Filmware Updates For Analog Photography

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I am always pleased when the maker of the digital cameras I use announces a firmware upgrade for one of their models. Nearly every time it improves some part of the performance or adds some new capability. It also alerts me to the fact that the previous version was flawed in some way.

This can be a surprise – there are so many parts of the operating system of a modern camera that I never go to – the video section for instance – that I may never have known of any deficiency. Of course there are people out there who watch every aspect of a camera and know these problems and probably alerted the maker to them. Presumably no-one is made to commit seppuku over operating glitches…

It recalls to my mind the business of updating my film cameras when I shot 35mm, 120 roll, and sheet film. In each case I would go to the store and buy a roll or packet of the latest improved film, shoot with it, fail with it, buy another lot and read the instructions, and then away we went.

The failure was mostly as a result of believing the manufacturer’s ASA rating. They were always higher than real, but not by a consistent amount. You needed to sacrifice one roll with deliberate test shots at different meter sensitivities to really see what you had. It left me with an undying hatred of test rolls. Of course the additional factors involved in development – time, temperature, dilution, agitation, and the way you held your right foot…all meant that you were sometimes struggling to get a meaningful answer from that test, in comparison to pictures done another day. It was a gift to test Kodachromes and C-41 process films as they underwent a development process that was standardised.

No-one ever put out an improvement in the actual cameras once they were out of the factory, though batteries to operate them got better. Photo gear jealousy and lust occurred, of course, and was the staple of the trade…much as it is now. But to satisfy yourself you had to up the dose and get more expensive cameras, rather than wait for your current one to get better.

 

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