When Nikon releases a new generation DSLR camera, it seems to often make little changes to the camera firmware. We typically see slight tweaks here and there, but every once in a while (especially when a new piece of technology makes it into the camera) we see some new interesting and useful features getting added into the camera firmware. In this article, I would like to point out current firmware issues that I believe Nikon needs to address, along with some recommendations (wishlist) on what Nikon should do in their future cameras. Or, perhaps Nikon might consider to implement some of the below firmware fixes/recommendations on current DSLRs – I am sure many of the Nikon owners would get excited about some of these requests.
1) Add DNG Support
As a Nikon shooter, you already know how painful it can be to constantly keep updating post-processing software, image codecs and photo viewing programs every time Nikon releases a new camera. Upgrading a camera should be easy and we as consumers should not have to go through this process every time. DNG has already become a universal format and companies like Hasselblad, Leica, Pentax and Samsung have already adopted it. Why not do the same? I am not asking Nikon to abandon its NEF file format. Just give us a choice to pick either NEF or DNG please!
2) Allow AF Fine Tune Calibration of Each Focus Point
Thanks to the recent Nikon D800 Asymmetric Focus fiasco, we now know that each autofocus point is calibrated at the factory during the QA process. We also know that Nikon keeps the ability to tune these AF focus points to their own calibration software. Why not add this capability to every advanced Nikon DSLR where AF fine tune is already provided? Sure, this seems like a headache to implement and could result in a some improperly calibrated cameras out there (due to user error). But for those of us who know what they are doing when it comes to lens and camera calibration, why not give this capability? Nikon would save a lot of money on not having to re-calibrate so many cameras. Adding this feature, of course, would not be an excuse for improperly calibrating cameras, but it would certainly make the AF Fine Tune feature way more useful.
3) Allow AF Fine Tune Calibration for Different Focal Lengths
Those of us that have attempted to calibrate zoom lenses know that one AF Fine Tune value is often not good enough for the whole zoom range. The AF Fine Tune feature would be a lot more useful if we had the ability to use different AF Fine Tune settings depending on the focal length of the lens.
4) Live View at 100% Pixel Level Should be Standard
Nikon’s implementation of Live View on the Nikon D90 was terrible, due to its interpolated output. Since then, Nikon has made many new cameras that had a 100% pixel view, which was very useful in obtaining precise focus on subjects. With the D800, Nikon brought an interpolated live view back (which is one of my biggest complaints on the D800). Nikon should fix this as soon as possible on the D800 and make 100% pixel level live view a standard on all future cameras.
5) Fix Custom Settings Banks
The Custom Settings Banks implementation on Nikon DSLRs is bad and completely impractical. I personally do not bother using them on any of my cameras, because I do not have the time to either switch them in multiple places (Shooting Bank and Custom Settings Bank), or constantly review the settings to make sure that they have not changed. First of all, memory banks should apply to all camera menu items. Second, these settings need to be “lockable”, meaning if anything gets changed, the setting should not get overwritten unless I want it to.
Ideally, there should be at least 4 custom setting banks, which can be selected from the camera with a button. I would then choose different banks with different settings depending on what I shot. For example, for landscapes, I would have a custom settings bank called “Landscapes”, where I would have Auto ISO turned off, ISO set to 100, camera mode set to Manual, focus mode set to Single AF-S, etc. For “Wildlife”, I would have Auto ISO on, camera mode set to Aperture Priority, focus mode set to AF-C Dynamic, etc. This would make the custom settings feature immensely helpful for different shooting scenarios. As of now, it is simply garbage.
6) Allow Long File Names and Numbers
We don’t live in DOS days anymore, so why impose the 8 character limit on files? Instead of allowing us to change the first three letters (“DSC” by default), which is clearly not enough to give an accurate description of what we are shooting, we should be allowed to type whatever we want for the file name. If I have a wedding of John and Stacy coming up, I should be able to name my files “John and Stacy” and let the system add numbers at the end. Or even better, I should be allowed to use templates for defining things like Month, Day, Year, Time, etc., so that I could name file names like “2012-08-01 John and Stacy Wedding 001.DNG”.
The bad news is, Microsoft gets pretty nasty with anyone trying to use long names or any of its patented file systems like NTFS. And due to the limitations of the old and obsolete FAT32 file system that Nikon uses in its cameras, we have a 4 GB file limit as well (that’s why your videos files get cut off at 4 GB). Hence, Nikon either needs to negotiate with Microsoft and license the NTFS file system, or say goodbye to Microsoft and use an open source file system. I vote for the latter. Yes, this adds a little more headache to transferring images to PCs and Macs, but if other companies do the same thing, support for both PC and Mac will become available pretty quickly. With the growing size of memory cards, using FAT32 file system is simply not practical. There is a waste of space due to 32K cluster size and file read/write operations are also slowed as a result.
7) Ability to Remap Dead, Stuck and Hot Pixels
It is quite normal for sensors to have dead, stuck or hot pixels. All of my Nikon DSLRs have these and if they did not in the beginning, they certainly added a few later. While hot pixels are nothing to worry about, dead and stuck pixels can spoil your images if you shoot in JPEG format (Lightroom/Photoshop automatically maps out dead/stuck pixels from RAW files) and can be really annoying when shooting videos. So for those of us that shoot JPEG or movies, ability to remap these pixels would be very helpful. Olympus has been providing this ability for a while now, so why not join the club?
8) Delete Files in Both Cards in Backup Mode
If you have ever tried configuring the second memory card slot for backup, you know how painful and inefficient it can be to delete images from both cards. When the camera is set to Backup Mode, deleting an image should automatically delete it from both cards.
9) Enhance Auto ISO with Auto Shutter Speed
When using Auto ISO, I often have to go back and update the minimum shutter speed when changing lenses. Wouldn’t it be nice to enhance this feature, so that the camera automatically sets the minimum shutter speed to something like the focal length of the lens? It would be even better, if it knew how to compensate for VR. Those values might not work for everyone, but why not allow to set what that threshold should be? For example, it would be great if I could pick from such selections as “Match Focal Length”, “Match 1.5x Focal Length”, “Compensate 3 stops with VR on”, etc.
10) Fix Exposure Delay and Self Timer for Good
The Nikon D800, for the first time, had one fix that photographers have been asking for years – it allowed to use Exposure Delay with a timer and it finally allows selecting the length of exposure delay (1 to 3 seconds). Now Nikon should add more delay options (4, 5, 6 seconds or more) and make this a standard feature on all current and previous Nikon DSLRs.
11) Focus Shift Compensation
Focus shift can be a real nasty problem on fast aperture lenses. It can be especially bad when mixed with other optical problems such as curvature of field, as I have shown in my Nikon 28mm f/1.8G Review. Nikon knows that a number of its lenses (including some expensive pro lenses) exhibit strong focus shift, yet does absolutely nothing about it. Compensating for focus shift can be done in two ways – Automated and Manual. For an automated focus shift compensation, Nikon needs to have a small database of focus-shift-prone lenses programmed into the firmware, so that when any of those lenses are used, the camera will automatically shift focus backwards. Different lenses exhibit different amount of focus shift, so this portion of firmware would have to be periodically updated (when new lenses are announced). Or if Nikon really does not want to maintain any kind of lens database in firmware, the second solution would be Manual – allowing photographers to dial a focus shift adjustment value in camera firmware. Similar to AF Fine Tune, the camera would store a number of lens profiles. We would then manually adjust each lens for focus shift and save it there.
What do you think about these recommendations? What other firmware changes would you like to see on your Nikon DSLR? Please share your thoughts below.