Sony announces major firmware upgrades for a1, a9 III, a7S III and a7 IV


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Photo: Dan Bracaglia

Sony has announced major firmware updates for four of its current full-frame range, bringing many features and behaviors up to its latest standards and adding C2PA authenticity verification capabilities. However, that capability won’t be accessible to all users, at least initially.

Sony a1 f/w v2.00

Firmware v2.00 for the Sony a1 is perhaps the most extensive, adding features that have appeared in other models in the three-and-a-bit years since it was launched, such as the lens breathing compensation function. It also adds a handful of new features and modifications of behavior, including an option to ensure the EVF remains on, regardless of the LCD position, and relay playback of images across multiple media. Among the extensive list of additions and updates are features such as Timecode Sync, previously only available in Sony’s Cinema Line cameras.

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A series of FTP options, including SFTP support are also added.

The firmware doesn’t activate the C2PA function – which not only authenticates the camera and some other metadata, but also that the photo is of a 3D subject, not a photo of a photo – but instead adds the capability to the camera. Once installed, users need to activate a separate license to use the function. Sony says: “This service will initially be offered to select news media agencies, expanding to other agencies at a later date.”

Sony a7S III f/w v3.00

Firmware v3.00 brings many of the updates seen in the a1, including Timecode Sync, breathing compensation and relay playback. It also adds the ability to close the mechanical shutter when the camera is turned off, to mitigate dust ingress, and the ability to transfer Raw files to smartphones.

In addition to the C2PA capability, firmware v3.00 includes the ability to add DCI 4K 24p shooting. Again a license needs to be downloaded to a camera running the new firmware to actually activate the function.

Sony a7 IV f/w v3.00

As one of the most recently updated cameras on this list, the a7 IV gains fewer features than the other cameras here. But in addition to C2PA capability, it adds network streaming, direct cloud upload support and an expansion of the features accessible via software development kit (SDK).

Sony a9 III f/w v2.00 [Expected Early April]

As the newest of the cameras here, the a9 III receives fewer additions and updates than the a1 and a7S III, as in many instances they are gaining the features that the latest a9 introduced. However, in addition to details such as outputting lens names in video file metadata, the a9 III gains the promised ability to use the camera’s full shutter speed range when continuous shooting. But beyond this, the a9 III gains a small array of feature expansions and refinements being added across the four cameras, including the ability to extract stills from video capture, to take advantage of its lack of rolling shutter.

Sony Electronics Delivers Firmware Updates including C2PA Compliancy as a Next Step to Ensure Authenticity of Images

SAN DIEGO, March 27, 2024 – Today, Sony Electronics delivers the highly anticipated firmware updates for the Alpha 1 (Ver. 2.00), Alpha 7S III (Ver. 3.00), Alpha 7 IV (Ver. 3.00), and after April 2024, the Alpha 9 III (Ver.2.00). The update contains some of Sony’s most impactful technology, including Camera Authenticity Solution, the proprietary in-camera digital signature and C2PA (Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity) format support1. Together, these tools will make it possible for news agencies to ensure the authenticity of images, contributing to industry efforts to protect creators, and society from fake imagery.

Additionally, the firmware updates include many requested features to improve everyday use. The update evolves shooting functions and post-shooting workflow and brings advanced movie features like breathing compensation. It also includes new remote-control capabilities, new features for professional applications, and expanded access to cloud services applications.

“There is nothing more core to our mission than listening to the voices of the photographers, videographers, and filmmakers who shoot with Sony Alpha cameras. We know this community has been asking for these updates, and we’re happy to deliver. Each of these updates are designed to promote ease of use for our creators and allow them to maximize the strengths of their cameras,” says Yang Cheng, Vice President, Imaging Solutions, Sony Electronics Inc. “We’re especially pleased to deliver C2PA compliancy with this update. This compliancy paired with our unique digital signature technology, allows us to offer the most secure and comprehensive solution to protect professional photographers, news agencies, and society from manipulated imagery.”

Camera Authenticity Solution

Last year, Sony announced its commitment to developing technology in its cameras to aid in the fight against manipulated imagery and AI-generated fakes. The severity of this issue is only increasing and it’s a complex problem that requires the focus and attention of our entire industry.

One critical part of the solution is making more Sony cameras C2PA compliant. C2PA is a Joint Development Foundation project, where Sony is a steering committee member. C2PA aims to develop an end-to-end open technical standard to provide publishers, creators and consumers with opt-in, flexible ways to understand the authenticity, and provenance of different types of media. The C2PA is a standards-setting body that will develop technical specifications on content provenance and authentication by certifying the source and history of media content. With this firmware update, the authenticity information embedded on images from Alpha 1, Alpha 9 III, Alpha 7S III, and Alpha 7 IV can be maintained from capture through publication. This provides professional photographers with the ability to preserve their digital signature from the camera, while tracking the editing history throughout revisions.

Another critical component of the solution is Sony’s in-camera digital signature technology2 that signs images in real-time. This new feature certifies the authenticity of an image at the point of capture and creates a ‘digital birth certificate’ that is retained throughout revisions. The signature contains metadata including 3D-depth information captured through the proprietary technology in the image sensor developed by Sony. This depth information can show if the image captured was of an actual 3D object, vs a photograph of an image or video, providing an extra level of protection and even more assurance of the content’s authenticity, and making Sony’s solution especially unique for photojournalists and news agencies.

Sony’s solution also helps protect the authenticity of content by including an Image Validation Site, which verifies the image even after edits have been made by C2PA-compliant editing software. This service confirms the authenticity of the photo was taken by a specific camera and that the object of the photo is 3D. This service will initially be offered to select news media agencies, expanding to other agencies at a later date.

Sony’s Camera Authenticity Solution overview diagram
Example image of 3D Image verification

Shooting and Playback Updates

The firmware updates include over 10 new features, as well as improvements to existing features, designed to improve the user’s overall shooting experience. These improved capabilities showcase Sony’s commitment to continuing to evolve the functionality of Sony’s existing camera models. A few highlights of the firmware update functions include:

  • Relay Playback: Enables seamless sequential playback from one memory card slot to another on the Alpha 1, Alpha 7S III, and Alpha 9 III.
  • Playback Filter Condition: Lets users categorize image playback based on select criteria including date, folder, file format, and more on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III
  • Breathing Compensation: The highly requested Breathing Compensation function3 is now available on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III.
  • Upgrade DCI 4K / 24.00p Upgrade License on Alpha 7S III: via a free downloadable license through Creators’ Cloud4.
  • Sync Release function: Enables simultaneous shutter release with two or more multiple cameras connected to the main camera5 on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 9 III.
  • Focus frame display: Focus frame will be displayed on the Remote Camera Tool screen on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 9 III.
  • Enhanced image stabilization: The camera body and lens effectively work together to correct larger blurs6 on the Alpha 1.
  • Increased upper limit of recordable images in a folder from 4,000 to 9,999 on the Alpha 1, Alpha 7S III, A7 IV, and Alpha 9 III.
  • Matching the time code with other devices is now possible with a dedicated adapter cable (sold separately)7 on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III.
  • Up to 20 IPTC presets can be on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III.
  • Custom Grid Line is available as a paid license basis for some models8.

File Transfer and Network Connectivity

Additional updates aimed to optimize the post-production workflow efficiency include improvements to International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) preset and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) transfer operability. To streamline processes for users, expanded cloud upload and application services will be available. Key updates include:

  • Cloud upload (camera direct) function allows users to upload images directly to the Sony’s Creators’ Cloud9. Key additional features include simplified camera software updates, direct camera registration to the Creators’ Cloud, and a flexible system for uploading, storing, and sharing content. Additionally, the capability to manage video and LUT files via mobile apps, along with the transfer of RAW files to smartphones, optimizes the creative process in fast-paced environments.
  • FTP Transfer Improvements: A “Protected Images Only” option for the Auto FTP Transfer and a “Protect Image in FTP Transfer” option for the FTP transfer function have been added. Available on the Alpha 1, Alpha 7S III, and Alpha 9 III.
  • Support for USB streaming10 on the Alpha 1.
  • Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) has been added to secure protocol on the Alpha 1, Alpha 7S III, and Alpha 9 III and WPA3-SAE is now supported for wireless LAN on the Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III.
  • Network streaming enables direct live streaming from the Alpha 7 IV to a streaming sitevii.
  • Expansion of app support with Creators’ App and Monitor & Control app now supported with the Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III.

Many of these updates are applicable to multiple cameras, however for a list of each body’s specific update please check the Sony website.

Exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with Sony’s imaging products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, a site created to educate and inspire all fans and customers of Sony α – Alpha brand.

1. This feature is available to some news organizations at the press release timing.
2. Both Sony’s in-camera digital signature technology and C2PA compliancy are currently available through a separate upgrade license.
3. For compatible lens information, please refer to the support page (https://www.sony.net/dics/breathing/)
4. For regional app/service availability, check here. To use this service, it is necessary to download and install the upgrade license.
5. Remote Camera Tool Version 4.1.0 is required to activate the function.
6. For compatible lens information, please refer to the support page (https://www.sony.net/dics/fnc1002/)
7. A dedicated adapter cable, which is sold separately, is required to connect to the timecode source equipment.
8. Availability varies depending on country and region. Available through the Upgrade and License Management Suite at https://ulms.sony.net.
9. For regional app/service availability, check here. Creators’ App Ver.2.3.1 or later is necessary. Settings must be made in the Creators’ App in advance. For more information, please visit the Creators’ App support website (https://www.sony.net/ca/help/opr/)

10. When connecting to a device with a USB Type-C port, please use a commercially available USB cable or a conversion adapter.