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07-23-2007, 02:29 PM   #1
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What is the point of Firmware?

Ok, I have heard this term tossed around here and on the board that supports my mp3 player but I really need to ask this question:

What is firmware, how does it work and do I need to update?

I had always assumed, until lately, that the software that came with my camera was for working with the photos, like Photoshop, which I don't need.

My guess now is that this disk contains firmware which is the camera's operating system, correct? I have all the software that came with my K100D but I have never done a thing with it. I have never connected my camera to my computer because I always just take out the SD card and slide it into the slot in my laptop.

So if my camera works fine, do I need to do something with this firmware?

Thanks to those of you who do not laugh at me for asking this!

07-23-2007, 02:49 PM   #2
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Firmware is the software in the camera itself yes.

Updates to it can be downloaded from the Pentax websites.
07-23-2007, 02:54 PM   #3
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Ahh I see pschlute beat me to it - I will post anyways.

That is a great question no worries. Your definition of 'operating system' is pretty close (see another definition below)

Firmware updates are usually provided to fix 'bugs' on some features or to introduce new functionlaity. For a pentax example firmware updates for the K10D
an example of new functionlaity would be
With this latest firmware version the support for Pentax DA lenses with a built-in Supersonic Drive Motor (so called SDM lenses) has been implemeted.

A bug fix would be
In rare case, vertical stripe at long time exposure.

How to apply a firmware update is device dependant - so it is different on your MP3 player than on your camera. For Pentax camera K100D You can check out Pentax K100D Firmware

As to do you need it ? These firmware updates usually have a readme file that indicates what changes were made and if there is a change you want then you should upgrade. On the other side of the fence if you are completley happy with your camera and functionality as is - no need.

- Firmware is programming that is inserted into programmable read-only memory (programmable ROM), thus becoming a permanent part of a computing device. Firmware is created and tested like software (using microcode simulation). When ready, it can be distributed like other software and, using a special user interface, installed in the programmable read-only memory by the user. Firmware is sometimes distributed for printers, modems, and other computer devices.
07-23-2007, 02:59 PM   #4
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Thank you very much. I knew it wouldn't take long to get an answer on here. And I don't feel so silly for asking because no one laughed!

07-23-2007, 03:00 PM   #5
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Firmware on our camera is like the BIOS and OS in one. It's a rewritable chip, allowing us to make updates as necessary.

I'm not sure with the K100D, but with the K10D, there were some added features, menu options, and calibration tweaks.

If you're not confident with doing firmwire, and you're comfortable with your current settings, stick with it. Check out the read me file that comes with your firmware flash if you want to know what's been changed or updated.
07-23-2007, 03:07 PM   #6
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Firmware is everywhere!

Firmware is a "software for hardware". Since it is firmly integrated with a specific hardware hence the name.

Most modern electronic devices use microprocessors (or microcontrollers) and are "programmed" to do certain operations, as opposed to designing specific electronic circuits to perform hard coded operations as in old days. Your remote control, microwave owen, TV, DVD player, digital camera, MP3 player, even your car rely on microprocessors. To run a microprocessor-based system you need a software of course, but you don't see that software as a separate entity (something that you can install or uninstall at will). It is tightly coupled with the hardware and usually you can not change it.

However, some devices will allow you to put firmware "image" on some sort of memory media (SD card in case of Pentax K100D) and device will recognize the file, load, replace current firmware, then restart. That allows manufacturers to modify and improve functionality without replacing physical components.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the "software" that you got with your camera which is intended for separate installation on your PC and does NOT modify camera operation in any way.

To check the version of your K100D firmware turn off your camera, hold MENU button and turn on your camera. The version will be shown.

Same idea: If you drive a Chrysler here is how to check firmware version and perform a self test: with ingition key set to OFF, press and hold on the odometer reset button and turn the ingnition key to RUN position (or it was AUX, but not start/ignition!!!) then release the odometer reset button. After doing this odometer on my Sebring reads "SoF.02.00" as far as I remember (firmware V2.00). Then the show starts -- checking all instruments and so on until it reads "dOnE" or displays a diagnistic/error code (like "P0355"). Technically, Chrysler can upload a new firmware to adjust operation of certain modules, including automatic transmission operation! The connector for the computer is usually under the steering wheel. (This procedure may work with other makes: try it, you can not break anything.)

As you can see, you are in fact surrounded by firmware!
07-23-2007, 03:47 PM   #7
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You are all dancing around the definition but not really touching the heart of the issue.

Software is generally devided into 2 parts, one called "firmware" the other called "application software"

Firmware defines how hardware works, at a very basic level. It controls input and output , reading from sensors, use of memory , definition of the names and address locations for all of the switches buttons etc...

Application software does things people program the computer/device to do.

On small devices such as a camera, people refer to the software as "firmware" regardless of whether it is really Firmware or Application software.

For example, when you press the shutter button on your camera , the camera goes through a routine of focusing, setting exposure and tripping the shutter. The interface to the hardware that does all these things is firmware, but the calculation that works out the exposure, white balance, and what is in focus is application software
07-23-2007, 05:47 PM   #8
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And yes it's worth updating firmware. The firmware in the istDs has been updated several times and increased its functionality heaps. It can now do things it couldn't do when I first bought it.

07-24-2007, 07:49 PM   #9
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Though some models have had several improvements in firmware, our K100Ds have had few:

From the Pentax Japan web site:

Changes to V1.02 Addition of compatible SDHC Memory card

Changes to V1.01 Support for SDHC Memory cards.
* The focal length which is input on the [Shake Reduction] menu can be displayed with Pentax Photo Browser3.

Unless you plan to use 4 GB memory cards the SDHC change won't help you. The Pentax Photo Browser3 fix is pretty subtle.

There is a risk when doing firmware updates. I regularly do them on million dollar computers, but see no need to update my K100D (ver 1.00) since the new features do not apply to me. My K110D is ver 1.02 already.

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