Firmware Friday: Pentax preps for 1.4x rear converter; Sony Alpha 7-series mirrorless updates on the way


posted Friday, March 7, 2014 at 8:25 PM EDT


This week, Firmware Friday brings news of a raft of updates for cameras from Pentax, Sony, and Canon -- but that's not all. Mixing things up just a little, we also step outside of the box for a software update from Nikon.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll start off with Ricoh's firmware updates for Pentax cameras, which cover every single APS-C camera the company has made since May 2009, bar one. (For some reason, Pentax K-x owners don't get any love -- their camera launched in September 2009, but it hasn't yet received an update.)

If you own any of the other APS-C sensored DSLR and mirrorless cameras the company has launched in the last five years, though, you're good to go. What you get is support for the company's imminently-available HD Pentax-DA 1.4x AW AF Rear Converter, a 1.4x teleconverter whose development actually predates every single one of these cameras. And that, as far as listed changes, is as far as it goes. As always, the company holds out the promise of unspecified stability / performance improvements, but doesn't specify what these might entail.

It's also important to note that if you own one of the limited-edition versions of the Pentax K-r, any customized startup screen offered by the camera will be replaced with the company's default screen after the update has been applied.

With that proviso borne in mind, you can get the updates from Ricoh Japan at the links below. The company's US branch has yet to offer any of these updates for download, but we're sure they're on the way soon.

That about does it for Pentax; now we'll look at Sony. The company isn't yet shipping the new firmware for the Sony A7 and A7R full-frame mirrorless cameras; instead, it has pledged to deliver it in a little under a fortnight from now. Changes are as follows:

  • Compatibility with FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS (SEL70200G) lens:
    • Fast Hybrid AF support; also supports future E-mount lenses (Sony A7)
    • Improved autofocus performance (Sony A7R)
    • Corresponding Focus Hold button function added
  • Start-up time reduced
  • Image quality improved
  • Functional improvements for PlayMemories Camera Apps:
    • "Live View Grading" and "Smooth Reflection" apps added
    • "Time-lapse" app (v2.00 or later) now ramps autoexposure more smoothly

Sony's updates will arrives, says the company, on March 19th, 2014 in the Japanese market. No word on availability in other markets as yet.

And that wraps up the firmware; now for the software. Nikon has launched an updated for its Wireless Transmitter Utility package, available for both Mac OS and Windows platforms. Wireless Transmitter Utility v1.5.0 has several changes, all related to camera and operating system support. The app now supports the Nikon D4S digital SLR, as well as 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Microsoft's Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise operating systems. It also makes a straight trade on the Mac platform, switching new OS X 10.9.1 support in place of the now-sunsetted OS X 10.6.8 support. Get the update here.

Last, but very definitely not least, Canon has detailed an unusual return-to-base upgrade for another of its pro cinema cameras. From May 2014, owners of the professional Canon Cinema EOS C300 movie camera will be able to have their cameras upgraded to support Dual Pixel CMOS AF, as first introduced on the EOS 70D DSLR last year. This mirrors a similar upgrade for the EOS C100 announced late last year, and just like as with camera, you'll be paying for the upgrade. (And newly-shipped cameras won't be upgraded at the factory, either.) Canon says it isn't replacing the sensor to enable Dual Pixel CMOS AF, suggesting it was there all along, and merely disabled. After a US$500 fee, the function will be activated in your EOS C300, and you'll be able to send your camera in for the service from May 2014.

And that's our lot for Firmware Friday this week. Be sure to check back next week for all the latest on the firmware front!

(Camera parts image courtesy of Kelly Hofer / Flickr; used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0 license.)