PetaPixel

Will Custom Firmware Void My Warranty? Canon, Nikon and Panasonic Respond

Warranty

Installing custom firmware on your DSLR is becoming more and more standard. Like jailbreaking an iPhone, the new firmware often offers much more customization and features you couldn’t otherwise have. Magic Lantern in particular has been on a rampage lately, unlocking RAW video in cameras as cheap as $500.

But before you jump on the bandwagon and install Magic Lantern on your Canon or Nikon Hacker on your Nikon, it would probably be a good idea to get in touch with those companies and find out if installing third party firmware voids your warranty. Thankfully, Udi over at DIY Photography did it for you.

canonwarranty2

In an attempt to answer this yet unasked but very important question, Udi sent emails to Canon, Nikon and Panasonic asking them if installing third party firmware (Magic Lantern, Nikon Hacker and Ptool, respectively) on his 5D Mark II, D7000 and GH2 would void the companies’ warranties.

Each company eventually got back to him, though some took more prodding than others, and it looks like Canon owners are the only ones who are in the clear. Here’s a snippet of the email he received from Canon:

There is no such thing as “voiding” the Canon warranty, there are simply repairs that are covered, and those that are not.

For instance, the repairs for a failure of the buttons on the back of the camera within the warranty period, on a camera that does not show any evidence of mishandling or misuse, would likely be covered. Repairs for a camera that is “bricked” or otherwise having issues directly related to using a third party firmware would not be covered.

Even if a camera had to have the main board replaced due to it being “bricked” by a third party firmware, and then at some point later (but still within the warranty period) the buttons malfunctioned, the same rules still apply.

nikonwarranty

So damage caused by Magic Lantern wouldn’t be covered, but any covered damage, whether or not you’ve ever installed ML before, will still be taken care of pro bono during the warranty period. Nikon and Panasonic owners, however, aren’t as lucky.

Here’s Nikon’s response:

Thank you for contacting Nikon, I’ll be more than glad to assist you. Using a firmware version from an unknown source will void your warranty.

And Panasonic’s:

Yes, if you do proceed to use this option your warranty will be voided. We hope this information is helpful to you. Thank you for contacting Panasonic.

There are many reasons why a company might choose to void your warranty if you use a third party’s firmware, but Canon’s policy still seems to make the most sense. If you run into a manufacturer defect, it seems right that the manufacturer cover the repairs, even if you chose to use third party firmware on their camera.

panasonicwarranty

That’s just our take though, what do you think? And does knowing that your Nikon and Panasonic warranty goes away if and when you install custom firmware make you any less likely to use it? Let us know in the comments.

Dear Canon/Nikon/Panasonic Can I Use Custom Firmware With My Camera? [DIY Photography via Canon Rumors]


Image credit: Warranty by Sweetsop


 
 
  • Paul S

    I made the right choice going with Canon.

  • Renato Murakami

    Canon is probably well prepared on replying something like this as Magic Lantern seems to be one of the most widespread custom firmwares out there.
    Nice to know about it though…

  • D4

    What is the chances of bricking a canon? i have a MKii and would love ML on it but scared itll brick, damage or functions play up.

    Cheers

  • Fuzztographer

    Canon has the right response on this: determine actual fault of the failure to use as the basis of liability. Nikon’s response is unsurprisingly customer-antagonistic, using software modifications as a cop-out to avoid liability on entirely unrelated hardware failure. That kind of thing should be illegal.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    It’s a reasonable move. They have nothing to gain in alienating some of their most dedicated users.

    Granted, my camera does occasionally behave in unexpected ways when I play with the settings too much, but it’s nothing permanent. Taking out the batteries addresses most of these, and the most extreme case required switching SD cards. No point in voiding the warranty if it obviously has nothing to do with the modifications.

  • Mansgame

    Given that Nikon doesn’t have any 3rd party firmwares, this is not something they need to worry about, but I think Canon made the perfect response.

  • http://shashinkaichiban1.wordpress.com/ 写真家

    I wonder how many actual warranty claims Canon has had so far involving ML cameras bricking. Also, I would have to question, would Canon’s polices change if they find themselves with a large portion of bricked cameras coming in for warranty claims. I no longer used Canon, or Nikon gear, so my opinion is not fan boy based, so it does leave me to wonder how the makers will act down the road when it starts to make impacts, regardless of how small bottom line is.

  • Simeon Pilgrim

    The only problem is there is 3rd party firmware, thus why Udi asked the questions.

  • Laurent Laborde

    Well… the buttons are probably the only thing thay can’t be damaged by a firmware “gone wild”. What about the screen ? mirror ? sensor ? I’m pretty sure they aren’t covered by the warranty if your firmware isn’t official.

  • Gord

    The Nikon hacker stuff currently works for very few models. So while they do have third party stuff, it’s use is rather… small.

  • Jack Jackson

    Magic Lantern does not install over or replace the original fw, simply remove the cf/sd card that is running ML and the camera is back to normal

  • darylcheshire

    How do you brick a Canon with ML? My understanding is that it’s software loaded from the flash card.
    There may be an issue in setting it to boot or disabling ML.
    I think the brick warning on the ML website is just a disclaimer to cover all possibilities.
    I don’t know about Nikon or Panasonic, Nikon says you can’t use firmware from an unknown source, but what if you used software like ML and don’t touch the firmware?
    In my case I installed ML on my Canon 5D mk II but I did not install it on my mk III.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ger.alvarez.7 Juan Alvarez

    doesn’t matter for latinamerican user’s… we don’t have warranty never

  • Laurent Laborde

    from the FAQ :

    Is it safe?

    No. Magic Lantern was created by reverse engineering an undocumented system that controls hardware. Therefore, we can’t be certain that it’s 100% safe.

  • Karl-Olav Nyberg

    I would like to know the actual question that Udi asked. I think the response from Canon is best, but I see no way that Nikon or Panasonic can get away with a production error in their cameraes, whatever is done with the firmware.

    KON (Nikon D300s owner)

  • Teun

    These are answers for a theoretical problem. It is often not the companies themselves who decide wheter or not a certain error falls within the boundaries of the warranty, but it usually are the repair centra, which are different in eacht (set of) country(ies). So theoretically you don’t get any warranty on your modified nikon or panasonic, but in practice I think you would get the same kind of warranty as described by Nikon. Usually the repair centra don’t even check what firmware has run on the camera. On telephones the same thing applies. I once send in my flashed phone for repair, and the issue it had (faulty camera) was fixed under warranty. When I got it returned, it even still had the alternative firmware on it.

  • http://dylanreeve.com/ Dylan Reeve

    In NZ we have consumer protection law that would mean that regardless of firmware you’ve loaded a manufacturer would still be obliged to repair any hardware fault that occurs within a “reasonable” time.

  • http://twitter.com/JacksterD Jack

    I’m really impressed that Canon take this approach. Custom firmware installations provide manufacturers of all sorts of devices an easy way to wriggle out of their warranty commitments and save a bit of cash in the process – good on Canon for choosing to do the right thing.

  • LDMartin1959

    “Using a firmware version from an unknown source…”

    Unknown source? Hardly. We know where it came from. The fact that Nikon may choose to stick their collective heads in the sand and claim that it is an unknown source doesn’t change the fact that it is not from an “unknown source”.

  • Simeon Pilgrim

    As one of the developers of those patches, I’m aware of limits of the patches. The point was rebutting the “Nikon doesn’t have ANY 3rd patry firwares” statement.

  • Nadia

    I got a Canon 60D specifically to run the Magic Lantern custom firmware on it. Just knowing that Canon won’t void the warranty just because I chose to install third-party firmware, as long as the camera defect is not caused by the firmware or my misuse, makes me much more likely to buy again Canon cameras in the future rather than the competing Nikon or Panasonic products. It is very important to me to be able to use custom firmware and make the camera respond to my special individual needs without this affecting the warranty. Of course I don’t expect Canon to provide support for functions provided by custom firmware, or fix problems caused by custom firmware. I also want Canon to make sure that third-party developers can easily develop custom firmware or add-ons.

  • Carsten Schlipf

    No one will dare to give you a definitive answer here ;-)

    But just Google for successful ML installations and try to find the number of users that bricked their Camera by installing ML.

    The changes that ML does to your Firmware are minimal. It just adds the ability to load additional software from SD card.

  • Carsten Schlipf

    Not 100% correct – the original firmware is modified to allow loading additional software from SD card. But the changes are kept to an absolute minimum.

  • http://www.sweetsopweb.com Shey

    Thanks for the photo credit. Very informative article

  • Benjamin Lappalainen

    It’s highly unlikely that you’ll manage to brick your camera. Hundreds of professionals and thousands of individuals are now running ML on a wide range of bodies with no issues whatsoever. As long as you go with the Stable builds, you’re running code that has been thoroughly tested and you shouldn’t be concerned about your camera at all.

  • epickett

    Saying “unknown source” means they can include any other such software that may come out in the future…

  • manateevoyager

    As I understand it the developers of magic lantern did contact Canon with a view to working together to develop ML further but got no reply

  • manateevoyager

    A typical warranty is only a year, so plenty of time once it has expired to play with 3rd party firmware. As I understand most people who have had a problem with Magic Lantern are the ones that don’t read the installation instruction and follow them to the letter.

  • flarn2006

    Actually there’s a law (in the US) saying that companies need to honor warranties when dealing with damage that could not have been caused by unsupported actions performed by the user, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. So to use Canon’s example, if someone installed CHDK or ML on their Nikon or Panasonic camera and later the buttons started physically malfunctioning, the manufacturer would be obligated to fix it. If they don’t, they’d be breaking the law.