This has two major benefits for us - the consumer. First, it goes some way to eliminating buyer angst. How many of us in this digital age have suffered from 'upgrade anxiety'? You just know that as soon as you spring for that brand new camera, a newer (better) model will be released a month later! But with firmware updates, upgrade anxiety becomes less of an issue.
And second, it extends the effective life of your hardware. It allows the manufacturers to add features to your camera that weren't even available when you first purchased it. Often, 'better' cameras are simply minor tweaks to the camera you already own - all of which can be achieved in firmware (the cameras computer brain). By releasing firmware updates for your model, you can essentially get the newer camera that just came out, without having to change. You really are getting a 'better' camera - again without having to pay any more for the privilege.
Firmware updates for digital cameras aren't anything new. Canon and Nikon have occasionally released a firmware update for their DSLR's which added some minor tweak or fixed some bugs in the system. Yet they have also seemed reluctant to do so - choosing instead to release 'new' models that are, effectively, very minor 'firmware' upgrades over the previous camera.
It has really own been with mirrorless systems - cameras designed specifically for digital output - that we have seen manufacturers like Panasonic, Olympus and especially Fuji, really listen to their customers and then produce major firmware updates that radically improve the overall performance and features of their existing cameras.
A few months ago, Olympus announced a major firmware upgrade for the E-M1 (V.4) and E-M5 MkII (V.2) to be release late November. This generated quite a bit of excitement in the Olympus forums, with speculation about what would (and wouldn't) be included. From the list that Olympus released, the only additional feature for the E-M5 MkII that interested me was 'Focus Bracketing' - something that was introduced very recently on the E-M10 MkII but was not originally available on my E-M5 MkII.
|Olympus Camera Updater interface|
It was a very straight forward process, although slightly different from other upgrades I had done in the past on my Canon DSLR's.
With my previous cameras, the firmware update was downloaded and written to the cameras memory card, which was then inserted into the camera. When you turned the camera on, the firmware update would begin from the memory card.
But with the Olympus E-M cameras, you have to take the memory card out of the camera, download the Olympus Camera Updater software, and connect to camera to the computer via a USB cable without a memory card in the camera. The software on the computer then detects the camera, decides what firmware upgrade it needs, and downloads that update directly from the computer to the camera via the usb cable. This enables the camera and lens (like the 12-50mm EZ) to be upgraded at the same time.
It worked quickly, effortlessly, and perfectly - and I now have an E-M5 MkII with focus stacking (as well as a host of other new features such as time lapse movie shooting and an underwater picture mode).
I don't expect this will be the last firmware upgrade that the E-M5 MkII will ever get - it's still a relatively new camera, sitting as it does at the top of Olympus's Prosumer OM-D range. Kudos to Olympus (Panasonic, Fuji et al.) for continuing to update their cameras. Long may the addition of new features continue...