Monday, June 20th, 2022

When was the last time you updated your camera’s firmware?

Photograph from behind two people taking a photo on their mobile phone of bright red and yellow flowers spread across a Japanese street

Exactly when I bought my much loved Fujifilm X-T20 is a bit of a blur. Sometime during mid-2018 is my best guess. Since then I’ve updated the software on it exactly once. That happened a few weeks ago and was driven more by a whim than anything being wrong with the camera.

In an age when we update our phones and laptops monthly, it might seem like we’re being short-changed. Surely there should be regular improvements to the software to add new features or tweak existing ones?

I disagree.

Between my camera’s launch in 2017 and the one I installed, there have been 7 updates to the firmware. One of these appears to be connected to its launch outside of Japan. Another corrected a spelling mistake.

It wasn’t until mid-2020 there was any significant change. Apart from improvements to the autofocus and support for a new type of lens, nothing much changed. 

Photograph of a traditional Japanese bridge with people walking across it from left to right and in the background white buildings
Kurashiki, a town in Japan.

This was the update I installed, and my camera is pretty much the same as it was before.

Stability matters.

Far from being a disadvantage, I see the stability of Fujifilm’s firmware as a huge bonus.

The last thing I want from my camera is it changing every month. The subtle nuances in how it treats light and tracks objects have become instinctive. I can change settings without looking. That fleeting moment isn’t lost because I can’t remember if Fujifilm moved the shutter speed to a different knob.

It also gives me a lot of confidence in their engineering. The product I bought was about as good as it could be, and I can enjoy photography without worry.

It’s not just Fujifilm

From what I’ve read, the major manufacturers have adopted similar approaches. The product that hits the shops is as good as it can be. Occasional releases fix niggles, or support new hardware or better algorithms. But these are few and far between.

Photograph of orange fungi on the brown broken bark of a fallen tree
Fungi on a mountain trail.

A camera isn’t a phone.

We’re all used to updating our phones regularly, but a camera isn’t a phone. It’s a piece of precision engineering we have a different relationship with. We want it to be reliable, consistent and dependable.

If that’s the case, I’m not sure monthly firmware updates send the right message.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.