Sony announces DSC-F707 upgrade! (UPDATED)|
(Wednesday, October 31, 2001 - 14:12 EST)
Early-model DSC-F707 cameras may exhibit a problem where flash pictures sometimes have a blue tint. Sony has announced an upgrade that fixes it...
Sony USA has just informed us that they've initiated an upgrade for certain early-model Cyber-shot DSC-F707 digital cameras. As you may have seen in discussions on forums and Usenet newsgroups, some users have experienced problems with blue-tinted images when the flash is used. It appears that the problem actually affects only a relatively small percentage of the cameras out there, but the issue definitely exists in some portion of the current population of F707s. Notably, the problem didn't crop up in any of the cameras which were reviewed by us or our colleagues at the other digicam sites, despite the exhaustive testing we all performed. That said, there have certainly been a significant number of reports, and when the problem does appear it apparently happens with with some frequency. (Meaning there's no need to wonder if your camera has the blue-flash syndrome or not: If it does, you'll see it in a significant portion of your flash photos.)
Sony US has just informed us that they've developed a firmware upgrade which alters how the camera calculates white balance for flash exposures, avoiding the blue-flash behavior seen sporadically in the early models. While this appears to be a firmware-only upgrade (Sony told us that no hardware changes were involved, nor any mechanical disassembly), it must be noted that only Sony can perform it. Thus, *don't* try to take the camera back to the dealer, even if they normally claim to be a "self-servicing" reseller. This upgrade is the exclusive province of Sony.
It bears repeating: This is not a general "recall" of F707 cameras, but rather an upgrade program to apply firmware patches to cameras which exhibit the problem. (No need to return your camera if you aren't experiencing the blue-flash syndrome: If your camera is doing it, it'll be pretty obvious, and if it isn't, there's no need for the upgrade.)
Affected cameras have serial numbers in two ranges: From 1320001 through 1335130 and 1336621 through 1339030. (Note that numbers within this range are not sequential: - There apparently are quite a few less units potentially affected than the roughly 17,000 cameras the serial number range would indicate.) If your camera is within this range, AND shows the blue-flash syndrome, you should call Sony at 1-888-449-SONY (7669) and arrange to have the upgrade applied to your camera. Cameras which have already had the upgrade applied will have an identifying mark on the box and the serial-number tag to indicate that they have the updated firmware. (Sorry, we don't know what that mark is, but Sony will be able to tell when you call them. - Actually, the mark thing seems a little superfluous as far as any users are concerned. Your camera will either exhibit the problem or not. If it does, it isn't one of the upgraded units, and if it doesn't, you really don't care anyway, since it's not misbehaving.) Sony has made plans to handle the upgrades in a very expedited fashion: The entire process including shipping in both directions should take only 3-4 days.
NOTE that this program only applies to US-warranty cameras purchased in the US - This particular upgrade program is being run by Sony's US digicam division. Affected F707 owners in other countries will need to contact their local Sony sales/support organization.
As far as new purchase of the DSC-F707 go, Sony US apparently was able to catch many of the potentially affected cameras before they even shipped to retailers, so most new cameras now on store shelves have already had the fix applied. Hence, it doesn't appear that there's any significant cause for concern relative to buying a new F707.
Reading between the lines a bit, it doesn't appear that this is a "recall" of the sort some folks on the web have been asserting it might be. Given that it appears that only a small percentage of cameras are affected, and that the problem is quite apparent when it occurs, Sony's taking the logical step of upgrading only those cameras that exhibit the behavior. From other sources, we've learned that Sony has exchanged or otherwise upgraded F707s in resellers' inventory, to insure that no additional models with the flash white balance inconsistency problem make it into customers hands. We don't know that this qualifies as a "recall", as none of those inventory units had ever reached customers.
Whatever you call it, it seems that:
- There has been a problem with flash white balance consistency on a certain (small?) percentage of F707 cameras. (The problem only affects flash exposures)
- Sony is aware of the inconsistency
- Sony has developed a flash white balance parameter adjustment that fixes the problem.
- This parameter adjustment has already been implemented in production units.
- Since only a relatively few cameras have the probem, Sony is making the upgrade available on an as-requested basis, for those owners affected.
- Although no parts change or disassembly is involved, the upgrade is only available from Sony US directly.
- The upgrades will be performed on an expedited basis.
- This particular program is being run by Sony US, and applies only to cameras purchased in the US, with US serial numbers. (Reading between the lines, if you bought a grey-market F707, you'll need to get it back to the country of origin somehow.) Affected F707 owners in other countries should look to their local Sony organization for a solution.
- Don't bother talking to the dealer, the upgrade will only be available directly from Sony.
UPDATED 2001-11-02 12:00ET: - A clarification on the number of cameras affected: Reader Bryan Siverly took me to task because he thought I'd said that the number of cameras in the serial number range given was a small percentage of what's out there, when he in fact has concluded that it represents something like 80% of the total population of units shipped to customers. - What I *meant* to say/imply was that, while a large number of cameras were in the range that potentially could show the problem, it appears that in fact, only a fairly small (but unknown, at least to me) percentage actually exhibit it. Apologies for any confusion. - Dave E.
UPDATED 2001-11-17 15:12ET: Thanks to alert reader Paul Johns, who spotted an error in the phone number we published. Sony can be contacted on 1-888-449-SONY, not a 1-800 number.