Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Panasonic ZS3 / TZ7 Firmware Downgrade from 1.2 to 1.1

My ZS3 is approaching 6 months old now, and I’ve managed to shoot some really nice HD video with it. This I do for fun, and I like to be able to record fairly long concerts, as I did at the Postdata concert at the Black Sheep Inn last month.

With that concert, I had to switch to the F70EXR because I ran out of battery for the ZS3. I do have a second battery for the ZS3, but it is a 3rd party battery and the ZS3 refuses to run with it installed. This turns out to be the result of me getting the ZS3 with firmware version 1.2 pre-installed.

The difference between version 1.2 and the previous 1.1 is exactly one thing: a battery check to disallow 3rd party batteries.

Yes, you read that right. Panasonic, in their infinite non-wisdom, released a firmware update whose sole purpose is to force all users to buy their expensive additional batteries.

It gets worse. Panasonic have had chronic shortages at times for their batteries. They do allow you to use authorized 3rd party batteries, but as of today there are *no* authorized 3rd party batteries. I shit you not :-)

Here is their caution for this new firmware version:

[ Warning ]
For our customers safety, after this firmware update your Panasonic Digital Camera cannot be operated by unauthorized 3rd party batteries.
(Currently there is no authorized 3rd party battery available in the market.)

Yes, they post that in red, and yes, they claim that this is a customer safety issue. And yes, they freely admit that, a very long time after they released this new firmware they still force you to buy their batteries :-)

I must agree that customers who are broke from being forced to buy expensive after-market accessories are safer because they cannot afford to go anywhere, so maybe they have something there.

Who am I kidding … this is a cash-grab and nothing more. Shame on you Panasonic.

So here is how you fix it.

Big disclaimer here: I accept *no* responsibility for problems you may encounter. Specifically, I accept no responsibility if you (a) screw up your update and thus “brick” your camera, (b) start a fire or damage your camera with a 3rd party battery, (c) void your warranty or (d) suffer any other potential consequence as a result of following this advice. This procedure is for *experts* who are willing to accept all risks. Seriously.

I created this article simply to help you quickly find everything you need in one place without sleazy adverts and scary driver download sites. More importantly, I figured out why some people get this to work and some do not. The trick is to clean out the folders on the SD card, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Stage 1: Find that firmware file.

The official ZS3 / TZ7 firmware file is called TZ7__110.bin and comes packaged that way or in a self-extracting zip file called ZS3_V11.exe or TZ7_V11.exe … and there is no difference between the latter two.

You can find the zip file and the bin file here: http://twills.fatcow.com/Share/ZS3/

Update: The above link is now broken. I managed to find a copy of the file on another site and scanned the EXE with Microsoft Security Essentials. It is Virus free and I believe that it is the right size. But I cannot verify that it works. Someone else will have to do that and report back. Use the “save link as …” context menu after right clicking this link.

Because I cannot test this version of the file, I cannot warrant against it being a fraud. Unlikely, but not impossible.

ZS3 / TZ7 Firmware Version 1.1 (works with 3rd party batteries)

Stage 2: Prepare the SD card.

Format the card *in the camera* … then load it into a card reader and open it as a disk on your desktop. There will be the usual folders in there.


Delete them and drag the TZ7__110.bin file from your download folder onto the SD card.

*Note* … if you are lost at this point, please have someone help you. DO NOT PROCEED to try to update your firmware as the risk of destruction of the camera is pretty high.

Once you have the card updated with only the bin file on it, you may remove it from the card reader and put it back into the camera.

Stage 3:

Warning: Proceed only with a *full* battery. Charge it before doing this if it shows anything but full. I’m not kidding here.

With the card in the camera, set the record / playback switch (top right corner of the back of the camera) to playback. Then switch the camera on. It will pause for a moment and then offer to up version the firmware for you.

Select “yes” and press ok (middle button of the 4-way switch at the bottom right of the back.)

Don’t touch anything until it is done!!!

And that’s it. Mine went perfectly smoothly. If yours does not, I am sorry. You may need to take it in to Panasonic. If it is a brick, they may refuse to do anything. Those are the risks if you are not an *expert* … so please heed my warnings above. I take no responsibility whatsoever for your mistakes.

And yes, after all that my 3rd party battery works perfectly fine :-)

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