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Camera hacks

2606871962_e7417b8cbc_z.jpgI’ve written a couple posts recently about photography, and there are more good ones on Instructables that may show up in future articles.  This column is about CHDK, the Canon Hack Development Kit, which is an extension to the firmware built into many Canon digital cameras.

CHDK is firmware that you save to the memory card for your camera, and which is loaded when your turn on the camera, or on demand by using the firmware update option on the camera’s menu.  CHDK is strictly memory resident and does not change the built in firmware so seems fairly safe to use.  Unfortunately my digital camera, like many of the electronic gadgets I own, is way too old to be supported so I haven’t been able to experiment with it myself.  I own an A40, which I bought when my youngest son became old enough to start playing soccer, and he’s getting pretty close to driving age these days.

CHDK extends the functionality of your camera in some interesting ways.  It adds the ability to bracket, which is taking multiple photos in a row with varying settings, typically exposure, but also focus, white balance, depth of field, or other parameter that can be set.  The most suitable photo of the set can then be kept.  Bracketing with a tripod mounted camera is also used  in High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, in which photographs taken with multiple exposures are combined into a single photo that contains a higher dynamic range of brightness that a camera is physically capable of capturing.

It allows much faster shutter speeds, much longer exposures, and capturing RAW data from the sensor, various types of histograms, viewfinder grids, and customizable camera menus.

Most interestingly it allows you to write your own scripts that run on the camera.  Some scripts that have been written by users are an intervalometer,  remote shutter via USB, various custom bracketing scripts, and a script that detects motion and then takes a picture.  This script claims to be fast enough to capture lightning, and judging by the photo, it works pretty well.

And if you get bored with all of that then you can play a game of Reversi or Sokoban.

I’m going to start looking for a used Canon on Craigslist.

Steve Ravet

Design News Gadgeteer

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