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Firmware updates to fix lock-ups, image corruption with Canon cameras and Lexar CF  
Thursday, May 19, 2005 | by Rob Galbraith

Canon today has announced that they will soon be releasing firmware updates to fix a problem in which the EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1Ds Mark II can become non-functional after shooting a burst of pictures.

When the problem occurs, any pictures remaining in the camera's memory buffer are lost. In the case of the EOS-1Ds Mark II, the camera's battery must be pulled and reinserted to bring the camera back to life. Our EOS-1D Mark II seems to right itself after a few moments, without having to remove the battery (any pictures in the memory buffer are still lost, though). Canon's announcement, however, suggests that the battery must be pulled from both camera models to reset them fully.

We've been able to make the problem rear its ugly head in testing by setting either camera to record ISO 3200, RAW+JPEG pictures, with the JPEG quality setting at 10. Then, after shooting a burst of pictures, pressing the Display button while pictures are still being written causes the rear LCD to fade to white or display coloured squiggly lines (this QuickTime movie shows the latter effect).

At that point the camera is non-responsive and any pictures not already written to the card are sent into the ether.

The problem doesn't happen everytime the Display button is pressed while pictures are being transferred to the card; in fact, we've experienced a lock-up only once under real world conditions. But in testing, when we fill the camera's buffer full, then repeatedly press Display to turn on and off the rear LCD, the EOS-1Ds Mark II locks up about 25% of the time, the EOS-1D Mark II somewhat less often than that.

Statement on Canon USA web site

Though threads in the forums on this web site and elsewhere have linked the problem to certain capacities or certain models of CompactFlash card, our testing suggests there is no such link: we're able to make either camera lock up with any of a number of different models of CF card, and different capacities too. Canon's announcement appears to confirm that this particular problem isn't associated with a given brand or size of card.

Firmware updates for the EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1Ds Mark II are slated to be released by Canon before the end of May 2005, says the announcement. Until that time, the company is recommending that photographers using these cameras avoid pressing the Display button until all pictures in a burst have been written to the card and the card access light has gone out.

Canon-Lexar 80X Incompatibility

Canon and Lexar also jointly announced today that an incompatibility between Lexar 80X CompactFlash cards and five different models of Canon digital SLR can result in photos being corrupted. This problem is not related to the EOS-1D Mark II/EOS-1Ds Mark II lock-up condition described above.

The cameras affected:

  • EOS-1Ds Mark II
  • EOS-1D Mark II
  • EOS 20D
  • EOS 20Da
  • EOS Digital Rebel XT/350D

A fix, in the form of a firmware update from Lexar for the company's 80X CompactFlash, is expected before the end of May 2005. A Lexar Customer Advisory states:

"Lexar's firmware update will only address failures when using Lexar Professional 80x CompactFlash cards with the Canon cameras listed. Lexar will update [the advisory] web page with a Return Materials Authorization (RMA) form and instructions for upgrading Lexar CompactFlash cards when the firmware is available. If you have additional questions please call (510) 413-1233."

We requested clarification of several announcement details from Lexar in the U.S., including whether the firmware update will be user-installable using the company's Image Rescue software (v2.x of the program incorporates a Lexar card firmware update feature), which 80X CompactFlash are affected (if not all that Lexar has produced) and if there are any workarounds Canon shooters can employ to avoid image corruption until the new card firmware is available. We were told that more information wasn't available at this time, but that our questions would be answered closer to the release date for the firmware, which is on track for late May 2005.

Lexar Japan's advisory (in Japanese), however, appears to include the specific capacities and series of 80X CompactFlash that will require new firmware. If you have one of the models listed below, look at the last four characters in the production code stamped on the edge of the card. If those four characters match what's shown in brackets, you can expect it will need the new card firmware, when it's released.

  • Lexar Pro Series 80X 512MB (A4B6 or 9171)
  • Lexar Pro Series 80X 1GB (A4B6 or 9171)
  • Lexar Pro Series 80X 2GB (A4B6 or 9171)
  • Lexar Pro Series 80X 4GB (A4B6 or 9171)

Production code stamped on the edge of Lexar 80X CompactFlash

Lexar 80X CompactFlash whose edge stamp ends in A4B6 are what we've dubbed 80X second edition cards. Though this hasn't been confirmed with Lexar, we're fairly certain that 9171 cards are also 80X second edition.

Revision History
Added information about Lexar's response to our questions regarding the firmware update (May 20, 2005)
Added information gleaned from the Lexar Japan advisory (May 20, 2005)

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