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Hacking Canon Point-and-Shoot Cameras 242

Posted by kdawson
from the now-don't-brick-it dept.
Pig Hogger writes "If you're stuck with a cheap Canon point-and-shoot camera and have feature envy over the neighbor's sophisticated latest model, fret not! According to this LifeHacker article, the CHDK project allows nearly complete programmatic control of cheap Canon point-and-shoot cameras, enabling users to add features, up to and including games and BASIC scripting."
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Hacking Canon Point-and-Shoot Cameras

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  • by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @05:09PM (#23317278)
    Canon hacking has hit mainstream, it seems... with extra visibility I'm sure the higher ups in the company will soon know about them (no doubt the engineers already knew about the project). I LOVE my Canon cameras, so, I really hope Canon doesn't pull an Apple or a Creative and start intentionally guarding against firmware hacks because then my future purchases will have to go elsewhere.

    Sidenote: I had an old A80 camera that's maybe 6 years old stopped taking pictures. Turns out there was an old technical bulletin about it in their KB and that Canon was offering free repairs to any affected unit regardless of its age. I sent it in and they did what they promised AND the turnaround was around a week.
  • Ease of use... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @05:22PM (#23317448)
    I have long been aware of CHDK, and own one of the cameras that was recently added to their "list"... the S5-IS. I got as far as downloading the file and trying to make head or tail of the 'intructions'. Not even the worst offending Microsoft 'undocumented' feature you can think of is this badly documented. There is NO step by step guide that makes you feel confident at all about loading this onto your camera. Yes there are steps - more like leaps off the edge of the Grand Canyon! Huge gaps of logic, no finale of "now go take pictures". Until its presented in a less "hacker" style I don't think I can risk screwing up my Canon warranty, thank you!
  • Re:Pointless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @05:26PM (#23317488) Homepage

    Just what everyone in the world was clamoring for: games for their camera.

    While games are a nice gimmick that gets the project attention, it looks like there are real features here. Me, after I lost my old Powershot I bought in 2004, I got a new Powershot A550 [amazon.com]. I was unhappy, however, to see that it had even less features than the old Powershot. Instead of trickling whizbang features down into cheaper cameras over time, Canon has been getting rid of them altogether. Now, one missing feature is hardware, the swivel viewfinder, and I can't do anything to remedy that. Similarly, I cannot use the camera as a webcam with a few hacks like I could the old one. However, this open firmware project will restore my precious RAW capabilities. It will also give me longer exposure times that I've long craved.

  • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @05:27PM (#23317496) Homepage
    If it's anything like the 300D versus the 350D, they'll notice that people are hacking features back into the camera, and enable them by default on the newer model.

    (Is there any alternative firmware for the 350D onwards, or have the hackers simply not bothered?)
  • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @05:35PM (#23317614) Homepage
    Many older Canon cameras run VxWorks, apparently - and only recently have they moved on to something entirely of Canon's own devising...

  • Re:Not really (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PFAK (524350) * on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @05:59PM (#23317896)
    Taking RAW images with my camera was akin to storing 1 MB JPEG image into 3 MB RAW format.

    Uh, How about the fact that there are no JPEG compression artifacts on a RAW image?
  • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @06:01PM (#23317914) Homepage

    I could be totally wrong here, but I was under the impression that digital cameras don't even have a shutter.

    I don't actually know about point-and-shoots (I assume they don't have conventional shutters, what with all the live-preview stuff) - but digital SLRs most definitely do.

    Actually, the best way to imagine a dSLR is as a film SLR, but with an image sensor taking the place of the film. The half-silvered, hinged mirror is still there for the viewfinder, as is the autofocus and metering gubbins arranged beneath it - on older dSLRs, the image sensor only gets to play when the mirror hinges up, blocking light from getting in through the viewfinder, and the shutter opens.

    (Ever wondered what that funny rubber rectangle is on the camera strap? It's for putting over the viewfinder when you're about to take a long exposure - light getting in can confuse the metering system that's in front of the shutter...)

  • Re:Ease of use... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @06:30PM (#23318214)
    Even with the clearer guide from lifehacker, this still leaves a few issues open:
    (i) its a HACK and if Canon smell it, bang goes thy warranty;
    (ii) CHDK are from/in Russia - genius programmers, but nationally a poor track record on the TRUST aspect.


    The first one is addressed right here [wikia.com] on the site. And sorry, but I can't help you with your xenophobia.

    I've used CHDK on my A710IS for about six months with zero problems. As many others have mentioned, it's incredibly easy to disable it, but the features that it adds are very handy.
  • CHDK saved the day (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cjsnell (5825) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @07:49PM (#23318924) Journal
    I discovered CHDK while trying to find a remote trigger solution for my high altitude balloon project [nw5w.com]. After destroying three digital cameras trying to make a remote shutter, I discovered CHDK and it's UBASIC [wikia.com] capabilities. I used a hacked-up USB cable [setepontos.com] and a simple UBASIC script to trigger the shutter from my Arduino [arduino.cc].

    Cool stuff. The HDR and RAW capabilities are incredible, for a $200 camera.
  • Re:Pointless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated AT ema DOT il> on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @08:23PM (#23319154) Journal

    To add to all of the information above, the purpose of a point-and-shoot is to make acceptable pictures that cover most common lighting situations. This means that a lot of JPEG compression/on-board editing has to be done to make that happen. For these kinds of cameras, the RAW exports are going to be much worse than that of an SLR because of the size of these sensors (those on SLR cameras are several millimeters larger). However, this is correctable on Adobe Camera RAW or similar software.

  • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated AT ema DOT il> on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @08:31PM (#23319194) Journal

    I own and frequently use the 300D, and it's pretty obvious to any previous or current owner of this camera that this camera was Canon's experiment into consumer-priced SLRs, as it was nearly feature equivalent to the 10D (the only difference was the buffer size and 0.5 second shutter speed difference). The separation between the Rebels and the double-digit cameras has been widening ever since.

    A great example is the Canon 400D and 450D. While they do take stunning pictures and are great SLR cameras in their own right, they are by far not on the same level of operation as the 30D and 40D, respectively. The feature and hardware gap are too great to upgrade those cameras to the higher-priced ones.

    Regardless of which, I believe that Canon's offerings on the low-end have consistently been better than that of Nikon's, as their lowest end doesn't even come with a separate info screen (it's all software). On top of that, it's more expensive anyway.

  • Re:Pointless (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:02AM (#23320466)
    Neither do you, apparently.

    Avoiding the lossy compression of JPEG lets you record the image more accurately, it's true, but the problem with these small sensors is that unless you're shooting in absolutely ideal conditions, they're recording well into the noise floor already. So having RAW means you'll just have more accurately rendered noise, which means very little.

    Almost everything about this post is wrong, which makes a (Score:5 Insightful) mystifying. The 1Ds uses a 11MP, full 35mm sensor. Perhaps you are referring to the original 1D, which did have a 4MP sensor, but it was APS-H sized (1.3x crop factor from 35mm), not APS-C (1.6 crop factor from 35mm). This is still many many times larger than the sensors on these tiny digicams. So each pixel on the 4MP 1D gets many times the light that a pixel on a 12MP point and shoot gets, and so has much less noise, even though it's almost 8 years old now.

    This makes RAW data exceptionally useful on the 1D, and near useless on your garden-variety digicam.

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