The camera landscape is changing—and has changed since the arrival of mirrorless at quite a pace. Fast forward to the present day we are seeing more and more features added mid-cycle thanks to firmware releases.
Nikon has been leading the way with new features and improved autofocus for example, and these are all fantastic. The Z9 is at version 4.10 and in the last few years there have been some brilliant updates to both video and still photographers such as bird and airplane AF identification, auto-capture, changes to how card slots behave with JPEGS, motion detection, and 3D tracking to name a few of the headline takeaways.
All these have been provided free of charge, which is wonderful, no extra cost updates to my already awesome camera, thumbs up from me.
That is about to change at some point with Sony charging $149 for customizable grid lines, which sounds expensive and unnecessary. Lumix have done similar with the GH4 and the C100 from Canon also had substantial paid firmware updates.
Nikon charged for ProRes as well but you could understand where the fee was going due to licensing costs, which brings me to the point I wanted to make about paying for updates.
In the DSLR days firmware was only ever released to fix things. Hell, my Sony a99II stayed on v1.0 for its entire lifetime (yes, I know it's not really a DSLR). To get those updates over someone was paid to sit there fixing bugs in code for your camera. But cameras have evolved, you're almost getting a mid-cycle camera release without buying a new camera.
Could you argue that some brands could release half-baked cameras and charge for updates, sure that could be a thing. But I’d much rather pay for the updates I want, rather than the ones I'm forced to buy because a video shooter wants something that's useless to me. We know this is the way the industry is going so I propose a solution to all this.
Make an additional package for still shooters, and videographers separate, and keep patches/fixes free. Better still, camera companies should be transparent with the updates coming in the next 12 months so we can make an informed choice of what we will be able to add to the feature set. Lower the price of the camera in the first place and I doubt people would mind ponying up more cash to get the updates they want.
I'm sure most brands don't make a tonne of cash out of hardware alone these days, so getting a revenue stream from firmware updates users actually want would be a great solution to keeping brand loyalty, especially if brands keep those cameras on the market for longer between refresh.
What do we get out of it? Well, a great steady flow of performance, and features without having to spend a kind of ransom every three years.