Like a computer, a digital camera also uses a form of an operating system, called firmware. And just like Microsoft and Apple, camera manufacturers occasionally develop updated versions and make it available to owners of their products. Some firmware updates are designed to fix a technical problem, while others actually enhance a camera with even better speed, accuracy, versatility or image quality.
For instance, Canon recently announced an upgrade for the EOS 7D to be available in August. This will provide several benefits including improved continuous-shooting buffer depth (to 25 Raw photos, up from the original 15), and some new features such as customizable Auto ISO, control of audio recording level for video, and a function to process Raw photos. Frankly, most firmware updates do not provide such significant changes, but some of them are definitely valuable.
An update is simply a new binary file that will change the processing parameters or add certain functions to a digital camera. In the past, modifications could be made to a high-tech film camera, but only by a trained technician. Today, you can install firmware into any type of digital camera yourself. That's usually done by downloading the file from the manufacturer's Website, saving it to a memory card, inserting the card into the camera and activating a Menu item.
The problem is, manufacturers cannot contact hundreds of thousands of camera owners to advise when new firmware becomes available. However, it's easy to find firmware updates with a Google search; use the keywords Support Firmware and the name of the manufacturer and the camera model. (Notices of some updates are also published on many photo enthusiast Websites.)
It's worth checking for firmware updates once a month. Save the pertinent Web page as a Favourite in your browser for easy access at any time. While installing any new firmware, be sure to follow the instructions to the letter to avoid damaging the camera. Firmware updates are available free of charge, and they're not difficult to install. That combination makes this an ideal method for keeping your equipment up to date and delivering the best possible performance.