TechTip: Aiptek A-HD 720p (V5V) camcorder firmware upgrade

This does not really fit in with the usual topics here, but I did spend an awful lot of time trying to figure this out and since there is no complete information available anywhere else on the net, I decided to share it with anyone else who might be trying to update their Aiptek A-HD 720p (V5V) camcorder. It's a great little camcorder for under $100 which can take 720p videos and 8 megapixel stills, but the original firmware version it came with (v1.201) had an autofocus problem I just had to correct:



The firmware update process is fairly straightforward - figure out what your current firmware version is, if it is 1.x - you will need to update to v2.002 first, before you are able to go to the final release v2.501. You will also need the camera's original (or any other simple mini-USB) charger so when you plug it in, it does not go into the PC-link mode and blanks out the screen.

Determining the current firmware version

To get the camera to display it's current firmware version:
  1. Turn the camera on (opening the LCD screen usually does the trick, or if it's already open - pushing the little power button by the LCD screen).
  2. Press the "Mode" button to go into the mode selection screen:


  3. Press the "Mode" button and the back button (top-right button by the LCD screen) simultaneously to open the device information screen.
  4. First line of the first screen will be your firmware version (ie. "Full: V1.200"), there will be some additional information you can scroll through, but the FW version is what interests us:


Downloading the firmware

Now that you've determined your firmware version, you can figure out which firmware you need to download and install:

Current firmware version of 1.xxx - must update to 2.002 first: v5v_v2002.zip
Current firmware version of 2.xxx - can go directly to 2.501: v5v_v2501.zip

Installing the firmware

Now, to the fun part. Download the appropriate, based on the above, file and navigate to its location on your computer, then:

1. Extract the "v5v_v####.zip" archive using your favorite program (7zip is a good free one)
2. Copy the unzipped file(s): "tcdam_v5v.bin" (and "fw.bin" if you're updating to 2.002) to the root of the SD card.
3. Plug the AC adapter into the power outlet and camera as if you were charging it (as Nick pointed out in the comments this is an optional step, if your camera is fully charged).
4. Turn on the camera with AC adapter plugged-in and then insert the SD card with the above file(s) on it.
5. Then press the "Mode" button to enter the mode selection screen.
7. Press and hold the back button (top-right button by the LCD screen) and recording trigger (on the front of the camera, under the flash) simultaneously .
8. The LCD will display "Please wait", and the LED light around the directional joystick on the back of the camera will blink blue/green for about 10 seconds:


9. When LCD shows "FW Update OK", restart the camcorder (close and re-open the LCD display):


10. The camera will go through steps 8-9 again, let it finish - once it displays "FW update OK" again, restart it by closing and reopening the LCD display. Repeat as necessary.
11. Once the upgrade is done - turning on the camcorder again will go into the usual camera viewfinder mode, instead of displaying "Please wait"; you can confirm the new version by following "Determining the current firmware version" steps above:


Obviously if you were updating from version 1.xxx to 2.002, you will need to repeat the above steps again for version 2.501. Don't forget to delete the previous firmware files from the card, the upgrade process does not do it automatically.

Some hints
  • You can copy files to the SD card by either putting it into your card reader (if you have one) or connecting the camera to your PC via a USB cable and opening the "MEDIA" drive.
  • Don't place the firmware 'bin' files into any folders on the SD card, simply copy them into the 'root' folder of the card, or it won't work.
  • If your LCD screen goes black once you plugin your camera into the charger, you may not be using its native charger - if the camera thinks it's plugged into a computer, it will turn the screen off - some 'smarter' charges can make it act that way (ie. my BlackBerry charger did so, I needed to find another 'dumb' mini-USB charger to use). Nick was able to work around this issue by doing the upgrade on an unplugged, fully charged camera, but only do so at your own risk.
  • If you have any problems updating your Aiptek A-HD 720p (V5V) camcorder using the above steps or firmware, feel free to drop me a line in the comments or try contacting Aiptek support directly at support@aiptek.com.tw

7 comments:

Nick said...

Very cool guide. Thanks!

I do have one question though - I don't seem to have a charger that's "dumb" enough to allow me to use the screen while the camera is plugged in. If I have a full battery, would that work? (I realize that if the battery dies during a firmware upgrade, I could end up with a new V5V-shaped paperweight.)

Oleksiy Gayda said...

Hey Nick, honestly, I did not try to do it without a charger plugged in (for that same "paperweight" reason you mentioned). I do suspect that the camera may simply not detect that SD card has firmware on it in step 4, if there is no power supply plugged in. If you do decide to try it - please let me know how it goes, I will add the information to the article. Thanks!

Nick said...

I made triple-sure my battery was fully charged, gave it a shot and it worked like a charm. (Note that I only had to go from 2.xxx to 2.501 - it was working okay, but I just wanted to see if I could improve it.)

Thanks again for the guide!

Anonymous said...

hello

i can to know if this firmware is for A-HD Usa version (line in working) or European version (line in not working)and the differences respect the firmware 2002?

thank you in advance

Anonymous said...

Hi! I am anxious to use your upgrade, but need to know what's up. I misplaced my SD card, bought another, and out of the package it says "memory full" when the camera button is pressed! (??) Is there a small on board memory that I need to change somehow to the SD?

Oleksiy Gayda said...

Hi. This camcorder does have a tiny internal memory in it. Unfortunately, since I no longer have mine, I don't recall if there is a way to manually switch between the two - in my case it automatically switched to the SD card, if one was present. It may be possible that the new card you bought is too large for the camcorder to recognize.

Anonymous said...

Hi ! Thank you for this very surprising article !

I dug out our old AHD 200 V5VS when I needed a remote triggered 'still' photo to document a smashed Amazon delivery.

;-(NOT ONE of our 'compact digitals' had a remote option 'out of the box', but I'm trying CHDK)

I'm just sorry there's no firmware upgrade to 'tether' the camera and use it as a PC-cam, at least for the duration of battery life, per some later models.

In fact, I've a DV-T220 coming from Amazon, and Aiptek's x64-compatible driver waiting, to do just that...