Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Firmware Update!

 Straight from Camera RAW Conversion - Unaltered
RAW Enhanced  and Converted In Camera

Beginner Friendly - Digital Cameras have "Firmware" - they all do. It is a kind of software that is "firm", which means it stays the same until the manufacturer upgrades it, and when an upgrade comes out, it takes a small bit of technical effort on the part of the user to apply the upgrade to the camera. It is exactly the same as doing a BIOS Upgrade on your computer. The camera firmware, and a computer's BIOS are both stored in the device's Read Only Memory (ROM).

Anyway, a couple of months ago, Canon announced that they're going to provide a Firmware Upgrade for the EOS 7D sometime in August. This was billed as "the most significant upgrade" Canon has ever provided for any camera. Well, here we are, the first week into August, and the upgrade is now available, as promised. I just did mine this morning. 

The above two pictures demonstrate two of the many significant features contained in the upgrade - RAW to JPEG conversion, and RAW file manipulation, both in the camera, without computer software. I'll talk more specific about this shortly, but this is clearly a case of Canon doing a "competitive upgrade" to the 7D, which was introduced in 2009, and was in need of a lot of added features - like, most newer DSLR's now have in-camera RAW to JPEG conversion. This is the part of the upgrade I was most excited about, and so I immediately wanted to try it out.  Without leaving my chair, I snapped a picture of Merlin in RAW, and then went to the Menu to try out the new feature.

So - just a little about the shot - I went with full auto "P" mode, Auto-focus and auto-ISO. With this, the camera selected ISO 3200, Aperture f3.5 and Shutter of 1/20. I forgot to switch on Image Stabilization, which might explain the little bit of motion blur. If I had been thinking, I would have set the ISO at 6400 with Stabilization on, which would've given a Shutter of 1/40. But, this was just to test the new feature, so not a big deal. 

I am pleased with how simple the process is in-camera; it works totally with a sub-menu that keeps the picture on-screen, and as you alter the settings, you can see the results in the on-screen preview. It all makes use of the camera's own internal settings, so basically, instead of pre-selecting all the settings for sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation (including monochrome) lighting optimization and noise reduction (among others), you can take the picture first, and adjust these parameters afterwards. When you're done, the camera assigns a brand new file number to the JPEG image it just created, and stores it on the Memory Card.

So, as for what I did to Merlin, I added sharpness and contrast, applied the maximum Auto-Lighting optimization, and the maximum Noise Reduction. This gave an overall less blurry picture, and brought out the bright highlights in the old boy's fur. I expect I'll find this quite useful. As for the rest of the upgrade, there's not much I'm really interested in using, although there's enough added features that Canon has re-issued the 7D user's manual in conjunction with this upgrade, which normally doesn't happen.

This all leaves me wondering - why did I buy a 7D in the first place, seeing as, with my style of photography I seldom, if ever, use most of the features this camera is capable of? I think I'll attempt to answer that in my next post. Am I having second thoughts? Stay tuned!

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