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Old Aug 17, 2010, 12:44 AM   #1
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Default Firmware flashing?

How does one go about updating or better flashing the firmware on an A-550?

I did buy a gray market camera out of a Hong Kong overstock seller that sold my camera from England. Sony Style USA has sold me an extended warranty and are trying to be helpful but warranty service for my first year is in England.

Maybe I am just not understanding things but my white balance is not working as expected.

It is bad enough that for a test I closed off the house and under 60 watt bulbs the camera set for incandescent bulbs showed nothing but Blue

What am I doing wrong? I know this camera is smarter that this.

Steve
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Old Aug 17, 2010, 4:23 AM   #2
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Have you tried setting a custom white balance?

Have you tried white balance bracketing?
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Old Aug 17, 2010, 10:20 AM   #3
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It is bad enough that for a test I closed off the house and under 60 watt bulbs the camera set for incandescent bulbs showed nothing but Blue
Are you sure you were not using a flash? If you use a flash, you'll get blue photos using incandescent white balance (since the temperature of the flash will more closely match daylight lighting).

You'd have the same issue with sunlight coming in through windows (as using incandescent white balance in daylight lighting will cause blue images). Chances are, any light getting through typical closed window blinds in the daytime is going to be dramatically brighter than 60 watt tungsten bulbs. IOW, the light from the bulbs make up a very small percentage of the exposure, so you'd likely get blue images trying to set WB to incandescent (tungsten) during the day.

If you use a Preset (daylight, tungsten, flash, cloudy, etc.) versus Auto or Custom Whiite Balance, you'll need to set it to the dominant light source to reduce color casts (for example, leave it set to flash or daylght if using a flash and the flash is providing most of the light).
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Old Aug 17, 2010, 10:39 AM   #4
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I don't think there's any new firmware anyway. Mine shows v1.00 under
Menu | OpenEnded Wrench | Page 3 | Version
On the same Page is the "Reset default" option. I've never done it and am not knowledgeable about what tiny things it really does, but others have suggested it plenty of times. At this point, it seems you really have nothing to lose.
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Old Aug 17, 2010, 2:07 PM   #5
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Thank you for your replies.

I do set a custom white balance if I know the color temp. My table top tent I use for product stuff has the color temp printed on the cfl's and when set to match the temperature of the bulbs everything is great. I am not sure what you mean by "white balance bracketing"

I did find out early on that using the flash changes everything. I leave the white balance set to auto if I am going to be using the flash and while a small bit of adjustment is required in PP the results are quite predictable. I did not think about outside light overwhelming the inside source. Later tonight I will try it again under different sources and see it that might be my issue. Outdoors everything works fine

Is there a meter available that shows the temperature of the light for a more specific setting?

The "restore default" is one of the first things I looked for in the menu as I do tend to fiddle with the settings more than I probably should so having the ability to reset to zero comes in handy.

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Old Aug 18, 2010, 12:36 PM   #6
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I do set a custom white balance if I know the color temp.
I think you're misunderstanding what we mean by a Custom White Balance. We're not talking about setting a specific kelvin temperature.

Your camera has the ability to measure the temperature of the lighting from a white or gray card and store that setting. That's what a Custom White Balance is.

See pages 106 and 107 of this .pdf manual for your camera:

http://www.docs.sony.com/release/DSLRA500.pdf

Almost anything white can work in a pinch. For example, I'll sometimes use a sheet of white, matte photo paper to set mine. The idea is that the target needs to be neutral (reflects equal amounts of red, green and blue). So, white or gray can work. Basically, the camera takes a photo of the target (your white or gray card), then notes the difference between red, green and blue (which will vary by your lighting temperature), and stores a white balance setting that gives you accurate results.

If you shoot in the same lighting often, just select your stored custom settinig when needed (so that you don't need to repeat the measurement procedure), since you can keep a custom setting stored and still use other white balance setting when shooting in different lighting (just press your Fn button, and select AWB>Custom to use the stored setting with your camera model). It's best to set it with the lens you plan on shooting with (as you can see some differences in color between lenses with a given WB setting, especially when dealiing with more than one brand of lens).

You can also buy photographic gray cards to set it with (these are 18% gray, so they can also be used to set exposure, which you can't do with a white card).

Iin addition you can find translucent gray "whte balance lens caps" that let you set a custom white balance it by pointing the camera towards the light source to take a reading (versus setting it by taking a reading from a white or gray card under the light you're shooting in).

But, your primary problem sounds more like one of the following if you're getting blue photos with the tungsten (incandescent) preset:

1. You're using a flash (which is going to be closer to the temperature of daylight lighting).

2. You have lots of light coming in through window blinds, with daylight lighting being the dominant light source.

3. Your lighting is not incandescent (tungsten), and you're using bulbs that are closer to the temperature of daylight instead

Any of those would cause blue photos trying to use an incandescent white balance setting.

In mixed lighting (which may be an issue for you), using a custom balance is your best bet for greater accuracy if Auto WB doesn't work well, placing the target (gray card, white card) in between light sources for a more balanced reading.
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Old Aug 18, 2010, 2:39 PM   #7
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P.S.

Your camera probably has the ability to fine tune a given WB preset. So, if you messed with those settings, that could be causing an issue. Going into your setup menu and selecting the "Reset Default" choice should reset that kind of thing back to factory defaults.

It's very unlikely your camera has any kind of firmware issue. It's more likely that something else is going wrong instead (wrong lighting for the preset you're using, etc.).

If you're shooting in complex lighting (mixed lighting wiith different temperatures), and Auto WB doesn't work well, just use a custom white balance instead. You can use almost anything white to set it with and get it close (I sometimes use Matte White Photo Paper for that purpose).
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Old Aug 18, 2010, 2:44 PM   #8
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You are correct Jim. I misunderstood everything about that. I had a couple of P series Kodak cameras and one of them would go brain dead if the battery was out for any length of time and would give "funny" results. Flashing the firmware took care of the problem. (out of warranty so I was not going to send it in for repair)

I tried it with a sheet of the matte paper and it made a huge difference. I know what types of bulbs I buy for my home but who knows about anyone else. All I can tell you is that it does seem to make a big difference.

What is the "white balance bracketing" TCav mentioned?

I was originally going to buy a flash at the same time I bough the body but based on comments about the low light ability of the camera I decided to wait. The only time I have needed a flash has been doing some of the indoor shots of houses for sale. I picked up a Gary Fong Puffer diffuser for the pop-up flash and it seems to do a nice job. It also causes enough loss of efficiency that I normally have to make a few adjustments to compensate. I do not know if this is the correct way to adjust but I use the ev + or - and everyone seems happy with my results. I am working on a DIY macro ring light but do not see an external flash in my near future.

Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me

Steve
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Old Aug 18, 2010, 2:53 PM   #9
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What is the "white balance bracketing" TCav mentioned?
See Page 111
http://www.docs.sony.com/release/DSLRA500.pdf

Basically, the camera will take 3 photos (with one of them "cooler" than your WB setting; and one of the "warmer" than your white balance setting).

That works similar to exposure bracketing (that can give you a greater chance of accurate exposure in tough condtions), only you're gettiing 3 shots with white balance changed instead (so, you can pick the best one later).

Of course, shooting RAW is another way to go about having more flexbility for WB in difficult lighting. Personally, I still like to have White Balance set as close as possible, even when shooting raw (and a custom white balance is a good way to go in complex lighting if Auto WB or a preset doesn't work well), since most raw converters can use your camera's white balance setting when converting from raw (and give you the flexibility to change it to something else if desired).
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