Modern digital cameras are basically small computers with optical tools attached. And surprisingly powerful ones at that. And just like any computer, they need software to tell them what to do.
A camera’s firmware is software that works with the camera’s hardware to control features and functions. It’s not software that you generally interact with directly. It controls everything from the color and fonts of the menu system to the available ISO range to the responsiveness of the auto-focusing system. So it’s an essential part of the camera’s functionality–it won’t work without it.
It’s also a way for camera manufacturers to make improvements to a how a camera works after the camera has already been built and is in use (at least, they’re nearly always improvements, but there are some instances where things go in the wrong direction). They typically include bug fixes and sometimes new features.
So, in nearly all cases, it’s a very good idea to be running the latest firmware that’s available. That’s the most likely version to have any bugs squashed, any security glitches addressed, and any new features added.1
Like most cameras, however, the Nikon D850 doesn’t automatically update its firmware when a new version is released, even though the camera has wireless functionality built-in. And while it’s not difficult to update a D850’s firmware, it is a process you have to run manually.
The first step is to find out what version of the firmware your D850 is already running. You can then compare it to the version that Nikon makes available on their download page. If you already have the latest version, you’re good to go. If not, you can proceed to the firmware update process.
How to View the Nikon D850’s Firmware Version
With the camera turned on, press the
Scroll down to the
SETUP MENU. That’s the one with the wrench/spanner icon.
Scroll to the end of that section until you come to the
Firmware version item.
OK button to open up the page displaying the versions.
You’ll notice two entries there. The “C” version is the camera’s firmware. The “LD” is distortion control data (ie. Lens Data). I’m focusing here on the “C” firmware. The process for the “LD” firmware is basically the same, with one important difference: make sure to remove the lens before updating the LD firmware.
How to Update the Nikon D850’s Firmware
Here’s the standard process for updating the D850’s firmware. You can find more detail of technical requirements on Nikon’s site.
Before you start, you can do two things to prep to make the process go more smoothly:
- Format the memory card in the camera. While it’s not technically a requirement, starting the process with a freshly formatted card will reduce the risk of problems in running the firmware update and eliminate any confusion if you’ve used that same memory card to update other cameras in the past. Formatting the card will of course wipe everything on it, so make sure you’ve backed any photos or videos before you start.
- Make sure the battery is charged. It’s a bad thing if the firmware update process gets interrupted by, say, a battery running out of power. So the camera will check that there’s sufficient charge before allowing you to proceed with the firmware update. You can save yourself the potential interruption by just checking now that the battery is charged.
Download & Unpack the Firmware .bin File
Using a computer, you’ll need to download and unpack the firmware file.
You can download the firmware for the Nikon D850 here. If you’re using Windows, it’ll come as an executable archive with an .exe extension. If you’re on Mac, it’ll come as a .dmg disk image archive. The filename with be along the lines of F-D850-V###.exe or F-D850-V###.dmg, with the hashtags replaced by the version number.
Once you unarchive or mount these files (double-click on them to do that), you’ll see the contents of the archive. The actual firmware file has a .bin file extension and will be named something like D850_0111.bin.2
Copy the .bin File to the Memory Card
Copy the .bin file (not the .dmg or .exe versions) from your computer to your memory card.
There are two things to watch for:
Firstly, make sure to put it in the root directory of the card. That is, make sure it’s in the top-most level and is not inside another folder. Don’t put it inside the DCIM or NIKON folders (both of those folders are created automatically by the D850 as part of its card formatting procedure). It should be something like this:
Secondly, be sure you’re copying the extracted .bin file and not the .dmg or .exe files or a folder. The file on the memory card should have the .bin file extension–that’s the only type of file extension the camera will look for in this operation.
Load the Firmware in the Camera
Once you’ve copied the .bin firmware file onto your memory card, insert the memory card into your camera and turn the camera on. Make sure your camera battery has plenty of charge left on it; you do not want it running out of power in the middle of the firmware update operation.
Then repeat the process of looking up the firmware version from above. That is, go to
Setup Menu and then
If the camera has correctly identified the .bin file on the memory card, you’ll now see a new option of
DELETE firmware update files.
Obviously, you want to select the
You’ll get some on-screen instructions walking you through the rest of the operation. In this example, I’m updating the C firmware from v.1.10 to v.1.11. The
No option is selected by default as a safety precaution, so move the cursor up to
Yes and press the OK button on the back of the camera.
It’s very important that the camera not be interrupted while it’s updating the firmware. Doing so could render the camera inoperable (in other words: it can brick it because the firmware can be corrupted). So do not use any controls or turn the power off while it’s doing this, and make sure there’s plenty of battery charge before you start. You’ll see a progress bar and this warning on the D850’s back screen:
Updating . . . Warning! Do not turn camera off during update. Update will take several minutes.
Once the update is complete, you’ll get the instructions on the screen that:
Update completed. Turn camera off.
You can now turn the camera back and check the firmware version to confirm that the operation was successful.
Next, it’s good practice to remove the firmware file from the memory card. You could do that in a computer with a card reader, of course, but the two safest options are to format the card in the camera or use the built-in “Delete firmware update files” function by going to
Setup Menu > Firmware > Delete firmware update files.
Then you should be back to the standard Firmware version screen that shows the newly updated firmware version numbers and doesn’t have the extra options.
Where to Find the Latest Nikon D850 Firmware
You can find the latest Nikon D850 firmware directly from Nikon’s download page for the D850.
At that page, click on the firmware tab for a listing of the available downloads. That will give you a link to the specific page for downloading that firmware version as well as the detailed changelog and instructions on how to update the D850’s firmware.
- There are some exceptions such as when firmware introduces compatibility issues or introduces manufacturer-instigated limitations such as not working with third-party batteries. But, as a general rule, it’s usually a good idea to keep the firmware up to date. ↩
- So why don’t they just let you download the .bin file directly rather than go through the extra steps of unpacking a dmg or exe archive? It’s because the .bin stands for binary file. Those types of files are executable–that is, they can run and do things. So web browsers and computer operating systems typically block you from downloading bin files (as well as a bunch of other filetypes) directly as a security precaution against malware. It’s another good reason to only download firmware update files directly from the camera manufacturer. ↩