Dear Canon, please opensource your firmware

Canon 5D Mark II Firmware Update from 1.0.6 to 1.0.7

I just updated the firmware on my new 5D Mark II. The firmware is the operating system in my camera. The software that decides how the menus on the screen should look, what the buttons do, and basically everything about how my camera handles the data from the CMOS that sits in there, collecting light when I snap images.

I didn’t get any extra functionality, but two issues that I never had problems with are now fixed.

Yes, it works fine. But we want more functionality. We want 25p and manual controls for video recording. And in this world of software it is possible for people to make that functionality. For you. For free. Either by hacking the whole camera. Or if you provided an API. Or even better, if you simply published the development tools and software.

Your revenue is based on selling excellent cameras and excellent lenses. And I guess Nikon and your other competitors have hacked and examined your firmware in detail already.

Open your firmware and you’ll see 25p on the 5D MkII before you can say “development kit”. And you’ll see all kinds of stuff that you and your competitors never thought of.

And you know what? People will improve the 5D Mark II firmware anyway. If you help them they will make better solutions.

You’ll be a pioneer. Bringing digital photography to the next level. Do it before your competitors!

I updated this article with a link to After a hint from @urke.

And because I’ve made the links in this article pretty non-explaining I’ll repeat the link to CHDK as well! A very interesting project that already has enhanced the Canon firmware on a couple of cameras.

Dear Canon, please opensource your firmware

15 thoughts on “Dear Canon, please opensource your firmware

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you on this one.

    In fact, I’ll state right now that the first manufacturer who opens up their firmware will get my money the next time I’ll buy a new DSLR.

  2. On the other hand, there would be also dozens of bad handmade firmwares and thousands of customers who installed them would be disappointed with Canon camera, though it’s not Canon’s fault.

  3. This is an excellent idea. Firmware is an often neglected part of most products. Of all the gadgets I have owned through the years, only the iPhone has received really good updates. All others let you go through the boring process of updating without giving you anything worth wile at the end.

    So, I too agree with you, and recommend that companies evaluate their firmware updates and open source it if they are not going to put enough effort in bringing it forward.

  4. On the other hand, speaking for Canon, I can see why they had to rush this update. I have not had the two problems they fix on my MkII either, but it has caused a lot of negative publicity for them. They may still be working on the other stuff that you are requesting for a future update – at least I hope so!

  5. Have you seen CHDK? It is an open-source firmware addon for many Canon (compact?) cameras, but still pretty cool. I have used it on my Ixus for getting exposures longer than 15″. It has a lot of functionality – even supports scripting!

  6. Yes, that’s a very interesting project. I linked to it in the article under “Either by hacking the whole camera….”

    …not a very good way to explain that project, so I repeated the link in the update as well.

  7. I completely agree. I really, really wonder what’s going on in the minds of the administratives that sit around inside hardware producing shops like Canon, Nikon, D-Link, NVidia, etc., that leads to the conclusion that software (either in the form of firmware or drivers) they create need to be closed source. As if it’s NVidia’s excellent drivers I’m paying for.

    No, people pay money for the hardware, and as long as the software just works (which very often isn’t the case even though it’s both proprietary and closed source), they couldn’t care less how it originates and what license it’s released under.

    Open sourcing absolutely all firmware and drivers in existence would most probably make all of these companies sell more hardware since it would be compatible with a lot more operating systems and applications as well as sport lots of more features, be more stable (due to more people looking at the source code and thoroughly testing it) and be overall much better.

    AMD/ATI has understood this. Intel has understood this. It’s time all hardware vendors, including those manufacturing peripherals like digital cameras, understand this as well.

  8. Tomas Finnøy says:

    It’s all about control and market segments, I think. I’m not too knowledgeable about cameras, but in the TV industry what separates a TV for about $1000 from a $2000 is mainly software. If they were to open-source the firmware, and make people able to upgrade their $1000 to a $2000 set with free software, they would loose a big market segment.

    Maybe, its not applicable to the camera market, but I think it’s a fear Canon has. Losing the control of the market segments…

    Remember the AMD CPU’s which could be upgraded with a lead pencil? :D

  9. e_halfdan says:

    Thank you for all the good suggestions, eirikso :-) If Canon opensourced their hardware I’d buy this camera without hesitation. But why don’t they? Maybe because they’d rather have broadcasters like the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation or the Norwegian TV 2 buying their stock of (more expensive) HD Video cameras?

    I could be wrong here, but I’ve checked out some of the footage from the 5D Mark II on the Internet. It looks terrific! And I sincerely wish that Canon would do whatever is suggested by you in this blog. Manual controls and 25P would be quite a treat!

    Again, thank you. I’m impressed (and waiting :-)

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