990 Firmware 1.1

Firmware 1.1 changes summary

I am still continuing to update this page as new issues come up, check back for updates! Several CP990 bugs have surfaced that were discovered by owners of the CP995.

 Last updated July 16, 2001. This is version #14 of this page.

I don't work for Nikon, these are my own opinions, guesses and observations.

Official changes.

(I've paraphrased this from the official readme file)

* Improved autofocus in AF area selection and manual AF area selection. Initially I thought that this was improved, but now I'm not so sure. The previous problem was that the camera could pick an AF area by itself in auto selection mode, and focus on an object, but if you picked that same area in manual AF area selection, the camera could not focus on the same object. The manual AF selection always had more trouble focusing.  I am still able to find lots of situations where this is still true. The manual AF area selection focus may be improved, but it is still not as good as automatic focus.

In addition, the autofocus time appears to be the same or slightly faster. I timed the process at 0.9 seconds for a full press, whereas previously I woudl get values up to 1.1 seconds.

Low light focusing seems better now also on my camera. I've had people write to say that their focusing is better, and some to say that theirs is worse, so it is just a matter of opinion I guess. I'm in the "it is better" camp.

* Better shoot ahead in several modes.

   1) In continuous mode, the camera used to let you shoot and then would stop when the buffer filled and you would have to wait for it to empty entirely before shooting again. Now you can fire another shot as soon as enough memory becomes available.
   2) In BSS mode, you can now take 10 shots in all modes, including Fine. You used to be limited to 2-3 shots in Fine for BSS.  

Note that the BSS buffer is not any larger, and you can't shoot ahead any more shots in normal modes than you could previously. For example in Fine mode, you can shoot 2 or 3 shots before the buffer fills, same as before the upgrade. The BSS mode must have been changed to work differently, perhaps comparing shots on the fly and saving the best. It isn't clear that it uses all 10 shots if you take 10 shots in Fine BSS mode, it could be just using the last three as before.

* Support for the remote release cable. This is the serial protocol used by the official Nikon remote cable. Rumor is that the zoom commands were added.

* Improvements to the review function after taking a shot. The camera becomes available to shoot the next picture almost right away now, instead of having that annoying fraction of a second during which you could not take a picture. There is still a period during which you can't press the release. To take the fastest shots, set the monitor for "preview only".

 * TIFF shots play back faster. This has several consequences that are not immediately obvious. With 1.0, the way that playback of TIFF files worked was this... you selected playback of a TIFF shot. A rough sketch of the shot came up, and the hourglass came on while the shot loaded. After about 35 seconds, the delete choice came on on the bottom of the screen and you could delete the shot or move to the next one. With 1.1, what happens is this, you select the shot, then it puts up a higher resolution image than 1.1 did, and no hourglass comes on, but it still continues to load. You may move to another shot while it is loading (this is the improvement) but you still can't delete the shot with the garbage can button until the garbage can icon appears after about 35 seconds. There was some initial worry that the delete function had been broken, but it still works as before, except that there is no hourglass to tell you that it is still loading.

 * Improved white balance. I don't know what was changed here yet. Casual use reveals no obvious differences.

*  Changes to menus. Corrections have been made to some of the English, French, and German meus. I note that the white balance "Sunny" setting is still called "Fine" for some reason. I have no idea why they don't call it "Sunny" or "Sun".  I am not able to find any obvious differences in the English menus, so the changes must be minor.

* Unprovable things. The camera turns on seems faster. The Play mode seems faster, moving between shots is very fast now. The camera seems to focus better. Hard to prove any of these, but the camera certainly isn't any slower!

Things that are changed or fixed but are not listed in the official announcement.

* There is a new "Card" icon in the upper left of the LCD that comes on when the camera is busy writing to the flash card. You should probably not take the card out when this is on, ha.

* The "Sand" in the hourglass moves during long operations, cute.

* The buzzing/clicking lens problem? I don't want to try the procedure to make it happen on my camera, so we will just have to wait and see if the reports of the problem slack off. I hope that this is fixed. Rick Stirling was very brave and attempted to reproduce the problem on his camera with firmware 1.1, and reports that it is indeed fixed. However! I received a report on September 25th that a camera with version 1.1 firmware had the buzzing problem, but the off switch did work to stop it. So now the jury is out on this common problem. September 26th, another report of the same problem with firmware 1.1. I'd now say that this problem is NOT fixed.

* With the monitor off, the camera now beeps twice when it can't focus. This beeping operation is listed in the manual, but didn't work in ver 1.0. You have to have the shutter sound turned on for this to work.

* In continuous focus mode, (AF&C) the camera now focuses faster with the monitor on! The full press time is now about 0.6 seconds! In version 1.0 there was little reason to use the continuous focus, now there is. The improvement is only about 0.2 seconds, but is is still significant.

* On large cards (80MB plus) the camera shows one fewer shot available on an empty card. This is just a very conservative estimate, of course, and this does not mean that you will actually get fewer shots on your card. I had this as a rumor at first, but it has been confirmed.

Things that broke in version 1.1

There are no known problems.

The only possible candidate for inclusion is the fact that in review modes the option to delete a picture after you take it is up for a very short time now; bad if you liked that feature, good if you like the fastest shooting possible. I am in the latter camp myself, the delete button was already active for too short a time for me to use it.

Unconfirmed Rumors and Reports

There have been various rumors about changes. All of these reports have either been disproved, or can't be confirmed at this writing. Unless a report can be confirmed and reproduced by another person with another camera, we have to consider the strong possiblity that the problem might just be a problem with that particular camera or that the person might just be, well,  mistaken. People seem to be hypersensitized to changes with firmware 1.1, and are trying to blame everything on the new firmware, almost to the point to where these things are all adding up to a rumor that there is a problem with the firmware. This is compounded by people starting out new threads with their own observations with titles such as "bug with 1.1!" or "Firmware 1.1 problems!" as if the observation has been confirmed .

There are no confirmed problems with the firmware as of this writing! (by confirmed I mean that someone (me!) is able to reproduce the problem on another camera) The only reason that these rumors even exist is that the official Nikon sources don't list all of the firmware changes, and there is no longer an on line forum to ask questions, leaving people guessing. There are also a LOT of 990s out there, and there might be a few bad cameras in the bunch with problems that had not been noticed before or with problems that just developed. Some of the reports have definitely been caused by people searching through menus that they don't normally use looking for "changes" with 1.1 and accidently changing a setting.

I am listing the reports here so that if you can confirm or have a technique to reproduce one of them you can contact me.

If you recognise yourself or your report in this list don't feel bad, and no offense intended.  I have included two things that I thought were changes too at first. This is a complicated camera, and even someone who is pretty familiar with it's operation can't be totally sure of small changes in operation; it is easy to think that something has "changed".  For example, at first I was thinking that the continuous focus off when the monitor is off thing was true, but I was wrong. I can't confirm any of these rumors below with my own camera, and I think that they are not related to the firmware update.

Unless noted, these are isolated reports.

* Reported that his camera used to take 10 shots ahead in Fine mode normal shooting and now only takes 3. The camera has always buffered only 2 or 3 shots in Fine mode. Firmware 1.1 does not improve the number of shots that can be buffered, except that you can now shoot as soon as a shot is written out.

* Report that a TC-E2 lens "will not work at all now". Mine still works the same. Not sure what this really meant.

* Report that the camera starts cycling through the menus by itself sometimes after upgrading to 1.1. Could be a stuck button on that particular camera?

* One user reprogrammed his mode button, probably while trying out the new firmware, and thought that this was due to the firmware damaging his camera.

* Several users reported that with the monitor off that the camera takes longer to focus and shoot, and that there is a new delay before focusing. I was one of them. Timings taken with 1.0 camera show that the shot lag with monitor off was still about 2 seconds before the 1.1 upgrade, and that there is actually no difference..

* Users reported that continuous autofocus mode is now turned off in 1.1 when the monitor is off, but this was always the case in 1.0 also.

* Reports of better focusing with 1.1.  I can't say that I really notice any improvement on my camera, so it is hard to be sure about this one. It may very well be improved. I have always been happy with the focusing.

* Reports of worse focusing.

* Reports of worse white balance.

* Reports of improved white balance.

* There was a report of flash problems with 1.1 in manual mode that I can't reproduce.

*  Report that now all the shots taken outside at night or animals are now too dark.

* Users report that using the manual AF area focusing does not work well in 1.1. It didn't work any better in 1.0, but people are just discovering that now. I don't think that it is any worse and may be better.

* Report that the camera now focuses at the end of the self timer delay. This was the same way in 1.0 though.

* Report that the camera settings changed after upgrade to 1.1 and had to be reset. This is quite possible, but there have not been any other reports of this as of yet so it may be an isolated case.

* Report that 1.1 caused the LCD screen to flicker. This could happen in 1.0 also and is related to having the focus confirmation feature turned on when you have menus on the screen. It is not a new problem with 1.1, see the FAQ.

* Report that with 1.1 the camera auto contrast and auto sharpen are now excessive. (seems the same to me, but it does vary depending on the subject matter)

* Report that with 1.1 the camera now produces redeye and it wasn't a problem before. (I don't think that this is possible...)

* 2 Reports that users had trouble downloading shots from their cards with USB readers after installing firmware 1.1. Repeat tries were OK on the same picures and card. How the firmware could possibly be responsible for this I don't know, especially since the shots were OK on the cards later. Maybe installing Nikonview is messing up their card readers, but I really can't see how this could be counted as a firmware problem.

*BUGS!* Issues that are not addressed.

* During auto bracketing, the exposure compensation is not recorded in the info.txt file or the EXIF file. Maybe a case could be made that it should not be.

* When using macro mode and the self timer, the camera slips out of macro mode after each shot and has to be reset.

* The sunny white balance is still labled "Fine" in the menu for some reason, but it shows as "sun" on the top LCD. I don't know if there is some unusual logic behind this that I don't get, or if this is a translation error.

* A new minor bug was discovered in July 2001 by a poster on the DPReview forum (sorry, they didn't give their full name or I would give them credit here). It is possible to get the camera confused about what white balance mode it is in when you have one of the function buttons reprogrammed to allow you to change the white balance. This bug is hard to reproduce. If you want to try it...

Program the Func2 key to be white balance.

Go into the menu and pick fluroescent white balance. Hit the cursor to bring up the fine adjust submenu and pick FL3. Now leave by hitting the menu key, don't right cursor to confirm.  Now, press Func2 and turn the wheel to another white balance. Note that the top LCD will show (say) Sun, but the LCD monitor still shows the symbol for fluourscent. Now, if you pop up the menu, and pick fluorsecent, then pick the fine adjust submenu with the cursor, that menu will now be blank, there are no choices.

Note that this bug is present in the CP995 also, in both firmware 1.5 and 1.6.

* Another bug, again first discovered in the CP995.

If you have the monitor on, the shutter speed and aperture show on the top LCD when you are in "P"rogram mode in M-Rec. You can switch between which is being displayed by pressing the mode button. If you turn the monitor off, these are no longer displayed (just when you actually need them!). This bug is present in the CP990, and in the CP995 firmware 1.5 and 1.6.


Firmware 1.1 FAQ

Some common questions and answers about the new firmware.

* The firmware does not appear to address the low light noise hot pixels issue at all judging from my test shots. I'm not sure that this is even possible with just a firmware change. (OK, here is how it could be done. The camera could be commanded to take a shot without opening the shutter, or the user could be instructed to cover the lens. The camera would then map out the "10 hottest" pixels (or however many the internal table held). Obviously, if there were too many this would not work, but at least the worst ones would be mapped out).

* You do appear to have to install Nikonview for a USB upgrade. I installed it, applied the patched events listener from the Nikon BBS, upgraded, and then got rid of the Nikonview software; it crashes my system. There is an easy hack to allow you to install without Nikonview, but I don't recommend it since it is not the "official" way to install.

* No, you can't set the histogram to show up after you take a shot without switching to Play. I didn't expect this to be in the firmware, but it was one of the often requested features on the Nikon BBS when it was still in operation.

* The files released on the European and USA sites are byte for byte identical. There is only one version of Firmware 1.1, but the loader program is different for the Japanese version.

* You can upgrade the firmware without using the USB port by copying the firmware update onto your CF card and following this procedure. I've linked to Steve's Digicams for this since Steve does such a good job explaining it.