How Myths Get Started

(commentary)

I can't count how many "if only Nikon would update firmware like Fujifilm does" emails I've been getting lately. Let's go to the tape:

Fujifilm X-E1

  • 1.01 — Added compatibility for a new lens, fixed a focus accuracy issue, fixed an under exposure issue
  • 1.04 — Added compatibility for a new lens, improved focus accuracy, optimized audio performance for a newly released microphone, fixed a problem with lens correction that caused artifacts, added the ability to release the shutter release when something was plugged into the remote release
  • 1.05 — Focus speed improved with the telephoto zoom lens
  • 1.06 — Added an option to Fn button, let you use one more of the direction arrows as a function button, added support for lenses that don't have an aperture ring
  • 2.00 — Focus speed improved with most lenses, added a focus peaking function, changed how you activate magnification during manual focusing, improved focus accuracy
  • 2.10 — Added ability to edit file names, changed how Live View presented the "exposure" while using flash, changed how shots are displayed on the LCD during/after continuous shooting, allowed changes to aperture or shutter speed setting when exposure is "locked", allows setting a maximum ISO sensitivity and minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO, improved the built-in raw conversion routine. 


Somewhere the myth seems to be forming that Fujifilm is rapidly adding lots of new features to their cameras via firmware updates, and that Nikon is not. My count of new features in this example—a camera that has had a lot of firmware updates—is a grand total of five. Four of which most Nikon cameras already have (focus peaking is the one Nikon hasn't done). 

My assessment would be slightly different: Fujifilm is shipping cameras before they've optimized them. Note how many times they've "improved focus accuracy" or "focus speed." In other words, the camera hardware was capable of more from day one, but the firmware engineers hadn't gotten around to figuring out how to squeeze out that performance. We also got a rethink of how the UI works midstream with the late addition of the consumer-grade XC lenses, which don't have aperture rings. And yes, they've caught on to and added features from other existing products that they probably should have put into the X models from the beginning. 

Don't get me wrong. I love seeing camera companies do firmware updates. Fix bugs, fine tune things, maybe add a useful feature if you can fit it in. But I don't get the sense that Fujifilm is rapidly adding features that other cameras don't have from these frequent updates. I get the sense that they're trying to products out the door fast and then catch the firmware up. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm seeing people broadly categorize what Fujifilm has been doing as highly positive, while not giving credit to Nikon for already having done those things. 

And don't get me further wrong. I'm not saying that there aren't things in Nikon DSLRs that couldn't use some tweaking or additions. It would be nice, for instance, to see Nikon retrofit the better Auto White Balance capabilities of the D610 to the D600, for example.  

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