (if you tell the camera it's AI-S, since there's no indent detector pin) can't do this
    I'm sure I remember a recent discussion which brought up some other broken features, so this isn't exhaustive even of my wish list. I'll have to go searching.

    I don't expect Nikon to do all of these for me. But it's frustrating that they don't make a camera on which I could do them myself. I'm an embedded software engineer, I've been programming ARM chips since the 1980s, and this isn't rocket science.

    Anyway, Alleged "API" aside, it would be kind of nice to get some minor updates retrospectively applied. It sometimes happens - I'm still giving Nikon some kudos for actually allowing the record button to map to ISO on the D800 after a bit, and for reenabling trap focus.
  7. being open to feedback and willing to adapt and improve. But, so far, Nikon doesn't seem to work this way at all
    I am puzzled by this kind of a claim (which seems to be presented quite often). Nikon has made their share of mistakes in product design but their cameras and lenses have improved hugely in the last ten years or so, and practically every issue that I've had has been addressed. I was a film SLR user for a long time and in 2004 the D70 was the first DSLR which I felt gave useful results and had a price I could pay. However, I had a number of issues with it. First, the viewfinder was very small and fuzzy as it didn't even have a glass prism. The AF was erratic and manual focus practically impossible. It didn't meter with manual focus lenses so I sold my 135/2.8 Ai (I probably should have waited but I didn't know which direction Nikon was going to go). There were no fast wide angle options for DX. But the image quality was quite good and it got me started with digital capture. Nikon issued a FW 2.0 for the D70 which improved the AF significantly (the feature upgrades of the D70s were given via this FW to D70 owners, similarly as they did to D2X users with a FW upgrade that gave them most of the D2Xs features). (How is this different from what Fuji is doing?) Then Nikon issued the D200 which had 1) glass prism viewfinder with increased magnification (not something you can do in FW), and precision assembly (so when I installed Katz Eye screen to it all was precisely in place for manual focusing whereas with the D70 the VF assembly was not precisely aligned), 2) improved AF (a new AF module), 3) metering support of Ai lenses (this requires fairly pricey hardware actually, to read the selected aperture mechanically), 4) and while there wasn't a fast wide angle prime, the 17-55/2.8 was quite good and I started to use that. Furthermore image quality had improved.
    In 2007 Nikon issued the D3 which further improved the viewfinder (though with the LCD overlay it wasn't as crisp as I had hoped for), and in subsequent years Nikon made the 20/1.8, 24/1.4, 28/1.8, 35/1.8, 35/1.4 fast wide angle primes so that problem was history. The D3 had a much improved AF system which together with AF-S primes finally converted me from being a mostly manual focus user into mostly an AF user. The D3 was a high fps sports camera which didn't really fit my needs well from the sensor point of view (it was good just not high res) but they have rectified that with numerous 24MP and 36MP models later on, with much improved resolution. In the D3 (and D300) Nikon had its first live view implementation which was very crude; in the D7000 and subsequent models it is much more elegant, and in the D810 it operates reasonably quickly and with high resolution, and no vibration (EFCS). What's more they improved the viewfinder clarity in the Df and D810 models. In the D800 original FW the LV was exposure simulation mode only; this meant it couldn't be used in the (flash based) studio. They quickly gave users the option to switch between autogain and exposure simulation in a firmware update. Some users complained that the D800 couldn't do focus trapping; fixed in FW 2.0. Want to control ISO on the right hand? Fixed in FW 2.0. The D810 improved the AF, the viewfinder, reduced shutter and mirror vibrations, increased LV resolution, etc. provided numerous improvements. They do listen to customer feedback and improve the products.
    I would highly recommend picking up a D70 and comparing it to the current D7200 (which is lower price than the D70 was, so the comparison I think is fair) and shooting some action with a nice 70-200 with both cameras to see if they have improved the products in the same class. Another comparison would be to compare the image quality and performance of the D2X vs. the D810 today (and do note the price reduction in the high resolution class). I guess one thing is that Nikon has maybe 50 million DSLR customers (?) and it is obvious that not everyone's feedback can be considered to be of equal value. There has to be some prioritization since not all requests are plausible or beneficial to the design. E.g. I totally support the idea that Nikon develop their professional cameras and regard mainly the feedback from professional photographers instead of internet forum chatter. With the large customer base they have to make choices as to whom to target specific cameras, since one camera can never be "it" for everybody.
    Fuji has had the 16MP X-Trans sensor in a number of cameras now and the only improvement to it that I'm aware of has been the incorporation of embedded PDAF to speed up focusing. But the focusing still doesn't work all that well. And they haven't issued any hardware updates to the X-Pro1 (which is the only ILC model with the optical viewfinder in the lineup and doesn't have the newer sensor with PDAF). In the meanwhile other manufacturers are making APS-C cameras with 24MP and even 28MP sensors. And Nikon's AF tracking works much better in low light than Fuji's. In the end what matters is whether the cameras work well in the tasks that the photographers need them for. Sometimes to make significant improvements simply requires hardware changes. The only Fuji camera I would be interested in is the X-Pro1, but Fuji has shown no indication that there will be an X-Pro2, so I can only assume they're going all EVF now (apart from the fixed focal length X100 series), which ends my interest in their product lineup. I also happen to think the X-Trans sensor is problematic from the point of view of raw conversion and the image quality is not that good (compared to e.g. D7100 sensor let alone D7200); with the X100s at high ISO the images were smeared to put it mildly and people looked like wax models. I like the original X-Pro1 concept but without new hardware (preferably they could collaborate with Sony or Toshiba and get a Bayer 24MP sensor from them, that is current technology) and revised model of the X-Pro1 their firmware updates do not really make me want to get into that system. I can see that with their small customer base (as a new camera manufacturer) they have to make the impression of trying to be customer friendly, but in my opinion they have to do more than that, and make an AF system that is competitive in tracking with e.g. Advanced Multi-CAM 3500 II of the D7200, and use a current technology sensor that is well supported by maintstream raw converters. I think their lens lineup is good and of interest to me, as is the optical viewfinder which is a rare thing in a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. However, I am not sure if they will continue the X-Pro1 with a newer model around the same concept.
  8. Automatic focus fine tuning is available from some third parties though it doesn't seem like many of their focus targets are even approximately decent for the purpose (the target should not have repeating patterns and should be fairly large so that it can be placed at a reasonable distance). However, the problem is that to do this properly you need facilities that users just don't have and so they might attempt it with uncertain results. The official way to do this is to take the camera and the lenses to service and explain the problem. To correct systematic focus errors may need both hardware and firmware adjustments so it is not something that the user could realistically do.
    As for full user configurability of the user interface, the problem then becomes that the user gets used to their own way of using a camera with totally different button labeling, and when they pick up another camera they probably can't use it, and when another person picks up your camera, again the same thing, when the labels on the buttons do not correspond to functions at all. But if you must, you can build your own camera around the concept of full user customizability. Personally I think human beings are highly adaptable and it is no problem to adapt to a camera rather than forcing an inanimate object such as a camera to be adapted to the person.
  9. I read the update "rumor" with interest, also. I am generally happy with my D810, but, since I shoot sports under poor lighting sometimes, am envious of the concept of artificial light flicker tracking that the new Canon 5Ds has, if that feature turns out to work well.
    Seems like this feature could be added to firmware. Andrew has a more comprehensive list, for sure.
  10. Automatic focus fine tuning is available from some third parties.​
    Forget them. All the camera has to do is compare the PD AF and the CD AF of a nicely lit target at the ranges you want to use. On a 70-200mm, let it 'do' a set it at 70, 130 and 200mm. That offset lives as a small AF offset file in body. Do that for all your lenses and the camera 'knows' how to correct systematic PD errors. The linear/rotary encoder info is pretty straightforward. CD focus accuracy is pretty much 100% with a nice target. The feedback loop to ensure precision works as expected.

    I suspect Sigma are working on a way of the lens 'knowing' what camera it's attached to and effectively doing the same. So when you put your Sigma 150-600mm OS S on your D4, it has a set of offsets that may well be different to your D7200 that you use for extra reach.
    Personally I think human beings are highly adaptable and it is no problem to adapt to a camera rather than forcing an inanimate object such as a camera to be adapted to the person.
    I've seen the film. I think Arnold somebody was in it...:)
  11. Sorry, essay coming.

    Firstly, I want to say that Nikon has made improvements, as Ilkka points out. Some of them were ones I requested - whether that was anything to do with me or whether others had the same idea I can't comment, but I was glad to see them. Some turned up "eventually" (I'd requested most of these from my D700 experience) - quick ISO, ISO on the rec button, auto-ISO with shift (which works how I described it in my email), split live view (ish). Trap focus I'm not going to believe was anything other than a bug - the manual always described it as working, although Canon certainly deliberately removed it. But there's a load of stuff that I believe would be easy to retrofit, and for some reason the low hanging fruit hasn't been grabbed. It's only frustrating because the cameras are nice to use.

    There's a distinction here. "We want 50MP" is hard to do. "We want better AF" is hard to do - and Nikon are doing it pretty well. "We want 4K video" is hard to do - or at least, a significant engineering effort, since Panasonic and Samsung seem to manage it. The JPEG engine has improved, we've got new metering patterns, we've got higher bit rates... all these are significant software engineering effort. I completely forgive Nikon both for putting work into these, and for not being able to produce a perfect attempt the first time. There are plenty of things I'd like that require new hardware, including that tiltable sensor, but I'm not holding my breath there.

    What frustrates me is the stuff that should be easy - the stuff that a user would have a reasonable hope of controlling via an interface. I'm not expecting users to be able to tweak the JPEG engine, and I've said "if not hard-wired" above for a few critical and highly-tuned blocks of code that are probably hard to mess with (like the matrix meter). But really, allowing the AF mode to be selected by pressing the AF-On button and turning a dial - is this a lot of engineering effort? Allowing metering mode to be mapped to the right-hand side? Iteratively applying phase-detect AF fine tuning adjustment until the contrast-detect AF thinks the image is sharp (given that both mechanisms already exist and there's even a way of storing the output in the camera)? None of this is hard to do. Really. Give it to a competent intern for a week and I'm sure they could pick off several, and they won't even touch any delicate or critical components of the camera. Not everyone wants the same thing, though, so exposing the tricky stuff through an API would let the crowd improve the camera for their own uses. It works for cell phones. And you might even stumble across someone who can implement sRAW better.

    The Sigma situation is annoying. The problem is that the dock means the lens is inherently not on the camera. If they'd stuck a USB port on the side of the lens instead, it would have been much easier to tweak in place. For Nikon lenses, my approach was "on a tripod, autofocus in live view, then adjust the offset to find the minimum and maximum that claimed focus by using rear-button AF [not manual focus]; split the difference and check that the result kind of works". For the Sigmas - and the 35mm really seems to do wildly different things based on focus distance, so I need to do this - it was "try some offsets at a focal length, move the lens to the dock, apply the offset, put the lens back on the camera, reset the camera offset, test, iterate, then do the same at different focal lengths, involving moving between rooms in order to test infinity". Pain, and I'm probably a mile off optimal. Sure, I could ignore the dock, but the flexibility is actually useful. As Mike says, the camera has all the hardware it needs to automate this, it's just a "small matter of programming".
    As for full user configurability of the user interface, the problem then becomes that the user gets used to their own way of using a camera with totally different button labeling, and when they pick up another camera they probably can't use it, and when another person picks up your camera, again the same thing, when the labels on the buttons do not correspond to functions at all.​
    A good argument that would apply if it weren't already possible to remap the buttons I'm talking about to do different things. All I'm asking for when it comes to mapping is more options on the list. I'm perfectly happy for Nikon tech support to say "if you change this stuff, you'll confuse us; please reset to factory settings before calling". I strongly object to most suggested features that would make the camera less usable for some customers (with the possible exception of burying a few things in menus that aren't accessed often, because that's an acceptable trade-off). The "please take out all the features I don't like" camera is in that category. Frankly, so is the Df, but I accept that as a body for people who just happen to like that kind of UI more than they dislike the issues with it (and good luck to them), so I can ignore it, other than the intellectual exercise of trying to come up with a less compromised version based on the same ideals. But there are an awful lot of features that have been requested by a number of people and which would do nobody any harm at all. For example, I don't want the AF mode button moved to the right side of the camera, because some people like it on the left - I just want the ability to create an alias for it. I don't see who'd be hurt by adding ETTR, and it's an easy thing to do that's not an uncommon request. Sure, Nikon should spend their time getting the complex and unpredictable matrix meter to work better, because proprietary magic there is important to a lot of people (including me). But spending a few minutes to get ETTR in place would be nice. And if it's not a corporate priority to Nikon, a programmable API would mean someone else could add it with no engineering effort to Nikon (other than getting the API rational in the first place).
    Personally I think human beings are highly adaptable​
    Well, yes. But until someone invents the fing-longer, it's going to be very hard to adapt myself to be able to reach, say, the new meter button position while holding a big lens with my left hand and pointing the camera with the right. Short of filing my nose to a point, some of the controls are just physically impossible. If I were left handed, I'd have a whole different set of requirements, I'm sure.
    D70 was the first DSLR which I felt gave useful results and had a price I could pay. However, I had a number of issues with it. First, the viewfinder was very small and fuzzy as it didn't even have a glass prism.​
    Okay, for hardware improvements, I'm going to say "play fair". The D70 was a budget camera competing with the Eos 300D/Digital Rebel. It didn't meter with manual focus lenses because the aperture follower tab is an expensive thing, and not necessary with AF lenses that transmit the aperture electronically. It didn't have a glass prism because a glass prism is expensive and heavy - the same reason the D5500 still doesn't have one, and the D1 did. The D2's can be bigger without getting dimmer because the D200 is a bigger, heavier, more expensive camera. The D3's is better still, because it's for a full-frame sensor. Canon had to do weird things with their own fab to make the first full-frame sensors (it was, IIRC, bigger than the possible mask size, so it had to be exposed in bits) - Nikon were late there for a reason. Cameras are still built to a budget - hence the lack of AF motors in anything "below" the D90. Sure, the D7200 is vastly improved over the D70 if you count them as the same market segment, but those segments are pretty fluid - I'd argue that the positioning of the D70 was much closer to the D5500, but the market segment has got cheaper.

    Nikon absolutely do improve the hardware, and choose what to make based on sales, feedback and market expectations. There's a lot to be said for "give the customers what they need, not what they want". There's a danger to that strategy as well: the D800 fixed most of what was "wrong" with the D700 (compared with the 5D2), but Nikon's installed D700 base were often vocal that they bought a D700 because of what it could do, not what it couldn't - and the 5D2 owners were tied in by Canon lenses. That's not a universal problem - I bought a D800 having owned a D700, after all - but you don't always get the upgraders you might if you're chasing after new customers.

    Fuji are interesting. They've always gone for the odd technology which has some advantages, but never quite sets the world on fire. Like Sony, because they don't have the market share of Canikon, they push out a range of unusual products in the hope of finding a profitable niche. Sometimes they succeed. Given that I have other cameras that can do what the Fujis can't, I'd love an X-Pro (and they're not that expensive) - but they're really quite big (if my rangefinder was a real Leica I'd probably not notice, but it's a Bessa R, so an X-Pro1 weighs a ton to me), they need a screw-in diopter to accommodate my weird vision, and they're missing a number of the reasons I'd like an X100-series. I'd like an X100T, partly for the silent(ish) leaf shutter, partly for the ND filter, partly for the ability to do flash sync at very high speed. They're not cheap, though. Even the X100s is still a bit pricey. I suspect Fuji see the successor to the X-Pro1 as being the X-T1, but that's a lot of money, and I'm still not 100% convinced by the camera. And yes, as a previous owner of a 135 DC, I'd like the 56mm f/1.2 R (just as I'd like the STF Sony lens). The good thing about being a smaller team is that it's easier to respond to issues, especially in software; the bad side is that they just can't make a mainstream camera and expect to compete, at least outside the compact mirrorless category. At least they seem to be innovating more than Pentax.
  12. what now?
    so anyway...
    is there a firmware update that would make me take better photos?
    i'd love to get one of those!
  13. Better photos? Not much. Photos you couldn't take before? Maybe.
  14. If Nikon can make a D810A just for astro shooters, then they can do some simple auto focus macro image stacking.
    You show it 'THERE' and 'THERE' and tell it to give me 20 frames at equally spaced intervals. Now GO.
    It goes to focus depth position 1 of 20, locks up the mirror, does the pre-shutter thingy, takes the shot..
    Goes to focus depth position 2 of 20 and repeats...
    If it's a particularly high dynamic range scene, let it do 3 exposures at each position.
    It hasn't got to actually do in-camera HDR macro-stacking. That takes quite a lot of processing power. But taking the images is pretty simple.
    I know Helicon focus has an optional powered Z stage for moving the camera, and fully automated stacking, but it's pretty pricey!
    That's the kinda firmware I want Nikon to offer. If they ever got off their software arses and updated Camera Control Pro to something actually nice to use, it could even be added to that. It might help justify the very, very high price for it.
  15. Mike: Yes. And, indeed, most of the other things on my list. I believe Helicon focus can actually just refocus the lens, as well as the powered stage thing - I keep meaning to get a copy and try it. (From Nikon, I'd partly want this for focus stacking and partly just an AF bracket for when the AF might miss - which sometimes happens even on a static subject.) I'd really pay Nikon a premium for a D810 that either implemented all this, or even allowed me to do it in my hypothetical free time. I really don't know why Nikon et al. don't feel that this would benefit them, other than perhaps from a pride perspective. Magic Lantern and CHDK are significant selling points for Canon cameras, to me. And you only need a few geeks to tweak things for everyone else to benefit.

    Ah well, I can dream.
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

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