I was really interested to see how camera makers reps would respond to questions about installing custom firmware on their cameras. I approached Canon, Nikon & Panasonic customer service departments with a simple question:
I would like to use Magic Lantern/Nikon Hacker / Ptool with my 5DmkII/D7000/GH2 and was wondering if it will void my warranty.
all my best,
Both the short version, No, Yes, Yes and a longer more detailed one after the jump.
Here is the reply I got from each
Basically, to my understanding Canon said that using Magic lantern would not kill the warranty. But if the camera was to be bricked by ML, they would charge for the fix. If the damage is not ML related it would be covered. you can read the correspondence and judge for yourself.
Thank you for contacting Canon product support regarding your EOS 5D Mark II.
Canon cannot support the use of any third party firmware replacement, and if the camera is damaged by the use of such a firmware, then the repair may not be covered under the warranty. The warranty protects you from any issues due to workmanship or materials in the camera as it shipped from the factory. It does not cover damage caused by abuse, misuse or alteration.
Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance with your EOS 5D Mark II. Thank you for choosing Canon.
This was not clear enough for me so I replied
I understand that Canon is not responsible for any damage created using the ML firmware. My question is if merely using the firmware voids the warranty.
and got this mail in return
We appreciate your continued correspondence regarding your EOS 5D Mark II.
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. The prior repair would not disqualify the camera from future warranty repairs. If a problem happens within the first year of ownership, is due to the materials or workmanship in the camera, and our service center technicians determine that it is not due to abuse, misuse, modification, or other outside causes, it is covered by the warranty.
Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance with your questions about Canon cameras. Thank you for choosing Canon.
Things were way simpler with Nikon. They sent a short response back:
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.
Things were a bit weird with Panasonic. I only got a valid response after three days (and three different mails), but when they finally replied it was very clear:
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
To me it looks like Canon are giving the best answer here, they are clearly separating dealing with issues that are directly related to running custom firmware and issues that are not at all relevant to it. This kinda reinforces my earlier thoughts, that ML is actually good for Canon. TU Canon!
Both Panasonic and Nikon are very clear: running any “third party” firmware on their camera immediately voids the warranty. This is not at all trivial to me, as many camera failures can be completely unrelated to firmware, for example a cracked body or internal light leak or any one of 1,000,001 other things that may go wrong with a camera. I would be way more comfortable if Nikon and Panasonic were a bit more restrictive on voiding the warranty (or if they are, communicate about it better).
Looking into other similar industries, Apple has this on their website:
“Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks iOS. It is also important to note that unauthorized modification of iOS is a violation of the iOS end-user software license agreement and because of this, Apple may deny service for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that has installed any unauthorized software.”
Which to me reads that installing custom firmware on an iDevice kills the warranty as well.
Does It Make Sense?
As always, that depends on who you ask. I can totally see why A hardware company will refuse to treat a device with custom firmware installed. Who knows what code is being executed in there and what tricks it may run on hardware. Imagine a simple hack that simply override the shutter button. I am not really sure why anyone will put that in a firmware file, but it serves as a good example on why a company may refuse a hacked device.
On the other hand, imagine that the shutter button still does not work after reverting the firmware back to the original manufacturer file. That could indicate something is really wrong with the camera and the company should take it.
All that said, both the Nikon hacker firmware and the PTF manipulation tool should be reversible if you did not brick your camera, so I am not even sure if anyone can tell that you ran a custom firmware at all to void your warranty.
WOW, you made it to the bottom of this long and technical post, congrats :) If you ever had an experience with customer care and 3rd part firmware or just want to express your thought I would love to hear.