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Beware of Sony XDCAM EX firmware update – EX3 bricked due to software malfunction, Sony “Prime”Support denies to repair damage, repair costs almost €2.000 …

Beware of Sony XDCAM EX firmware update – EX3 bricked due to software malfunction, Sony “Prime”Support denies to repair damage, repair costs almost €2.000 …

ADDED April 01, 2010:
Got message from the repair center that – I’m not fooling you – as an alternative to the much more expensive repair, they can ship the camera off to the factory of Sony Japan (!), where it is somehow possible to flash the firmware (don’t ask me why there’s no way this can be done here). I won’t have the camera for ANOTHER 3-4 weeks :-( but it costs ‘only’ around €350! So I went down that route. I think there is just no way at this point that Sony will do it at their own cost (including loaning me a cam). I’ll keep you posted.

Until I get it back, I will continue to rely on rented cameras and try to use my 550D more for professional productions. Sounds interesting, but in practice it’s hard to do I think, for many jobs …

ADDED March 29, 2010:
Just got word from the repair center that the repair will set me back exactly €1.752,50 / $2.362. WHAT. THE. F***. The entire DPR board needs to be replaced. Whatever that is.

I’m very sorry, but today I have to offer you a RANT – I need to get this off my chest and you are the ones I have to share my frustration with.

Let me sum this up as briefly as I can:

One week ago, Sony surprisingly released firmware updates for their EX line of camcorders and video decks. I was stupid enough to jump on it immediately to get the upgrade for my $8.500 EX3, and very carefully went through every step of the upgrade process exactly as described.

It went fine until the end, when the upgrade tool crashed and my EX3 wasn’t recognized by the computer anymore – after running out of options, I tried to reboot the camera and it has remained dead ever since.

I was happy to have the premium 2-year Sony PrimeSupport with my camera, but they immediately told me that they are not liable for any defects resulting from use of the upgrade. It obviously doesn’t matter at all if Sony failed miserably at programming a tool that works for everyone.

Well then, who’s liable? For the first time ever, they supplied a firmware upgrade tool to the end customer in order to save money for their service centers, which had to service all the cameras in the past once a firmware upgrade was released.

Sony PMW-EX3 - an amazing camera, minus the support?

I was desperate and went to a professional service center specialized on Sony Broadcast products. They were very helpful and agreed that Sony should cover for it if it’s their fault. They have my camera now and have been trying to find out for almost a week now what exactly the problem is. They even escalated the problem to Sony Japan to narrow it down.

I only feel that this will get very expensive (a hardware circuit board might have to be replaced), but I feel I can only be blamed for being naïve and trusting Sony when they release a firmware upgrade.

I am already losing money on a daily basis here, as the EX3 is my main camera and I have to rent replacement every time I can’t use it.

So please be very careful when you update your EX1 or EX3. If you share my frustration, write to PrimeSupport@eu.sony.com and let them know what you think of this very unacceptable policy. Make yourself heard!

If you are interested, after the jump you can find the entire detailed email I wrote to Sony PrimeSupport before being advised once again that basically everything is your own fault with regards to firmware updates because their EULA says so.

I’ll keep y’all posted on further developments.

EDIT:
Forgot to mention that others have the problem too:
http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/142/870022

Not too many have yet made the upgrade, so the number of failures is very likely to increase once more people try to do it!


Vienna, March 12, 2010


Dear Sony PrimeSupport,


I’ve been a satisfied Sony Pro client for quite some time now, and I was especially very happy with everything you had to offer with the XDCAM EX line of camcorders.

After carefully considering all the options, I jumped aboard the XDCAM EX train enthusiastically over a year ago. I bought an EX3 for €8.500 and haven’t regretted that choice ever since, despite the fact that this is a huge amount of money for a young film producer / cameraman like me. It has enabled me to deliver quality that was just unthinkable only a few years ago.

Influencing in my decision was also the fact that Sony seemed to include a very comprehensive support programme with PrimeSupport. I got 2 years of PrimeSupport with the purchase of my camera.

However, my positive impression with Sony and its service has worsened significantly in the recent days.

But let me start at the beginning:

In order to save costs for the rather expensive SxS media, I have been using SDHC cards as a cheaper supplement / alternative to the SxS cards since I purchased the camera.

For that very reason I was very excited after I heard that Sony released a firmware upgrade to the EX line this past Monday (March 8, 2010) that enables Sony’s very own SDHC card adapter to work, and supposedly even allows the cameras to record overcranked (higher frame rate) footage to be recorded on some SDHC cards. This was really big news for me, because I was always forced to use my two 8GB SxS cards for these recordings.

I discovered the upgrade just hours after it was made available, and read a few forum posts on the matter that sounded rather good. Some people reported of strange behaviour of the upgrade software (e.g. being forced to reboot the camera midway of the upgrading progress, or sometimes the process was interrupted and they had to try again), but in the end it worked out for all these people.

Naïve as I am, I decided to go along and do the upgrade. I even decided to read all the Sony small print (license agreement etc.), that clearly states:

“CAUTION : This s/w should only be installed by using the installation instructions supplied with the s/w. Failure to follow the instructions may result in damage to the unit. Do NOT switch off the power or disconnect the USB cable during installation.”

(EDIT: I was only later made aware of the fact that Sony’s EULA that comes with the upgrade tool quite clearly states that they, basically, don’t care about what happens with your camera if you let it get bricked by their tool).

(I did all that, I only re-booted the camera when I was asked to during the installation and after the installation was 100% completed – but more on that later.)

I was aware of that and I understood all that, so I moved along.

I downloaded the package, carefully read the instructions twice in order to be sure I do everything right. I am 100% aware of the fact that firmware upgrades are a serious matter that can harm the hardware if done wrong. So I needed to be absolutely sure of what I was doing. After I was confident that I understood everything in this description, I started the upgrade tool.

I use a Mac, and after double-clicking the Mac version of the tool, nothing happened. I tried several times, but the tool just didn’t launch. At this point, I got a suspicious feeling for a second, but dismissed it immediately. Sony wouldn’t release a firmware upgrade tool if it wasn’t 100% safe, I thought to myself. I thought something in my system configuration was faulty. (It wasn’t – I later read a forum thread where lots of other people reported of the same problem on Macs). I should have listened to my feeling and stopped right there.

But I decided to use the Windows version of the upgrade tool. I installed it in Windows. No other programme was running at the same time, the system configuration was perfect for the installation.

It worked, and I plugged the camera in via USB and it was recognised by the programme. Step by step I followed the instructions that I had so carefully read twice. Everything worked fine – at around 50% of the installation, I was asked to reboot the camera, which I did. The rest of the firmware was installed without any problems.

In the end, I had to click on “Exit” to finish the installation. I did just so – and the tool immediately quit or crashed. I wondered, because the camera was still in update mode. I was not entirely sure if this was the normal way for the software to quit or not. The instructions didn’t help me either, because this was the last step of the process anyway. The strange thing was that the camera still had its red light on.

So I did what everybody would have done: I restarted the tool. It launched, but the camera was not recognized. I quit and tried again. And again. Nothing. The computer did not recognize it at all.

I unplugged the camera and plugged it in the USB port of the computer again. Nothing. I tried other USB ports, restarted the tool and even the computer: still nothing.

I read the troubleshooting pages in the update tool manual, but nothing like this was mentioned. So at this point I thought that this might be just normal behaviour of the camera and I’m just overcautious. I thought it was required to reboot the camera, that means effectively switching it off and on again (just like I was asked in the middle of the process). The process was done after all, the firmware upgrade tool has finished its process – so it seemed.

So I did just that. I switched my EX3 off. I switched it on again. And nothing happened. The red light went off when I switched it off, but the camera didn’t boot when I switched it on again.

I was a bit desperate and tried calling the Sony PrimeSupport hotline for Austria. I only got an automatic response message saying, “This number cannot be called from your connection.”

I was confused and called Sony Austria. I was told the hotline works just fine. I called my mobile phone provider to ask why I wasn’t able to call the PrimeSupport number, and after one and a half hour of being re-connected I finally was told that the Sony PrimeSupport hotline can obviously only be called from landlines! Which is kind of a problem as in Austria most people (like me) just don’t have a landline any more because nobody really needs it anyway (and mobile phone rates are cheaper). I was told this was the decision of the hotline provider (Sony). Why would this hotline (operated at local rates) only be reachable via landline anyway??

So my girlfriend called the hotline from work and explained the problem briefly. Of course she is no expert on the subject and therefore she asked the woman at the PrimeSupport helpdesk to call me back on my mobile phone. She declined and immediately stated that the warranty was not valid with regards to firmware upgrades. Quite clearly though, the license agreement only states that the warranty is only not applicable if one doesn’t completely follow the firmware update instructions. But I did follow it 100%, but in the end the update tool just failed to exit the camera out of its firmware upgrade mode!!

So how come PrimeSupport won’t cover for this?? Quite clearly, I obviously can expect the software work the way it should, and if it doesn’t due to bad programming on Sony’s part, it is clearly not my fault!

Nobody would blame the customer if for example somebody buys a standard PC and installs Windows 7, and then the computer totally breaks down due to a bad installation routine!

I paid good money for my PrimeSupport warranty when I bought this camera, and all I get now is a brash rejection for something that is quite clearly Sony’s fault.

It was already shown by the failure of the Mac version of the upgrade tool (that obiously doesn’t work for many other users too) that quite clearly this tool is not ready for market. So Sony cannot blame the client if it corrupts the camera even if he does everything 100% in the exact way as explained in the instructions.

This is really unfair behaviour and it seems to me that Sony is just trying to give the burden and all the risk of these upgrades over to the end customers, in order to save some money, because no Sony Service Center has to do the update for them (as it used to be in the past).

Of course I was very desperate after I heard how Sony PrimeSupport reacted, so I called up a professional service center in Vienna that used to be part of Sony (AVMS), they really know their stuff. I talked to the head of broadcast repairs there, and he immediately said that this absolutely has to be something that must be covered by Sony and nobody else. He said there is just no way they can place the burden entirely upon the customer if their software fails.

I need my camera for a job next week, so I brought it there, because I didn’t know what else to do. He took a look at it and couldn’t find a quick solution to revive it. So the software might have destroyed something major … that has yet to be found out. An entire circuit board may have to be replaced.

I brought a copy of my PrimeSupport contract to AVMS with the camera, and they obviously contacted Sony and asked about the warranty in this case. Sony PrimeSupport called me up the following day and asked me “what is wrong with your EX3?”

I told the woman exactly what happened – but it seemed to me she just wanted to hear it from myself (after only having talked to my girlfriend and an AVMS employee), in order to deny any liability from Sony’s side immediately when hearing the codeword “firmware upgrade”.

So I am really, really disappointed with Sony in how this is handled. I hope we can find a satisfactory solution for this.

I am not willing to pay for something that was clearly not my fault at all. I even lose jobs in the time I don’t have this camera, and/or have to rent an expensive replacement.

I write a regular broadcast technology blog at www.ninofilm.net/blog/. The blog currently has around 2.000-3.000 unique visitors a day (trend going upward), many of them Sony customers as well. I think they might find this bluntness of Sony PrimeSupport very interesting as well. Therefore I am currently considering of making this strange policy by Sony public on the blog and on all associated broadcast forums.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Best regards,

Nino Leitner

Comments

  1. Mike Berry

    Wow. That is one of the reasons I’m very hesitant to buy any Sony products.

  2. I’m facing the same problem, after the upgrade the EX1 isn’t booting anymore. I’m sure that I’ve followed exactly the steps described in the manual supplied with the download.
    It seems, that Sonys MAC-version of the upgradetool is broken. Do you remember the problems with the XDCAM Transfer-Software on Snow Leopard? It took Sony very long the bring out a stable release. For me one thing is clear: stay away from Sony if you’re a MAC user. They let the customers pay for their faulty software.

  3. Asha Paramānanda

    i’m sorry my english is not so good … but i had almost same problem with my EX1 – the firmware tool crashed when updating, about 85% done, and now i’m sitting here with broken camcorder and don’t know what to do – i can’t even contact Sony because my warranty is over (don’t have Prime Support).

    do you know where can i get it repaired?

    i’m in delhi, india.

    • Hi Asha, I just emailed you – This really seems to be a serial problem!!

    • what is problume in your ex1 tell me mybe i can helpe you plz send me email at munirgull@yahoo.com

  4. Chris Moore

    Man, I hate that for you. I’ve always used Canon but the ex3 is an amazing piece of kit. I have many times wondered if I shouldn’t buy one eventually but this changes my mind. I never guessed Sony customer support would be so bad. Good luck on getting your camera fixed. Can you use your 550d as a bandaid in the mean time?

    • Only partly. Most of the upcoming jobs are just things like conference recordings, where good sound quality and long focal lengths are essential. Also, I need to shoot for long periods without stopping, which is impossible with the 550D due to the 12-minute limit and overheating issues.

      • andy

        Overheating issues. I’m about to buy the 2ti and have not heard of these issues. Thanks for all the prior info but what’s this all about?
        Andy

      • When you shoot for a while on DSLRs, a sign will pop up on the screen telling you that the sensor is overheated. You then have to pause recording for some minutes to let it cool down. I know it’s tiresome, but that’s how it is … I heard that the T2i has it more than the others, but people have told me it’s a problem with the 5Dmk2 too …

  5. You know what you need to do, is demand to talk to the higher ups and get their phone numbers, and when they don’t fix it… ask THEIR bosses… then go to corporate. Sony needs to fix this. I had this kind of an issue with Apple a couple years ago, and refused to bite my tongue and deal with it myself. Just push and push and you will eventually find someone in the company that will comp you a repair. BECAUSE THEY SHOULD!

    good luck man.

    • Tried to get the contact of the higher ups. Sony PrimeSupport only replied that “our file is now closed.”

      • Apple said that to me once. You just say “Well re-open it then, or create a new case. I’d like to speak to a senior adviser please”.

        Or threaten them with legal action, they’d really love that (Sarcasm intended)

  6. Benjamin Cabral

    Woow! I have an EX1 and I`m thinking not to do the firmware update. I think that sony know that`s a high-risk update may fail and therefore in the software contract disclaim responsibility.

  7. Well unfortunately, that’s Sony for you :/

    I purchased a consumer camera a few years back, and I believe the exact same thing happened to me back when I Was using Windows XP. The camera got totalled, and Sony said it’s not their fault. What the hell? I’m sure there’s some legal clause due to them being the ones whom released this update, THEY are responsible for the damage.

    Granted, it wasn’t an 8.500€ Camera, and I really feel for you right now because of that. But it’s the principle that still counts on the subject.

    Sony are in one word: thieves. They should’ve been locked up and shut down years ago.

    I wish you all the best of luck.

    Joel

    P.S. I’m glad I held off on buying a Sony TV recently after hearing this! (Especially as I’m getting a 3D LED Samsung when they’re released :D)

    • I don’t want to demonize Sony as a company, because they really make amazing products, especially for professionals. I have to point out that they really came up with several innovations such as the XDCAM EX line after years of stagnation in the entry-level video market (I never took HDV seriously). But their customer service is ridiculous and their warranty paperwork is full of empty promises. That needs to change.
      They will find it more and more difficult to hold up that kind of attitude when a new breed of companies such as RED or Zacuto (just popped into my mind) are all about listening to the customers and doing everything they can to keep them happy.

      • Don’t forget Apple ^^ My iPhone 3G has had to be repaired/replaced 4 times so far, as a goodwill gesture they’re upgrading me to the 16GB 3GS. Now this is how customer service should be with everyone. No Quibble, no fuss, no muss.

        Unfortunately, that’ll never be true.

  8. Ken Wilmington

    Unbelievable! The same happened to me – program crashed after updating, the cam (EX3) didn’t exit and wouldn’t reboot or be recognized by the computer after that.

    Sony says it’s my fault but I did everything according to the book! Quite desperate now, though happy I found your blog … what to do next??? Did you hear back from them??

    • Ken, I just emailed you! We have to let them know.

    • Have you received a cost estimate too, Ken? Do you have PrimeSupport (won’t help you, just wondering)?

  9. Marcel

    I have known this about sony for a a while now especially with their laptops.
    You need to make a petition with other EX3 users whether they had had issues or not. Go to dvinfo.net and collect signatures from other EX3 users cause this is unacceptable.

  10. cseeman

    Nino, please tell us what you’re doing at this point. Are you getting the camera repaired and for what price?
    This fight could go on for months and the loss of income can be sever I imagine. I’d pay for the repair and then fight the bill.

    I contacted Sony USA regarding the firmware upgrade. I have an EX1. They asked me what firmware I have currently. I have 1.11. They told me to bring in the camera. That that version and below is a risk.

    They said the firmware upgrade would be $135(US) and 5-8 business day turnaround.

    Apparently they aren’t making that option clear to the public though.

    • I’m still waiting for a solution. My camera is still at the repair center and I’ve been told earlier this week that Sony Japan is now looking into the problem. More I don’t know. I think they are still trying to find an “easy” solution to repair the camera (maybe firmware flashing), but I guess it probably will involve more, therefore it takes so long.

      I’ve been told that the firmware update might have killed the CPU of the camera – then the repair will be cost-intensive and the whole logic board has to be replaced. I haven’t received any information on how expensive it will be. I asked the repair center if they finally acknowledge the problem now and pay for the repair, or not. They replied that this is still being discussed at Sony and they don’t seem to be sure.

      Thanks for the info on pricing for doing the firmware upgrade by Sony themselves. I personally think this is ridiculous. These upgrades should absolutely be free at least while you still have warranty coverage with PrimeSupport. It’s quite obvious what they did with the firmware upgrade tool: They outsourced the entire risk to the customer and wanted to cut cost by publishing a tool that quite obviously isn’t fit for market. These firmware upgrades used to be done for free by Sony in the past!!

    • Got a cost estimate: €1.752,50 … no idea what I will do

  11. I’ve just got Sony cost estimate: 2.082 EUR. Yes you can believe your eyes. Sony really want’s over 2.000 EUR for a problem that they caused.

  12. Neill Wood

    I was wondering if this unfortunate issue has been resolved. I have two EX3’s for research students to use and need to upgrade the firmware to allow us teh use the 32mb SXS cards. I’m seriously considering paying our Sony Service Centre peopl to do teh job as I don’t want to risk damaging the cameras

    • Hi Neill,

      Unfortunately this issue still isn’t resolved. It’s now 15 weeks since my camera went dead, I keep renting alternatives and it costs me a fortune. Last week I received an email reply from the service center (which is specialized in Sony professional products, but not part of Sony) saying that they have invested more than three working days in repairing the camera, exchanging two logic boards – with still no positive results. I keep hoping.

      If a Sony Service Centre does it, they should be the ones responsible for it if anything goes wrong, I think you are safe – but please check with them first.

      Nino

  13. Robert Clegg

    Add me to the list – upgraded EX3 to 1.10 and software reported unexpected error – rerun software. Camera will not boot now – have rerun software as requested and everything gets to same stage and fails with unexpected error.

    Camera is now with Sony Authorised repairer and they get same results.

    Prime Support tow the company line with EULA says its your problem if something goes wrong and only fix is new main board which is quite at £1,750. In battle with Prime Support now but don’t expect to get anywhere fast – however I am going to carry on until I get some satisfaction.

    Is there any updates on this thread Nino – what did you do in the end?

    • Sh*t, that’s really EXACTLY what happened to me too. Yes, there is an update: after exactly 6 months, I received my EX3 two weeks ago – and it works now. I’ll write you via email about it, we have to talk.

      • Robert Clegg

        No Problem at all – tweet me or reply here when you have sent as your first mail might get stuck in my spam!!

    • Robert Clegg

      Just received EX3 back – complete New Board Fitted. Insurance paid for it and Camera hire in the month it was waiting for board to arrive.

      Nearly £2000 of work. Now on v1.15 of software..

      When I argued the case with Sony they replied a few times saying samething over that its not their problem then replied one last time: Not our problem, Case Closed..

      Won’t be buying Sony again in a hurry!

      • Just like my experience! Glad you had insurance, I didn’t – well, except for Sony “Prime Support” which SHOULD cover all of that …

  14. Tom

    I have successfully upgraded five different EX3 cameras with no problems.

    On April 27, 2010 I upgraded four cameras from firmware 1.04 to firmware 1.10 with no problems.

    On January 03, 2011 I upgraded the same four EX3 cameras from firmware 1.10 to firmware 1.15 with no problems.

    On September 09, 2011 I upgraded a different EX3 camera from firmware 1.15 to firmware 1.17 with no problems.

    The upgrades were all done on a PC. I made sure no other programs were running. I made sure the upgrade tool was located on my C:/ drive and not on some external hard drive or thumb drive.

    Maybe you had a computer glitch.

    • Then you are a lucky guy! Five people who had the same problems like me emailed me already.

      • Amirul Arham

        Hi Nino,

        Would you please advice me what should I do ? I’m very upset since last week as my camera XDCAM EX3 is not functionning anymore. It gives picture but not sound at all. The technician said that this is due to the malfucntion of the mother carte (DPS). This is incredible to know it. This is a new camera and I did use it a very little. I paid it 8750 Euros.I just crossed the gurantee date a month before after two years of my purchasing. I knew it it will take about 1837.06 Euros HT to change the master card and moreover, I have to wait up to February to repair it. I have my project to filming this moment. I’m looking desparately for finding the solution.
        Thanks for your advice.
        Amirul Arham

        • Hey Amirul,

          I am very sorry to hear of your troubles, unfortunately nothing I can do about it. Sony seems very difficult to deal with regarding such matters and the Prime Support requests are handled very strictly … Have you tried going to your vendor and talking to him? They are often easier to deal with. The same is true for local repair centers that know how to repair Sony Pro products (and are certified by Sony).

          Nino

  15. i am a technnion Would you please advice me what should I do ? I’m very upset since last week as my camera XDCAM EX3 is not functionning anymore. It gives picture only xdcam after 1 mint restart have fault in main board i check all board plese helpe me about this

  16. Hey to all,
    I know it is an old thread but as an EX3 owner, I was wondering if the firmware upgrade issue been resolved since.

    This is very strange because firmware 1.30 is available via Sony UK. (MAC/PC)
    I live in Canada and 1.30 is only available for PC. Sony USA is still with the 1.15 version.

    What is your firmware version and did you upgrade with a MAC?
    Luc

    • Yes I upgraded with Mac. Don’t remember what firmware version it was though.

      • arno

        Hi, same problem as Nino, I tried to upgrade 1.30 with my MAC and now camera is out of service. Have you find solution without sony support ?
        Arno

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