Upgrading the firmware in your '5050

My other pages related to the Olympus C-5050Z, C-5060WZ, and X-7070WZ

This article has been written in response to a hundred or so of queries I have received from the '5050 users within a single month. It turns out that newer versions of the '5050 firmware have appeared on the Internet, and many camera owners are considering the upgrade to the "latest greatest", but they are not willing to do that without yours truly's opinion. So, here it goes.

What is firmware

I am sorry for offending your intelligence here: if you came to this page, you most probably know that. Still, just for the record.

Firmware is the dedicated software, embedded in many electronic devices to provide its basic functionality. You may think of the device (say, a camera) as a dedicated computer, capable of running just one program, with firmware being that program.

In the current era of smart appliances, you most probably have firmware installed in your car, microwave oven, home stereo and TV, possibly in refrigerator, not to say of any electronic gadgets you may also have.

The firmware usually resides in a special region of device's memory, using a special type of memory, persisting in spite of any power failures and anything which may happen to the device. This is often (not always properly) referred to as flash memory.

If your firmware gets lost or corrupted, your device is simply dead, and requires the firmware to be reinstalled by the manufacturer.

If you came here from the C-5060WZ firmware page, click here to go back; otherwise keep on reading.

Firmware updates for the C-5050Z

I usually don't follow the Internet camera discussion groups. You may find sometimes interesting information there, but usually at the expense of sifting through endless messages from people who never bothered to read the instruction manual (or, for that matter, any elementary book on photography).

This is why I almost missed the information about the most recent version of the C-5050Z firmware floating on the Internet.

I bought my '5050 as soon as it was released, with the firmware v448-76, perhaps the earliest available. There seemed to be nothing wrong with that version, and I have enjoyed the camera ever since.

Soon v558-78 was released with cameras arriving to stores. Following their policy of keeping the users as ignorant as possible (barefoot and pregnant would be best), Olympus never published any information on why the update was introduced, what are the possible fixes and improvements, not even that it was available at all.

For the new C-5060WZ, Olympus posted the updated firmware on their Web site, with a short description of changes, plus installation instructions. This is the right way to do it, and I wonder why the same has not been done for the '5050?

After some Internet research, and looking at some samples of images from the updated cameras, I decided that sending my camera to Olympus to have the firmware updated would be a waste of time and money.

The next v558-82 update (July, 2003 by the time stamp) followed by v558-83 (May, 2004) were, however, different. First of all, they became available on the Internet (without an official endorsement or acknowledgement by Olympus), so that I can do the installation myself. After having installed v82 without a problem, I had no doubts about installing v83; after all, there must have been some reasons for the changes...

Note: Each upgrade is a full version of the firmware, therefore it can be installed on top of any previous one, without any need to install all the versions in-between. For example, you can jump directly from v558-76 to v558.83.

What changes to expect?

Did I mention what I think of how Olympus shares information with the loyal and enthusiastic population of its camera users? Yes? The newest update, in spite of all the noise about it, followed the pattern. Officially it never happened. Therefore what follows are just general speculations of what may be possible.

  • Bug fixes. As I said before, I've never experienced any problems with the original firmware. However, the only software not showing any bugs is the software nobody uses (take it from a software engineer). There will be always software problems occurring rarely and upon a specific combination of events and circumstances. Updates occasionally clean up these.
  • Tweaks. There are possible changes either improving the performance (like speeding up image-acquisition and -writing algorithms) or adjusting some preferences (like, for example increasing noise filtering at the expense of image detail). The importance of tweaks is usually overestimated in the common lore, and manufactures are not really willing to do a silent upgrade of something which works just fine.

Obviously, I will be not in a position to identify any improvements of the first group, nor to verify the speed and noise filtering claims coming back in the 'Net gossip.

Where to find the upgrade?

The latest v558-83 has been posted at, and I downloaded it from, the Polish HSLAB Web site forum (partly in English).

Because forum pages may disappear with time, I am re-posting the upgrade at this page, as its URL is expected to remain stable for the predictable future. Here is the file I actually used to upgrade my own '5050. (The file replaces v558-82, previously posted.)

The file, although remaining intellectual property of Olympus, was intended as a maintenance option for users of their C-5050Z cameras; therefore I am posting it here in good faith, believing that this is its legitimate use, not in violation of any copyright laws.

In the next section I am going to outline step by step the installation procedure, exactly the way I followed it. You may want to print it out for a handy reference during the process.

Installation

Note: these instructions apply to the C-5050Z (v558-83) and C-5060WZ (v756-84), and I used them in upgrading both these models.

Warning and Disclaimer: Although the instructions below are accurate to the best of my knowledge and I have verified them step-by-step on my own '5050 and '5060, by following them YOU are assuming the full responsibility for whatever may happen to your camera. Do it ONLY if you are willing to assume this risk; I am not accountable for whatever may happen to your particular camera in your particular case. If you do not agree, please ignore the remainder of this article. I am not going to answer any email related to problems in the upgrading process.

The installation process is simple and straightforward. Here it is, exactly the way I did it.

  1. Important: Install fresh batteries or plug in the external power supply. If there is any single thing which can go wrong, it is running out of power while the firmware is being installed, which would render your camera unusable and require sending it to Olympus for servicing.
  2. Make sure that an XD card (Olympus brand or not) is inserted, and format it in the camera: Mode Menu > Card > Card Setup > Yes.

    (I have verified that a SmartMedia card will also work fine on the '5050.)

  3. Make sure that the camera USB connection is in the file transfer mode (as opposed to the computer control mode). If you are not sure, just leave this alone, as this is the default. If your computer can see the camera as a disk drive when you connect via USB, you are just fine. If not, see the section on switching between USB modes.
  4. Set the mode dial to Playback (green arrow), connect the camera to your computer using the USB cable, turn it on. On the computer side, open the camera card as a disk drive, create on it (at the root level) a folder named firmware. Copy into that folder the file firmware.bin unzipped from the downloaded archive.

    Note: you do not have to delete the picture folder DCIMxxxx you will see on the card (with "xxxx" standing for digits); just make sure that you create the firmware folder outside of it.

    (A common error is to create the firmware folder inside DCIMxxxx; although this has no harmful consequences, the camera will not find the firmware upgrade there.)

    You are now ready to perform the installation. Turn the camera off, unplug the USB cable.

  5. While the dial is still in the Playback position, turn the camera on. You will see a screen like this, with your current firmware version shown. Make sure that Yes is selected (i.e., in green) and press OK.

    (The monitor screen shots show the process for transition from v558-76 to v558-82; with the newer version(s) the numbers shown will be, obviously, different.)

  6. The camera will start updating the firmware. For a minute or two you will see a screen like this. This is the only moment when a power failure may spoil everything. Bite your fingers.
  7. When the process is completed, you will see a screen with the new version number shown, and another Yes/No query. Select No, press OK, turn the camera off. Done.
  8. Hook the camera up to the computer via the USB cable again, remove the folder firmware with its contents.

If you came here from the C-5060WZ firmware page, click here to go back; otherwise keep on reading.

What's new in v558-83?

Frankly speaking, I have no clue. Obviously, this version incorporates all changes in v82, but what else, remains unknown. See also my remarks on the previous version below.

What's new in v558-82?

That's for Olympus to know and for us to guess. There was lots of fluff on discussion groups about writing speed improvements in newer firmware versions, but no hard evidence ("somebody said that...", or "it is known that..."). Now I was able to verify these urban legends myself, using the same cards and the same technique as described in my card speed article. The original measurements were made with the v558-75 firmware; now, for one xD and one CF card (to avoid wasting more time than necessary), I repeated the process.

The results are negative. For the Fuji 256MB xD card I've got an average of 8.5s (compared to the original 8.3s), for the PNY 512MB CF card (the fastest CF I have) — 4.2s (originally: 4.2s). Put the speedup gossip to sleep.

Another point I wanted to verify: is there any visible change in the noise levels? Here is a before/after comparison of samples showing the sky noise at ISO 64; both samples were taken about 30 minutes apart, one with the original v558-76 firmware, and another — with c558-82. The noise in these 1:1 (pixel-wise) samples is exaggerated by a factor of 8x by stretching the tonal range in postprocessing, see my noise article for details on the procedure.

A visual scrutiny of both samples does not support any claims about changes in noise levels (or in the degree of noise filtering). I went through about twelve pairs of samples taken at various settings and the results were negative in all cases.
ISO 64, v558-76 ISO 64, v558-82

This is not a scientifically-performed, controlled experiment (which would require computer analysis of noise magnitude and spatial autocorrelation), but if I can't see any difference in samples where the effect is magnified eight times, I will certainly see no difference in actual print or screen images. Another urban myth put to sleep.

Last but not least, there is a gossip about changes in default in-camera image processing (sharpness, contrast, saturation). While these things are possible and sometimes done (manufacturers realize that most buyers never take the camera off default settings), I suspect the gossip belongs in the dustbin together with the other pieces; I am not even going to do any testing for that. Besides, this is of no consequence to a thinking user (the kind, I hope, who read my articles): we change these settings anyway to our liking. Well, for the first weeks after the update I will be watching my images and possibly tweak my image settings a bit.

Contrary to some hopes, the new firmware does not recognize cards formatted in the FAT-32 system, which would allow us to use CF cards beyond 2GB.

Should you do it?

There is nothing to indicate any visible improvements in the camera performance, or any behavior changes with the new firmware, therefore I see no pressing need to install the new version, if the old one does not misbehave on your camera. (If it does, I would recommend trying.)

On the other hand, if Olympus spent time and effort developing the new version, there must have been some reasons. Certainly, the new version should not work worse than the previous ones.

The upgrading procedure is simple and painless, and the risk involved is negligible — as long as you have some elementary literacy in using a computer (copying files, creating directories, etc.). Therefore I see no disadvantages to performing the upgrade, either; you can do it just to get some piece of mind (not to mention bragging rights). Just don't blame me if anything goes wrong.

Appendix: USB connection modes

This section is optional and you need it only if you want to control your camera remotely from a computer with the proper software.

The C-5050Z (like most other Olympus Camedia models) may use the USB cable connection for two purposes:

  • For moving files from the camera to a computer, which will see the camera as another disk drive. This is the default factory setting.
  • For controlling your camera remotely from a computer with use of third-party software, like Cam2Com from Sabsik Software (Link last verified 2006/02/22).

In order to switch between these two settings, turn the camera on with the USB cable unplugged and the mode dial in any position different than file transfer (i.e., the green arrow). Open the door, a warning will appear on the LCD screen.

Press and hold the Quick View and OK buttons simultaneously for three seconds or so. The undocumented Camera Control menu will show up. Select OFF to set the USB connection to the file transfer mode, or ON to set it to the computer control mode; press OK.

(I am nor sure what the Reset option does; probably it resets the camera to all defaults, but I have not tried it, unwilling to lose all my custom settings. If you try it, let me know.)


My other pages related to the Olympus C-5050Z, C-5060WZ, and X-7070WZ

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Posted 2004/03/13; last updated 2006/02/22 Copyright © 2004-2006 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak