It is not uncommon these days for talented individuals or collectives to write custom firmware code for cameras and other electronics. These custom firmware packages often remove limitations placed on a camera by the manufacturer, sometimes even adding new features. Unfortunately, the risk that you take when installing one of these third-party firmware packages is great, with the potential of rendering your camera useless if something goes wrong.
When it comes to the effect of these installations on warranty protections, Sony has issued an official statement, a warning really, that clears up any confusion that users may have had regarding the use of third-party firmware on Sony cameras. Simply put, installing a third-party firmware package will automatically void your Sony warranty. In other words, should you install a third-party firmware and it ruins your camera when you send it into Sony to repair they are going to charge you for it — and that is if they can even repair it.
In the statement released by Sony Japan, the company notes that it has recently been made aware of a software suite making rounds throughout various internet forums that gave users the ability to install or change the firmware of their Sony cameras. The company did not mention any specific third-party firmware packages, nor any specific camera models, but just offered the blanket statement that using third-party firmware will void the warranty.
Other companies have less strict policies in regard to third-party firmware. Canon has been famously lenient with Magic Lantern, a popular firmware hack for Canon DSLR cameras that expands their video features and removed limitations, like the video recording limit. But Sony isn’t the only company to take a hard stance against third-party firmware, and it’s not a stretch to see why.
A warranty, in general, is meant to cover the user in case of a fault or issue with the camera as it came from the manufacturer. Clearly a third-party firmware rendering a camera useless is not an issue or faulty caused by an error in manufacturing or design, and as such it makes sense that Sony wouldn’t want to cover it.
So just be warned that if you shoot with a Sony camera and feel the urge to try out that new third-party firmware you see floating around — unless you want to pay for any repairs on your camera out of pocket, resist and stick with the stock Sony-developed firmware.