Firmware 1.2

The 1.2 NTSC/USA firmware is officially released.

Also see the firmware 1.3 page.

Get it from the Nikon tech site here.

This page still has a lot of good information on it even though version 1.3 has now been released. 1.3 is a minor upgrade of 1.2.

Hold it! I am being bombarded with "How do I upgrade my camera to version 1.2/do I need to have version 1.1 first (no)/can I upgrade my PAL camera (get the Euro version)/How do I tell if my camera is NTSC or PAL(Look on the serial number plate on the side by the strap)/should I upgrade (up to you, I say yes)/Can I go back to 1.0 or 1.1 (no)/I can't get the file to download/what version do I have now(Hold down the menu button and turn the camera on)/my serial ports will not work" e-mails. I'd like to help everyone, but I am not an official Nikon support person! I do not want to assume the liablity that would go along with telling you what to do; you could damage your camera. Check the Nikon site for official instructions.  I will try to answer all e-mails about this, but if I can't get to you right away or my response lacks detail, sorry! I do want to hear from you if you have any new tidbits about the 1.2 version. Thanks!

My Firmware 1.2 Summary. Last update 12/22/1999

What is fixed, added, broken, not fixed or changed.

This is my own unofficial list and personal opinions. I do not have any affiliation with Nikon. This is not official Nikon approved information. Do not concentrate and inhale. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading.

I will try to keep this list as up to date as possible. I have verified all of these items myself, except as noted (I will attempt to verify all the reports myself eventually) .  e-mail me corrections or your own observations!

Why do I even keep a list like this, isn't the official information from Nikon correct? Well, yes the official information is correct, but it is not complete. With version 1.1, there were several changes that were not on the official list. These were all bug fixes. Even the sequential numbering bug is presented on the official list as an added feature this time, no bug fixes are mentioned. It is up to us to find them!

Official announced changes.

(I have paraphrased them here, look on the Nikon site for the official list).

* Brighter LCD in "+" mode

* Auto ISO boost in "def" mode.

* Compatible with larger Sandisk (tm) flash cards.

* Fix for the sequential numbering bug.

* Yellow slow shutter speed warning.

 

Status of the announced changes

* Brighter LCD in "+" mode

The LCD is indeed brighter. I have now been able to take the camera out into the direct sun, and it is better. I would rate the LCD as "marginally useful:" in direct sun, and "almost useless" before. Apparently, what was done was to brighten the image that is sent to the LCD rather than turning up the backlight any more (which may be impossible), giving it a sort of washed out look. The brigher areas are more visible in sunlight though. This is probably the best that can be done with this LCD, and it is nice of Nikon to give it a shot.

By the way, all they are doing by increasing the LCD "brightness" is to block less of the light from the backlight. I don't think that the backlight was turned up much if at all, so this should not reduce your battery life at all. I have not noted any reduction.

* Auto ISO boost in "def" mode.

In low light at "default" sensitivity, the camera will automatically boost the sensitivity. Here are my observations on this new feature.

- It only does this with the flash off

- It puts up the "S" icon as an indication that this is being done.

- If you examine the resulting picture in Play mode, it will still show "Def" sensitivity, however if you examine the picture with a program that understands EXIF files, you will see the correct ISO.

- The camera will generate odd numbered  ISOs that are not availible through the regular such as 151, etc.. (At first I thought that this wasn't the case, but my testing was wrong, thanks to Adam T. for pointing this out.)  By the way, the top ISO shows as 320, so that puts that theory about ISO 400 to rest. The really crazy thing is that if you use the regular ISO boost to set ISO 320 it shows in the EXIF header as "2" (for +2 EV, I guess), but if the camera adjusts the ISO it shows as "320" in the header.

- The feature is only active in Program mode, not Shutter or Aperture Priority. (That is Good!)

- The feature kicks in when the exposure would fall about 1/2 second,  trying to hold the exposure to up. This is pretty conservative, and people will still be taking a lot of blurry shots trying to hand hold at 1/15 second. I would have done it slightly differently, having it boost to ISO 100 below 1/30 second, ISO 160 below 1/8 sec, etc.

- In all, a pretty nice feature, conservatively implemented. The fact that it does not work in priority modes is good, it will not mess up your manual shots by boosting the ISO when you don't want it to. My feeling is that this was included to try to keep people from taking handheld shots at real low shutter speed and then reporting that the camera would "not focus".

Note that there are now several reports of "stuck pixels" being exposed by this new feature. My own camera has one. What happens is that some of the "hotter" pixels on the CCD become visible with the boosted ISO, and users are seeing them. To use my own camera as an example, I have a pixel that becomes visible at between 1 and 2 second exposures at ISO 80. When the auto ISO feature jacks the ISO up to 320, this pixel is becoming visible on 1/4 and 1/2 second shots, whereas it was not visible before. (but it was there on longer shots)

* Oficially compatible with larger Sandisk (tm) flash cards.

I can't test this, so I will take their word for it. I don't know if this involved any actual change, or if the cards just now have the official "OK".

* Fix for the sequential numbering bug.

This does seem to be fixed. It is presented as a new feature, "SEQ.XFER" now works in A-Rec mode too. However, one user reported that the camera turned off the sequential numbering after the upgrade, so check yours. Mine stayed on, and the SEQ.XFER choice for A-Rec mode was turned on after the 1.2 upgrade.

* Yellow slow shutter speed warning.

The shutter speed turns yellow at 1/4 second or slower. Maybe this was done so that Nikon does not have to replace so many imagers for hot pixels; they can now say that they told you there might be noise. They are probably tired of answering questions about the long exposure noise too. I still commend Nikon for including the long exposure modes, they could have chickened out and cut the long exposures at 1/2 second like some other manufacturers still do.

 

Issues/bugs that people thought/hoped might be fixed/changed but are not.

Full zoom on power on or awaken from sleep.

This is not addressed by the firmware. The performance is the same as before. This is very dissapointing because it seems so easy to fix, especially in light of there never having been any information released by Nikon about why this happens. Also, you still cannot turn the flash on in "WIDE" lens mode, so you can't use this feature to defeat the zoom completely. There is plenty of room on the "controls" menu for a "zoom to 50mm on start" option. Nikon now says that this feature cannot be corrected, except that a "wake from sleep in the same position" feature might be added. I take exception with this, there is no reason that the camera could not turn on, zoom to full zoom if that is needed, and then make an extra zoom to any focal length desired. I can't express how annoying this is, I think that if there is anything that can be done, even if it slows the turn on time to 30 seconds,  it would be great. Having taken 6000 shots, I have probably had to zoom the camera a thousand times because of this. I will NEVER buy another camera that does this, and I have never heard of another camera that does.

User settings will not retain metering mode.

I will be testing this.  I have to admit that I have never used the user settings!

No self timer in macro mode.

Unchanged. Again, this is not really a bug so much as a feature that is missing. Don't forget that you can use manual focus with the self timer to get within a few inches anyway.

Out of range shutter speed still not indicated with LCD monitor off.

This was broken in 1.1 on some cameras (not everyone has the problem). My camera worked with 1.0, did not work with 1.1 or 1.2. One user reports that his camera worked with 1.1, and still works with 1.2! I have no idea.

The "reset all" menu still has a little printing error on it, a stray "C" near the bottom.

Pick Pick. This has been in there since version 1.0.

Flash white balance not set automatically.

This is still true. The camera does not set flash white balance when you use the flash. No wonder so many people report funny color when using the flash.

Fisheye lens focus

I don't really know if the reported problem with the fisheye lens is a bug, or just a problem with a few cameras, or what. Some people do have it. Others do not. I do not know enough about it to comment.

Manual focus settings. Infinity settings at different focal lengths.

A preliminary test show the manual focus feature is unchanged, and is only accurate for one focal length.  See the sample shots below showing that the INF setting is still wrong. Also, the manual focus setting distances are still wrong except for 50mm focal length. Note that this does not affect all cameras!  Note that this problem has been fixed on my camera with the 1.3 firmware.

However! There are reports of version 1.2 breaking the INF focus on cameras where it was previously working! On my particular cameras, there was no change from 1.1. One possiblity is that Nikon has calibrated different cameras differently, which will be a problem in the future.

My personal theory on it is that there is a focus table stored in EEPROM or NVRAM. This table is set at the factory for each particular camera (one guy sent his camera with 1.1 in , and they adjusted it to work at all focal lengths! But when he loaded 1.2, it broke the focus again! Each update must load a new default table in place. This is going to be a real headache if each camera has to be sent back in for calibration again.

Picture
Picture

Actual size crops from full telephoto shots with firmware 1.2. I used aperture priority, and the exposure times were virually identical at about 1/800 second. I used a tripod. On the left, auto-focus. On the right INF focus lock. You can see that the infinity focus lock does not work at telephoto (It is correct for approx. 50mm). No wonder so many people have out of focus landscape shots!

Note that this problem is fixed on my camera with the 1.3 firmware.

More unfixed bugs/issues continued...

Flash mode changes by itself in A-Rec when you press the release

With the LCD off,  in A-Rec mode, the flash mode can change by itself (for example if you have it turned off, it can change to red-eye, off or slow sync!). To have this happen, you have to take a picture, then use the zoom,  then half press to focus for the next picture. This bug was present in firmware 1.1 also.

The exact steps to make this happen are...
Turn the Camera on in A-Rec.
Turn off the LCD monitor with the monitor button.
Set the flash to no flash.
Take a picture.
Now the important part, operate the zoom control a little.
Next half press to focus for your next shot, the flash will turn on by itself and change to red eye when you press to focus!
 

A-Rec mode will sometimes default to turning on with red eye reduction on.

I had originally thought that this was the same bug as above, but it is not. Thanks to Michael J. for pointing out to me that this is actually a different but possibly related bug..

The bug can be stated this way..

If you take a picture in Red-eye flash mode in A-Rec mode and then turn the camera off, the camera will continue to turn back on in red-eye flash mode in A-Rec (it is supposed to turn on in auto flash mode), even if you change the flash to a different state and take a picture and then turn it off. You have to manually switch to Auto flash mode and take a picture then turn it off again to get it to start turning back on in Auto
flash mode. Taking a picture on No flash, or Slow Sync will not cure the problem.  This and the bug above probably account for a lot of the "camera keeps switching to red-eye mode" complaints. My camera does this with firmware 1.2
 

The exact steps to make this happen are...

Turn the camera on in A-Rec.

The camera will turn on in Auto flash (unless you are already having the problem).

Turn on Red-Eye flash..

Take a picture.

Turn the camera off and back on. The camera will now turn on with Red-eye set.

Turn the flash to off  or forced on. Take a shot.

Turn the camera off and on, it will change to red-eye mode.

Set the flash back to Auto and take a shot.

Now it is fixed.

I guess this is either a bug where the camera should either not remember the red-eye mode, or should start to remember all the modes when you turn it off so you are not surprised.

Apparently the flash mode can change on you in M-Rec also if the LCD is off.

Thanks to Mickey A. for pointing this out to me.

Macro mode sweet spot indicator is still yellow.

It was hoped that a more visible color would be used for this because it is almost impossible to tell the yellow from the normal white in sunlight. This isn't really a bug, but it would be SO easy to fix, and would put all those "what special spot" questions to rest.

EV changes do not adjust flash exposure set point.

I really think that they should. Even if you set plus or minus maximum EV compensation, there is no effect on the flash squelching at all. Letting the user change these values, but then ignoring them, is misleading. Because you can't control flash exposure with aperture (the camera compensates) or with shutter speed (the flash is too brief) either; that leaves no way to control flash exposure. Especially frustrating if you are getting flash burnout.

Things that are not mentioned on the Nikon release about the firmware, but are fixed, changed or added.

Macro focus

Firmware 1.1 changed the macro focus procedure. The unfortunate result was that the camera would focus on the background of your subject almost every time. I had to start carrying a card with me to hold next to my subject to focus on, then I would lock the focus and remove the card to take the shot. Preliminary testing shows that this may be improved with 1.2.  More later as I get some experience with it. They may have changed the macro focus routine so that it uses just the central part of the image to focus (other cameras have this feature user-controlled). Anyway, it seems to grab a focus of the object in the center now that you want and not the background. I have to figure out a better way to test this scientifically.

After using the macro some more, I do think that it is improved. It seems to focus on the closest object now instead of the background, which is what you usually want! In fact, I feel that it is a LOT better.

ISO Mode boost now shows on the screen.

When you boost ISO, the value now shows on the LCD monitor by the "S"ensitivity symbol. That is a nice little addition. Now if they would just put the focal length up by the W____T thing it would be great.

LCD dimming on half press improved yet again/low light performance improved.

With firmware 1.0, the camera would get very dark when you half pressed to focus in dim light. With 1.1, this was improved, but the LCD could still get very dark in dim light. With 1.2, the camera will darken when you half press, but the LCD will then pop back up to the pre-press brightness level afterwards. In fact, it looks even brighter to me! Thanks to Ian F. for pointing this out to me. I think that they have done two things. 1) Decreased the refresh rate in low light. Before, the camera would still try to give you 30 frames per second (or whatever),. now it looks like 10 frames/sec. This lets them accumulate a little more light so you can see better. 2) they have given up on the "have to have the gain pre-set to exposure levels during focus" idea. This lets them jack that gain up so you can see. This is really a great improvement.  I think that the reduce frame rate in low light idea is especially good, who cares if the frame rate is high if you can't see. It does not seem to improve low light focusing that I can tell though, the camera seems to dim during focus (perhaps it has to put the correct aperture in).

AE lock white balance feature problem.

Mr. Ian F. reports that this is fixed. It seems to be fixed in a simple indoor test that I tried. HOWEVER, reports are that it is fixed for the AUTO white balance mode only, and that a new bug has surfaced it you use any of the other white balance modes, namely a horrible green tint on the thrid and subsequent shots.

White balance improved.

OK, I am convinced now! I felt that the balance was improved, but could not prove it. Jim Knapp has done a nice comparison, and has the shots up at this site.

 

Things that the  1.2 firmware broke.

Manual focus.

Using either of the available upgrades, 1.1 or 1.2, seems to have the ability to break the manual focus settings on some cameras. Not all cameras that upgrade have this problem, although in my limited sample of respondants, about 95% have the problem. (this may be biased since only people with the problem might be reporting.) My camera had this problem after the 1.1 upgrade, and still has it. If the manual focus settings are improtant to you, you might want to wait on upgrading until Nikon comes up with a solution. They do seem to be aware of the problem now (12/11/1999), but I'm not sure that they realize how many cameras are affected. Read more on this page. The official line at the moment is that only 10% of cameras are affected, and that these cameras are near the ends of the acceptable lens adjustments possible.

Exposure lock white balance problem.

If you use something besides "AUTO" white balance with the exposure lock feature, you will get totally green shots starting with the third one. If you take panorama shots with user white balances, then watch out for version 1.2.

Shutter speed shows as "1/0" in error.

I'm not entirely sure if this is new with 1.2 or not, but I have never noticed it before. Switch the camera to M-Rec in a dark environment that will require a long exposure. The shutter speed display will show "1/0" for a second, then change to (say) 1". This isn't really a bug,  just unusual. Two people report that they do not see this on their cameras, so it appears to be just me!

I received another comment from someone who has seen this too. Michel C. says "Actually tell your two people to switch their 950 to wide angle lens mode in the menu, then tell them to turn off the camera and turn it back on to [M]REC,   and voila 1/0  F0.0  will appear until the lens has completely zoomed out, this is the explanation of the 1/0 mystery  ;-)".