Digital cameras are generally closed platforms, built and programmed under the assumption that they would never be modified. To get more features, you pay more for different firmware, even though the guts are mostly the same. Canon didn’t batten down their hatches quite enough. The result is CHDK, a full-featured OS substitute that runs from your memory card and unlocks the tremendous unrecognised potential of most Canon A-series and SD Elphs plus several others—for free.
CHDK isn’t hacked firmware, and it doesn’t require any risky flashing or OS replacement. It’s non-destructive software that runs directly from a memory card, so it won’t affect your warranty. But you’ll still get an experience akin to an entirely new operating system. What new features will your tired old Canon gain with CHDK?
- Save images in RAW format
- Ability to run “Scripts” to automate the camera
- Live histogram
- Zebra mode (blinking highlights and shadows to show over/under exposed areas)
- An “always on” full range Battery indicator
- Ability to turn off automatic dark-frame subtraction
- A higher compression movie mode, and double the maximum video file size
- Motion Detection
- Exposure times as long as 65 seconds
- Exposure times as little as 1/10,000 of a second
- Ability to use the USB port for a remote trigger input
- A depth-of-field calculator
- File browser
- Text reader
- and others
The installation process is fairly straightforward, and about as risk-free as these kinds of things can get. You’ll need:
- A Canon digital camera from this list, with compatible firmware
- A card reader for whatever format you use (probably SD)
- A build of CHDK for your camera from this page
Once you’ve got all your stuff together, you’re ready to load CHDK up:
1. Copy the PS.fir and Diskboot.bin from your downloaded ZIP file to the root of your SD card (not in a folder)
2. Turn on your camera in “Play” Mode
3. Press “Menu”, and select the menu item “Firm Update” and confirm
For instructions for automatically booting into CHDK, check here.
Again, since this is not an actual firmware upgrade, you can just pop out the SD card and batteries should anything go awry. When you put the batteries back in and restart your camera, you’ll revert to where you started.
Installing CHDK isn’t quite like getting a new camera, but it’s a sure value-add to your trusty old one. For more information, hit up CHDK. [CHDK Wiki Home Page]
Dealzmodo Hacks are intended to help you sustain your crippling gadget addiction through tighter times. If you come across any on your own that are particularly useful, send it to our tips line (Subject: Dealzmodo Hack). Check back every Monday and Thursday for free, DIY tricks to breathe new life into hardware that you already own.