Sony EX firmware upgrade policy briefly explained at DVinfo.net

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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.


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Old March 26th, 2010, 11:02 AM   #1
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Sony EX firmware upgrade policy briefly explained

Despite the long threads here about the firmware upgrade it's been entirely unclear to me exactly how Sony is handling this beyond that, if user does it and something goes wrong, it's not covered under warranty. It's simply NOT a risk I want to take as a professional.

I have a Sony EX1 with firmware 1.11.
Sony has online a firmware upgrade to 1.20 for the EX1 (and different version numbers for other EX cameras). Basically it improves handling of SDHC cards and supports SxS-1 cards.

Users can download and do this at their own risk and a small number have bricked their cameras. That's not a risk I want to take as a professional (even as a professional video engineer).

I called Sony to find out how they handle the above factors and this is what they explained on the phone:
If the EX1 is version 1.11 and below Sony should do it. User should not.
Sony charge is $135 and turnaround is 5-8 business days.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 11:25 AM   #2
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The first thing is to find out what this firmware modification (I hesitate to call it an upgrade) will give you. If you're happy with your camera's performance right now it might be better to keep the $$ in your pocket.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 11:44 AM   #3
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I alluded to it above. The big one for many of us is that many SDHC cards that were unreliable, now work. Less expensive class 6 and even some class 4 cards can now be handed over to the client as "stock." Some Class 6 and Class 10 cards can now overcrank to the full extent 24/60 without error just like SxS. In addition the issue with waiting for the light to change while the shot finalizes on the card before starting to record again is shortened or resolved. If you still don't trust SDHC you can now use the SxS-1 cards which are less expensive than SxS.

If your current SDHC is reliable and you don't have interest in SxS-1 then it may not be critical. It's not an urgent upgrade for me because my two 32GB Sandisk cards have been reliable. I don't need them for overcrank but that would be a convenience. I'm generally not asked by clients for them after a shoot either but that would be a convenience too.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 12:02 PM   #4
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This is just an OPTION update with the benifit as Craig listed (and maybe some enhances !).
I don't know about others, but on my EX1 I can push the record again before the red light turn green and it will start to record. For some EX1s they must wait for the red light turn to green before they can push the record again. I tried on SxS and SDHC cards without any warning or error.

I retested all my SDHC cards with EX1 1.2 firmware to make sure all still work.
Some cards that gave me Media Restore msg before run thru smooth (Sandisk Ultra II).
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Old March 26th, 2010, 02:02 PM   #5
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I've decided to buy the NanoFlash, so doing the firmware update to my EX3 is a risk I don't need to take. And I'm really jazzed at the thought of being able to cache record... yowza!
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Old March 26th, 2010, 02:18 PM   #6
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Cache recording is a great feature. The major trouble is that there is usually some "record button press-induced" camera shake that is included after the cache is emptied that would otherwise be excluded. So, a remote record control button that doesn't perturb the position of the camera is needed.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 02:42 PM   #7
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I've yet to read of any user managing to brick their camera by doing anything other than following the instructions. Yes if you disconnect the USB cable, restart the update software etc during the process then you can brick your camera. Leaving your camera on your mates car when he drives off does more than just brick your camera and that too is not covered under warranty.

In order to be as certain as reasonably possible that nothing could go wrong I ran my camera off mains and a battery and used a mains powered laptop to do the upgrade. I exercised a lot of patience as the update progress indicators can fool you into thinking the process has failed. That appears to be how the very few users that have had problems got themselves into trouble.

If Sony are saying EX1s with version 1.11 or earlier are unsuitable for user upgrade they should supply specific information as to why. It should be in the release notes / instructions. In the past we had an upgrade performed to five EX cameras by Sony at some expense only to be told afterwards that it did exactly nothing for the region50 variant of the camera.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 03:16 PM   #8
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Gints: It isn't likely I'd be doing any cache recording while handheld, and when I'm on the sticks I usually have the Varizoom controller attached. I have never seen any start/stop bounce while using the Varizoom. But your point is a good one.
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Old March 27th, 2010, 08:01 AM   #9
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Bob, I read 4 or 5 reports of people bricking their camera and I believe they followed instructions. One reports, for example, the firmware installer crashed during the install. Another reported a USB power issue popup although everything was mains powered as you mention.

Software installers are not infallible. My own experience with Sony's upgrade to 1.11, while not bricking my camera, did require a second install.

One can forgo seat belts when driving or insurance for gear because, after all, accidents are rare . . . except when they happen to you that one time.

IMHO if the costs for repair of a bricked camera where low or Sony had a "warranty" on the installer it wouldn't be a big deal. The very fundamental question is can you and/or your business take that very small risk of a very large expense if something where to go wrong.

I don't think Sony had any motive to lie to me on the phone when they noted the firmware version as a risk factor. In fact I have seen that elsewhere as well. I had read that under 1.13 is a risk.

Although I haven't checked, it may well be that those who bricked their cameras (that includes some EX3 owners) may have had a firmware version that fell into the area of greater risk.
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Old March 27th, 2010, 09:08 AM   #10
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So from what you're saying, Sony have indicated...at least verbally to you, if not yet officially... assuming it applies to the EX3 as well... that someone like me with a July 2008 EX3 (i.e. from the very first launch batch) and STILL on the original EX3 launch firmware that it came with is potentially at a higher risk of bricking with this latest firmware offering from Sony. If they know this (now that the've seen what happens with this firmware "out there") I think they should put a specific warning about this on their download page ASAP (or even pull this firmware until the've worked out a better way forward).

Glad I waited a while to see what got shaken out with this firmware offering. It's very clear to me that this is a risk I and my business don't need. The camera is performing suberbly well/I've no issues and I can't be without it because of corporate video contracts I'm in the middle of right now. Thank goodness for useful sources of information like the DVinfo community!
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Old March 27th, 2010, 09:28 AM   #11
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Andy, I'd call Sony and check since I don't think their written docs are very clear. I does seem that at least a couple of "bricks" are EX3 though.
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Old March 27th, 2010, 09:45 AM   #12
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Craig is absolutely right that with the current statet of affairs, risking the upgrade of a 1.11 EX1 is not worthwhile if one is seriously in business, his/her camera is working fine, and potentially increased SDHC performance isn't important.

I also contacted Sony's EU PrimeSupport, and they said that with the 1.11 firmware, quote: "It is very dangerous!"

I admit that in my refraining from doing the upgrade myself, another factor has played some role: I'm going to send my camera in for a general overhaul (just before my PrimeSupport expires), and the engineer I was talking to promised they would upgrade it for me free of charge, using that opportunity.
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Old March 27th, 2010, 06:18 PM   #13
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Out of interest I visited the Sony XDCAM EX micro site again this evening and find that this notice has now appeared. Not sure when it got added. My part screen grab is not easy to read so I've copy and pasted the text below too.

[Note it mentions much lower/earlier versions of Firmware than those mentioned so far in this thread....also this warning has NOT yet appeared on the UK Sony XDCAM EX Firmware download site as far as I can see - when I just checked].

"NOTICE: PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOUR PMW-EX1 OR PMW-EX3 IS CURRENTLY AT V1.05 OR BETTER BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO LOAD THIS UPDATE. IF YOUR CAMCORDER IS CURRENTLY AT V1.04 OR LOWER, PLEASE CALL YOU LOCAL SONY SERVICE CENTER FOR FURTHER INFORMATION."

Also, adding a link to the site below:

http://pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/micro-x...urce.downloads
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Sony EX firmware upgrade policy briefly explained-sony-fw-notice.png  
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Old March 27th, 2010, 06:46 PM   #14
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My EX1 has v1.11 of the firmware. After reading all the posts, I have decided to get the Sony Authorised repairer to update this to v1.13, then 1.14 and finally to 1.20. The cost will be $99 and this includes a check-up of my camera. When the warranty exipres later this year, I will do any future firmware updates myself. Better to be safe than sorry.
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Old March 28th, 2010, 03:28 AM   #15
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I hate to throw cold water on this FUD thread, but I haven't believed any of it. Tonite I updated my EX1 version 1.11 to version 1.20 with absolutely no problems or issues. In fact, before you even get underway with the update, the software itself reports what your current firmware version is before, and what it is going to be after. If there was to be a problem, the software would recognize it right there.

You just follow the instructions explicitly. You have to first download and install Microsoft FrameNET 3.5 if you don't have this installed on your system already. You have to connect the EX1 to the external power supply from the charger module. You have to connect the USB cable to the service port. You have to install EX1 device driver. Most of these steps are automatic, but the key is to follow the exact sequence outlined, which goes like this:

1.) Download and install the Microsoft FrameNET 3.5.
2.) Start the update software on the PC.
3.) Agree to the license.
4.) Connect the USB cable between EX1 and PC.
5.) Turn on the EX1 in camera mode.
6.) Install the EX1 device driver. This is done automatically, but if you did this step prematurely before you arrived at this point in the sequence, you'll have to go into the device manager while the EX1 is still connected and uninstall the driver, then abort the whole process and start over. No biggie.
7.) The software installs in two steps. At the end of step one, you reboot the cam and it resumes with step 2 when you restart it. It finishes in about 15 minutes.
8.) Done.

Probably a good idea to redo your Lens Flange Back focus calibration in the service menu afterwards. All of your picture profile settings and other settings are preserved as before.
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