Firmware Friday: Sony A9 reinvented by major update; news from Blackmagic, Canon and Panasonic too


posted Friday, March 29, 2019 at 10:26 PM EDT


Our weekly Firmware Friday roundup returns with the arrival of another weekend, and this time around it's a story that's dominated by Sony and its flagship A9 mirrorless camera. The Sony A9 v5.0 firmware update is clearly this week's showstopper news, and so we'll be covering it first of all in this week's article. If you're not a Sony shooter, though, fear not: We also have news of updates on the way (or already available) from Blackmagic, Canon and Panasonic, as well.

Without any further ado, let's get down to what's new!


Sony A9 firmware 5.0

The firmware version 5.0 update for Sony's flagship A9 is a biggie. In fact, it's vast enough that Sony's own description of the update has been split between capture, playback, customization and connectivity-related items, plus a separate list of functionality that has been deleted. New record-mode functionality is as follows:

  1. Highly accurate automatic detection and tracking of subjects / Tracking, Tracking On, Touch Tracking
    A subject tracking function has been provided that improves the conventional Lock-on AF function. A newly developed object recognition algorithm achieves real-time high-speed processing of spatial information consisting of color, pattern (brightness level), and subject distance (depth). In addition to the conventional operation method of setting the focus area mode to Tracking, you can also start tracking at the desired time by assigning Tracking On to the  Custom Key. Furthermore, setting Touch Tracking from the menu lets you select the subject to be tracked by simply touching the desired subject on the monitor. Tracking and Tracking On are available in still image shooting mode. Touch Tracking is available in still image shooting mode and movie shooting mode, but unavailable when shooting with the viewfinder.

  2. Evolution of Eye AF function / Face/Eye AF Set.
    A Face/Eye AF Set. function evolved from the conventional Face detection function has been provided. The function has been enhanced so that Eye AF (AF-C/AF-S mode support) operates even while the shutter button is pressed halfway down or the AF-ON button is pressed. In addition, you can have the camera automatically select the eye on which to focus, or you can specify the right eye or left eye beforehand. Eye AF is not available during movie shooting.

  3. Touch pad function / Touch Pad Settings
    A touch pad function has been provided that lets you move the focusing frame position by dragging your finger on the monitor like a touch pad. The focusing position moves in accordance with the amount of movement of your finger on the monitor. This lets you move the focusing position smoothly while looking through the viewfinder. In addition, a setting that moves the focusing position to the position where the monitor is touched is also available.

  4. Increased focal plane phase detection AF accuracy and expanded application range
    The AF algorithm has been further brushed-up to improve the focal plane phase detection AF accuracy during AF-C and continuous shooting. Performance has also been enhanced in environments with lower light compared to outdoors, such as indoor sports scenes. In addition, the aperture value range over which focal plane phase detection AF is available during AF-C and continuous shooting has been expanded. The maximum value has been increased from the conventional F11 to F16. This expands the AF application range to enable use such as panning during continuous shooting. This is supported when any E-mount lens that supports focal plane phase detection AF is mounted.

  5. Increased number of contrast AF frame divisions
    The number of contrast AF frame divisions has been increased from the current 25 frames to 425 frames. This enables highly accurate AF even in low-light environments or other scenes where contrast AF is advantageous. Use in combination with 693-point focal plane phase detection AF realizes high-speed, highly accurate AF in all circumstances.

  6. Circulate focusing position setting / Circ. of Focus Point
    A new setting has been added that lets you circulate the focusing position to the up, down, left and right sides. This lets you efficiently set the focusing position when the subject moves frequently from one end to the other of the AF area, such as when shooting sports scenes.

  7. Display only frequently used focus area types / Focus Area Limit
    A function has been added that displays only the focus area types frequently used by the user when setting the AF area. This limited display is also reflected when Switch Focus Area is assigned to a custom button.

  8. Limited ISO display / ISO Setting: ISO Range Limit
    You can set the camera so that only frequently used ISO ranges are displayed in the ISO setting screen. This lets you change the setting more quickly in shooting mode.

  9. Display ISO value all the time when recording movies in ISO AUTO mode
    A function has been added that lets you display the ISO value all the time when recording movies in ISO AUTO mode. This lets you record while checking the ISO value, even when recording in dark surroundings where the noise level is a concern.

  10. Simpler white balance setting / White Balance
    The white balance color temperature setting has been simplified. In addition, the number of setting steps has been reduced and operability has been enhanced during custom white balance operation.

  11. AWB lock function /  Shutter AWB Lock, AWB Lock Hold, AWB Lock Toggle
    You can select whether or not to lock the auto white balance at the desired timing. This is convenient when you want to lock the auto white balance in an environment with multiple light sources such as artificial light and natural light. You can also lock the white balance in the auto white balance mode by assigning AWB Lock Hold or AWB Lock Toggle to a custom key.

  12. Increased detection accuracy of peaking function and addition of blue peaking color / Peaking Setting
    The detection accuracy of the peaking function that enhances the outline of in-focus areas with the specified color has been increased. This makes it even easier to understand the focus peak during macro shooting and portrait shooting that require precise focusing. In addition, blue has been newly added to the available peaking colors (red, yellow, white). Selecting the blue peaking color, which is a colder color, for warmer colored subjects helps increase visibility when focusing on various subjects.

  13. Addition of initial magnification settings for focus magnifier in movie recording mode /  Initial Focus Mag.
    You can set the initial magnification for focus magnifier in movie recording mode. The initial magnification can be selected from x1 or x4.

  14. JPEG picture quality setting in RAW & JPEG recording mode /  File Format,  JPEG Quality
    You can select the JPEG picture quality from among Extra fine, Fine or Standard when the still image recording file format is set to RAW & JPEG.

  15. Support for monitor off in shooting mode / Monitor Off
    Monitor Off has been added to the screen display modes that can be selected by the DISP button (Display Setting) in shooting mode. When set to Monitor Off, the monitor turns off other than when playing back images or performing MENU operations. This is convenient when shooting starry skies or other scenes in dark surroundings where the monitor brightness is a concern.

  16. Support for simultaneous recording of proxy movies /  Proxy Recording
    Simultaneous recording of 4K movies and low definition proxy movies is supported. The load on the computer can be reduced and work efficiency increased when editing 4K movies by using proxy movies with a small file size for editing and previews.

  17. Support for 1:1 image aspect ratio / Aspect Ratio
    The 1:1 image aspect ratio is supported in addition to the conventional 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios. This enables shooting with a preset aspect ratio and composition optimized for posting to SNS, etc.

  18. Metering based on faces / Face Priority in Multi Metering
    The camera can measure brightness based on detected faces when Metering Mode is set to Multi.

  19. Zebra function setting method / Zebra Setting
    Zebra display and zebra level can be set separately.

  20. Support for exposure compensation while pressing the shutter button halfway down in still image shooting mode
    Exposure compensation can be performed by operating the exposure compensation dial while pressing the shutter button halfway down in auto focus mode.

  21. Addition of movie recording format XAVC S HD recording settings
    60p 25M and 30p 16M have been added to Record Setting.

Playback-related changes, meanwhile, are as follows:

  1. Rating function / Rating
    You can set ratings in five levels ( - ) for recorded still images on the camera. Ratings set on the camera are carried over to applications such as PlayMemories Home and Imaging Edge (Viewer) even after the images are imported to your computer. In addition, you can also assign ratings on the playback screen by assigning the rating function to a custom key.

  2. Protect function / Protect
    The protect function that protects recorded images against accidental erasure can now be used quickly on the playback screen by using a custom key (assigned to the C3 button in the default settings). Rating and Protect on the playback screen are useful for selection work during idle time such as at shooting sites or while travelling.

  3. Group display of continuous shooting images / Display as Group
    You can display recorded images by continuous shooting group. This makes the image index screen list easier to view during playback. You can also delete, protect or transfer images to a smartphone in continuous shooting group units.

  4. Support for jumping between images during playback / Image Jump Setting
    You can set the dial and method to use for jumping between images during playback. This lets you more easily find protected images or images set with a particular rating.

On the customization front, Sony has tweaked the A9 as follows:

  1. Advanced dual slot functionality / Auto Switch Media
    You can set the camera to automatically switch the recording destination to the other slot when the memory card in use becomes full and images can no longer be recorded to that memory card while shooting still images or recording movies. In addition, you can select from Sort(JPEG/RAW) or Sort(RAW/JPEG) as the method of recording still images separately to two memory cards.

  2. Changing the function of the dial temporarily / My Dial Settings
    You can assign desired functions to the front dial, rear dial and control wheel, and register up to three combinations of settings as “My Dial”. You can quickly recall or switch registered “My Dial” settings by pressing the custom key you assigned in advance.

  3. Assigning functions to custom keys / custom key
    You can select and assign desired functions from among up to 112 different options to custom keys. This lets you separately assign different functions for still image shooting mode, movie recording mode, and playback mode. In addition, an illustration showing the camera operation parts has been added to the custom key setting screen. This lets you check which buttons and switches to assign functions to at a glance.

  4. Improved usability of function menu settings / Function Menu Set.
    Usability has been improved, such as by enabling to make function menu settings while viewing the actual function menu configuration.

  5. Selection of memory card slot for Memory recall (MR) function that enables to quickly recall camera settings /  Select Media
    You can select the memory card from which settings are recalled by the Memory recall (MR) function from slot 1 or slot 2. This lets you register different settings to multiple memory cards.

  6. Front dial/rear dial with changeable direction of rotation / Av/Tv Rotate
    You can change the direction of rotation for the front dial and rear dial from the menu in accordance with your preference.

And finally, the connectivity-related changes are as follows:

  1. Support for Imaging Edge Mobile
    The system software supports Imaging Edge Mobile, which is the successor application to PlayMemories Mobile. This enables remote control of the camera using a smartphone, and automatic transfer of images to the smartphone while recording. Note that PlayMemories Mobile must be updated to Imaging Edge Mobile.

  2. Support for wired LAN remote control
    You can remotely control the camera with a high degree of freedom suited to professional sites via the PC app “Remote Camera Tool”. You can also remotely control an Ethernet connected camera or multiple cameras from this application. In addition, remote control is possible even during FTP transfer, which achieves even higher shooting efficiency.

  3. Support for smartphone always connected / Ctrl w/ Smartphone
    You can set whether or not to always connect the camera to a smartphone. When this function is set to On, once you connect the camera to a smartphone, it will remain connected to the smartphone at all times.

All of which just leaves a few feature subtractions to be mentioned:

  1. Changes to movie recording format and recording settings /  File Format,  Record Setting
    60p 25M and 30p 16M have been added to the  Record Setting of XAVC S HD. The following specifications have been changed accordingly.

    • The recording format MP4 has been deleted. Accordingly, Folder View (MP4), which displays only MP4 movies in playback mode, has also been deleted.

    • 60p 28M(PS), 24p 17M(FH) and 24p 24M(FX) have been deleted from the  Record Setting of AVCHD movies. To continue recording AVCHD movies, use 60i 24M(FX) or 60i 17M(FH).

  2. Simultaneous video recording function / Dual Video REC
    A function has been added that simultaneously records low definition proxy movies when recording XAVC S movies. Accordingly, Dual Video REC, which simultaneously records MP4 movies when recording XAVC S movies or AVCHD movies, has been deleted.

*Phew*! Quite a laundry list of changes, we're sure you'll agree. You can download the update here, although you'll need to read and agree to several important notes first. (Key among these are that the update cannot be rolled back, will require refamiliarization with the menu system and names of certain functions, and will cause your camera settings to be reset. (You also can't restore settings backups from older versions of firmware.) If you're happy with that, get the update for your Sony A9 here.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

We'll now hit the rest of the list in alphabetical order, as we'd normally do. Starting off with Blackmagic Design, the company has updated its Pocket Cinema Camera 4K courtesy of the new Blackmagic Camera Setup 6.2.1 release. (Download here for Windows, or here for MacOS.) The only change referenced for the camera is improved stability.

Canon EOS R and 400mm / 600mm lenses

In last week's roundup, we told you that Canon was preparing new firmware for its EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM and EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lenses. These updates, which are aimed at resolving exposure flicker when using these lenses with around 30 different Canon EOS camera models spanning the gamut from entry-level Rebels all the way up to 1D-series cameras, are now both available. Firmware version 1.08 for the 400mm can be downloaded here, while firmware version 1.08 for the 600mm is available here.

And that's not all. Canon also has announced that it is currently preparing firmware version 1.2.0 for the EOS R mirrorless camera. Changes are as follows:

  1. Eye-detection AF

    • Supports Servo AF when shooting still images.

    • Now available when shooting movies regardless of "Movie Servo AF" setting.

  2. Small AF Frame Size

    • Supports Servo AF when shooting still images.

    • Now available when shooting movies regardless of "Movie Servo AF" setting.

  3. Under certain conditions the electronic level displayed in the electronic viewfinder did not display properly. This has been fixed.

  4. Under certain conditions information displayed in the electronic viewfinder was not properly rotated. This has been fixed.

  5. Under certain conditions updating the firmware for the wireless file transmitter WFT-E7 was not possible. This has been fixed.

Watch this space for the EOS R firmware version 1.2.0 update in a future roundup!

Panasonic S1, AG-CX200MC, AG-CX350, AJ-UPX360MC and VariCam LT

That just leaves Panasonic for this week's roundup. We already discussed the company's upcoming firmware for the Lumix S1 mirrorless camera in a separate article earlier in the week, but to recap quickly, the update will include 4:2:2 10-bit 4K 24p/30p internal video recording, 4:2:2 10-bit 4K 60p HDMI output and full V-Log recording. It should be available from July 2019.

If you're using the company's AG-CX200MC, AG-CX350, AJ-UPX360MC or VariCam LT video cameras, you won't have to wait for your update, though. All of these models have received new firmware in the past week. For the AG and AJ-series cameras, changes in firmware version 1.02-00-0.00 (download here) are as follows:

  1. Improved responsiveness to zoom ring rotation operation.

  2. The zoom performance is improved to quickly follow the rotation of the zoom ring.

  3. The peaking color of the focus assist function may appear in an out-of-focus area. This problem is fixed.

  4. When you use the AC adapter, the color of the level gauge display may incorrectly move for a moment. This problem is fixed.

  5. When VIDEO REC or FILMREC is set on Gamma mode, Auto-Knee function does not work. This problem is fixed.

It's the VariCam LT in firmware version 34.55-00-0.00 (download here) which gets the bulk of the love this time around, though, receiving all of the following changes:

  1. Supports HLG(Hybrid Log Gamma)

    • Specification: Gamma=HLG, Color space=REC2020, Dynamic Range=1600%

    • [Related MENU]

      • HLG mode settings (Operate the following in order)



    • [Related Devices]

      • ・AK-HRP1000

        * Firmware update scheduled for the near future is required to support HLG.

    • Main features

      • [For SDR Monitors]

        • The Gamma and the Color Space of HLG are converted into the SDR formats' ones.

        • HLG images can be displayed on SDR monitors.

        • Monitors can express the gradation of the high brightness area while maintaining the contrast of the normal brightness area by this function.

      • [Temporary change gamma of VF to HLG]

        • Usually, the gamma of VF is SDR (monitoring gamma).

        • You can temporarily change the gamma of VF from SDR to HLG to check the high brightness gradation.

      • [Simultaneous output of HLG/SDR (monitoring gamma)]

        • HDR (HLG) and SDR (monitoring gamma) can be output simultaneously with 2 lines of SDI.
          *When setting the output of PROXY, SDI 1, SDI 2 or VF SDI, you can select HLG/SDR respectively.

      • [Zebra display function for high brightness]

        • Zebra indication can be displayed in the brightness saturated area of VF image.

      • [RAW to 4K conversion]

        • When the PROCESSED RAW is set, the information about HLG is embedded in the SDI payload.

  2. Improvement of UI in SYSTEM MODE setting
    When the SYSTEM MODE of HOME (SYSTEM) is selected, the menu switches to the detailed items by pushing the dial.
    The UI of this operation is improved.

  3. Improvement of the delay due to conversion from RAW to 4K
    When AVC-4K422 is selected, the output of Processed RAW is set Dual.

  4. The information of "PRODUCT VERSION" is written to the XML files.

  5. Canon lens “CN-E70-200mm T4.4 L IS KAS S” and EXTENDER can be used in combination.

  6. Improvement of the following problems

    • The value of GAIN shifts by +6dB when GAMMA SELECT is set to “BC GAMMA” and EI MODE is set to “dB”.

    • When you input RETURN video signal at 23.98p or 24p frequency, the output images look jumpy.

    • When you input RETURN video signal at 25p frequency, the output images are abnormal.

    • The Up/Down operating range of AK-HRP1000’s IRIS lever and the OPEN/CLOSE operating range of lens do not match up.

    • (MC model only) KNEE MODE menu spelled in Chinese has some inaccurate expressions.

And that's all for this week's update. Be sure to check back next time for more firmware news!


**Worried you might've missed a critical update lately? Don't be! Just Click Here for all recent Firmware Friday articles!**

See all the latest Firmware Friday Updates

(Camera parts image courtesy of Kelly Hofer / Flickr; used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0 license. Image has been modified from the original.)