I’d love to tell you the one single secret that makes updating your camera’s firmware easy and foolproof, but every camera is a little bit different. So, I can tell you this: the secret is to make sure you visit the manufacturer’s website in order to determine the approved process for updating the firmware, and then follow it to the T.
To start, check your camera’s current firmware by looking for “firmware” or “camera version” in the menus. Then, check the manufacturer’s website to see if newer firmware is available for your specific camera model. For instance, Canon EOS 5D Mark III users wouldn’t want to download the firmware for the 5D Mark II, and they wouldn’t want to download the same firmware version they’re currently running. If newer firmware is available, download it to the computer before running the update. The following is a list of manufacturer websites for downloading the latest camera firmware:
Some manufacturers may suggest connecting the camera to the computer via a USB cable prior to initiating the download or running the update. Otherwise, you’re generally safe to download the file to the computer before proceeding.
After downloading the file, ensure that your camera’s battery is fully charged to prevent the battery from dying and the camera shutting off during the update, which could be catastrophic and might require sending a doorstop of a camera to the manufacturer for repair. Check your owner’s manual for specific installation instructions; this is imperative. But typically, firmware will be installed in one of two ways.
The first method requires formatting an SD or CF card in your camera, then connecting that media to your computer via a card reader and copying the downloaded firmware to the root folder of the card. (That’s the folder that opens when you open the card, as opposed to a subfolder therein). Then, place the media in the camera and run the firmware update, which is typically done by simply turning on the camera or navigating to “update firmware” in the menus.
The other updating approach is to connect the camera directly to your computer via a USB cable, then running the installation from the computer. In either case, be sure to follow the individual manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model, but know that in every case you shouldn’t disconnect the camera, turn it on or off or press any buttons while the installation is in progress.
If anything goes wrong and your camera isn’t functioning correctly after the update, you may need to send it to the manufacturer for repair. This is unlikely, however, particularly if you follow what are typically fairly simple and straightforward instructions and simply don’t disable or disconnect the camera during the update.