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Things you never thought you could do with your camera
March 13, 2008 8:18 AM   Subscribe

One of the most amazing user-led projects out there, CHDK firmware turns cheap Canon cameras into photography powerhouses. You can take take time-lapse movies as in this stunning sunset example; automatically photograph lightening; easily make pretty HDR images and stereograms; have unlimited depth-of-field; and, perhaps most impressively, take photographs with shutter speeds of 1/60,000 of a second!
posted by blahblahblah (69 comments total) 278 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool.
posted by caddis at 8:24 AM on March 13, 2008


wow, good stuff
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:25 AM on March 13, 2008


lightning.

Sorry, pet peeve. Gets me almost as much as hearing a hard "t" in "often".
posted by notyou at 8:28 AM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sweet mother of crap. Love the shutter speed ones.

At around $200 for a camera, the "cheap" is kind of relative but still. My wife is talking about upgrading from her Kodak--maybe I can steer her towards one of these and then hack it out from under her. MUAHAHAHA
posted by DU at 8:30 AM on March 13, 2008


So this'll let me take RAW images with my G7? Awesome. Best alternative firmware since Rockbox.
posted by box at 8:31 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm kicking myself for having an sd600 which appears to be incompatible with this.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:32 AM on March 13, 2008


Dang it. Only one of our Canons (A540) has it available, and it's a beta version. Either way the power of these cameras in stock form is really impressive. We have taken some incredible campfire shots with both our A540 and SD630.
posted by Big_B at 8:33 AM on March 13, 2008


Whoa, I never knew about rockbox, either! Too bad my hard-to-use mp3 player isn't quite supported.
posted by DU at 8:37 AM on March 13, 2008


Argh, sorry about the misspelling. Could one of the moderators fix, please?

Also, there is lots of neat stuff added to the UI: the built-in real-time histogram, zebra mode(showing overly dark or light spots), and lots more. Photos of the interface are here. Lots more good details in the CHDK forums.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:38 AM on March 13, 2008


Weirdly, people are spending thousands to DECREASE DOF on their video cameras to make it look more like film and draw your eye to the object. That's not an improvement in my book.
posted by BrianBoyko at 8:43 AM on March 13, 2008


At around $200 for a camera, the "cheap" is kind of relative but still

You can buy a fully compatible A620 (or other cameras) on Ebay for under $100, and there are others that are even cheaper.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:45 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, this is great! Now to convince my fiancee to hand over her camera...
posted by The Castle at 8:45 AM on March 13, 2008


That live histogram is pretty awesome. I wonder if this could be made into a citizen scientist spectrometer or whatever.
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on March 13, 2008


It didn't work with my A570 unfortunately.

What's awesome is how they got the original firmware dumps. One guy dumped it to the "ready" led and then captured it via a photodiode to his soundcard and then to a bit stream.

THAT IS AN AWESOME HACK.
posted by GuyZero at 8:48 AM on March 13, 2008 [24 favorites]


Write scripts for my camera? That's amazing. How long before Canon tries to stop this?

Too bad my SD200 is just a little too old.
posted by grouse at 8:48 AM on March 13, 2008


How very cool. I wonder if there is something specific to Canon point-and-shoot hardware that makes them good for this kind of thing or if other non DSLRs could do it as well. And if so, I wonder why the manufacturers wouldn't be trying to exploit this, unless they believe that people just don't need 1/60k shutter speeds.

I think I may need to find my self one of the more inexpensive cameras on this list so that I can play with this.
posted by quin at 8:49 AM on March 13, 2008


Fuck! Yeah! Doesn't blow out my existing firmware, I can load on demand, and battery indicator!? That alone has me installing this thing.

Seriously, Canon, love your cameras, but what the hell is up with hiding the fact that the battery's going to die until 3 shots till it dies? :p
posted by cavalier at 8:51 AM on March 13, 2008


I never just comment with "wow, great post," but this might be the best thing that's happened to me all week. And I've had a pretty great goddamn week.
posted by Partial Law at 8:52 AM on March 13, 2008


One guy dumped it to the "ready" led and then captured it via a photodiode to his soundcard and then to a bit stream.

Oh jebus. It's too bad I'm already married.
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Having just acquired a new A750, this would be amazing to put on my old camera...except my old camera is a SD330, and that's too old :(
posted by casarkos at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2008


GuyZero: OMFG. That's excellent. That's so excellent I'm stupefied, perhaps permanently. Haven't seen an awesome-tronic hack like that in a while now.
posted by aramaic at 9:03 AM on March 13, 2008


My S2 just got a lot cooler. Great post!
posted by mullingitover at 9:06 AM on March 13, 2008


Wow, that is really neat! The lightning shots are spectacular, and worth the trouble all on their own... and the unlimited depth-of-field ones are cool, too. I'll have to see if this will work with my Powershot.
posted by vorfeed at 9:08 AM on March 13, 2008




That LED thing reminds me of the guy who got the the 4G iPod's bootloader code out through the piezoelectric speaker (beep for 1, click for 0).
posted by Partial Law at 9:14 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I hear you Casarkos. I would rather try this out on my A80 first and leave the A560 alone. But alas, the A80 is not on the list.
Anyone come across any reports of negative impacts from this? Any cameras left unusable?
posted by a3matrix at 9:21 AM on March 13, 2008


This is really cool (REALLY COOL) but the site is impenetrably convoluted, and I can't figure it out. I dunno which version of which build by which guy to download or for what.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:21 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


OMG, it has a battery indicator. Owners of certain Canon cameras know that the very worst and pointless missing feature is the ability to find out how much battery you have left before you run out.
posted by grouse at 9:24 AM on March 13, 2008


notyou: "lightning.

Sorry, pet peeve. Gets me almost as much as hearing a hard "t" in "often".
"

You have a pet peeve with the way often is frequently pronounced?
posted by aerotive at 9:24 AM on March 13, 2008


FANtastic. Thanks, blahblahblah!
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:27 AM on March 13, 2008


I dunno which version of which build by which guy to download or for what.

Download AllBest if you are starting off. Details and hints about which build to download are here.

Anyone come across any reports of negative impacts from this? Any cameras left unusable?

From the FAQ: Yes CHDK is safe. CHDK doesn't make any actual changes to your camera. If you delete the CHDK software from your memory card, or if you choose not to activate the CHDK software on the card (or remove and replace the batteries), then the camera will behave absolutely normally - nothing has been (or ever is) changed, so the warranty is not affected.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:28 AM on March 13, 2008


Post of the month, easily. Wonderful stuff.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 AM on March 13, 2008


This is very cool, but when using any Canon point-and-shoot, PowerShots included, beware of the dreaded E18 error.
posted by VicNebulous at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since I was a kid, aerotive.

You got a problem with that?
posted by notyou at 9:43 AM on March 13, 2008


You can buy a fully compatible A620 (or other cameras)

Does anyone have experience with the A620 or any of the other compatible models? I'm trying to figure out what which one has the most functionality/least cost of the "older" used models.
posted by bra1n at 9:44 AM on March 13, 2008


Too bad there isn't anything out there like that for my Sony.
posted by sciurus at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2008


Crapdammit. Someone get the blinky-light-geeks an SD600 stat.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:15 AM on March 13, 2008


Thanks for posting this. I had seen it a few months ago and was sad that my A720 IS was not supported. I can see they've made some progress on that, I guess I will need to check this out tonight.
posted by splice at 10:28 AM on March 13, 2008


Where is a link to supported cameras? I love the fact I can get an a570 (supposedly) for $130 and start taking pics in RAW mode.
posted by mecran01 at 10:32 AM on March 13, 2008


Camera support is in the second link. Firmwares across the top, cameras supported down the left. This is also helpful to go along with it.
posted by Mach5 at 10:39 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. I am so downloading this for my A630. If I can ever find the cable that connects the camera to the computer.
posted by trip and a half at 11:00 AM on March 13, 2008


Sweet! I hope the SD1000 really is the same as the IXUS70.

It's a nice and cheap camera but a) battery indicator WTF? and b) it defaults to auto-flash every time it gets turned on and there's no way of setting it for default no-flash.
posted by porpoise at 11:09 AM on March 13, 2008


Wow. I am so downloading this for my A630. If I can ever find the cable that connects the camera to the computer.

You don't need the cable - just put CHDK on the SD card/CF card...
posted by blahblahblah at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2008


Awesome, thanks. I was just about to throw my Canon away.
posted by msalt at 11:20 AM on March 13, 2008


Oops, I mean to write:

beware of the dreaded E18 error.

Awesome, etc.
posted by msalt at 11:21 AM on March 13, 2008


Wow, this is great - thanks so much I will try this later on my SD800.

Not sure why a warning of the E18 error is even brought up, thats a problem caused by physical damage. I've had 4 different Canon compacts and only one got the the E18 error - after I dropped it face down while it was open, which is completely my fault and I would expect it to ruin any camera.
posted by jeffmik at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2008


So, let's say you didn't have a Canon PowerShot but wouldn't mind getting one (especially with this cool shit).

Of the primary models listed for which this will work (a620, a630, a640, a700, a710, S2IS, or S3IS), which would you recommend getting & why?
posted by Pressed Rat at 11:57 AM on March 13, 2008


It's like the fairy tale ending where the girl passes up the flashy rich guy for sweet kind Joe The Blacksmith, only to find out Joe is actually some awesome magician.

I loved my S3 before this, now I'm glad I passed on the DSLRs.
posted by pernoctalian at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2008


This is really neat. Going to have to see if I can wrangle this into my SD1000. I gather there's some confusion over versions to use with what models. Most of it my own.
posted by Drastic at 12:47 PM on March 13, 2008


Wow. Just... wow. I'm sorely tempted to buy one of these cameras now.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 1:34 PM on March 13, 2008


I got the E18 error on my digital elph, but it had nothing to do with damage. If I turn the camera on, the lens will pop out halfway, recede, and then give me the error. If I set the camera to "playback/view" mode and then turn it on, then flip it back to photo mode, the lens comes out with no problem. Fiddling with the zoom then makes it stick again and E18 all over again.

The camera still works fine otherwise, and if I smack the body on the side while it is turning on, it opens fine. Maybe I'll smack my camera when I get home and play with this firmware!
posted by hellphish at 1:43 PM on March 13, 2008


Looks like great fun, and I already own an S2 IS! Excellent find!
posted by Rafaelloello at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2008


see if I can wrangle this into my SD1000

I just got it working with my SD1000, but for some reason Photoshop doesn't like the RAW format files that are coming out of it.
posted by event at 2:10 PM on March 13, 2008


quin: I wonder if there is something specific to Canon point-and-shoot hardware that makes them good for this kind of thing or if other non DSLRs could do it as well.

Canon outsources the firmware development. Keeping the hardware platform relatively stable helps keep that process quick, & much less buggy. With an eye-fi card, you could remotely trigger a shot or look at photos, say, mid-thunderstorm, without interrupting. ... Or so I've heard...
posted by Pronoiac at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2008


The Powershot A570 IS seems to be the camera to go with for cost/value. Can do the super high-speed stuff and seems to be a favorite of aerial photogs. SEE for yourself.

It can be had from a multitude of retailers for about $135. Amazon ftw!
posted by lattiboy at 3:07 PM on March 13, 2008


pernoctalian writes "I'm glad I passed on the DSLRs."

Hell yeah, I got my share of lil Canons, never disappointed. Then I jumped on Eos 350 ...there is no coming back!
posted by elpapacito at 3:08 PM on March 13, 2008


Heh, that "stunning sunset example" in the FPP links to our site.

Mike patched CHDK to have a getTimeOfDay() function, so he can configure his camera before he gets to bed, and a few minutes before sunrise starts it automatically starts capturing a timelapse. It's pretty awesome.
posted by rajbot at 3:14 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


:( :( :( Just figured out my SD450 firmware and it's not supported (yet!?) .. Call the whaambulance! WHAAAA
posted by cavalier at 6:12 PM on March 13, 2008


I downloaded and fooled around a bit. I got some great shots instantly with some dripping water in our kitchen sink at 1/10,000 second, f3.5 with flash set to the lowest intensity. The flash intensity is inversely proportional to the duration (shutter speed), so you can throw your flash wicked far at fast shutter speeds. This also means you can't use the highest shutter speeds (1/60,000 second on my camera) unless unless you are taking a non-flash picture of something already illuminated very brightly (like a lightbulb or the sun) or a flash picture of something pretty far away(20 feet or more). It would probably work just great if you caught someone skinny-dipping in your pool at night though;-)
posted by Rafaelloello at 7:45 PM on March 13, 2008


Comment 1: How long before Canon tries to stop this?

Comment 2: Too bad there isn't anything out there like that for my Sony.

This could end up being a huge competitive advantage for Canon. At the very least they should be throwing some major dollars to this project. They are helping Canon out big time.
posted by spock at 8:17 PM on March 13, 2008


Well, curses. My SD1000 apparently has stock firmware 1.00c--which isn't supported by the things. And the firmwares that they do say they support, 1.01b and 1.02a, don't seem to be available anywhere for download on the links to the official canon site. Odin is refusing to hear my plea!
posted by Drastic at 9:06 PM on March 13, 2008


Holy crap, it's like you just bought me a new camera! Thank you for this post.
posted by pgautier at 9:12 PM on March 13, 2008


This is the very best post so far in 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by caddis at 9:55 PM on March 13, 2008


Thank you! We're having our first child, and I was all set to regret an expensive new Nikon SLR purchase, but this changes everything.

Reminds me of Rockbox, too.
posted by swift at 10:45 PM on March 13, 2008


Went out and bought a A570 IS off craigslist last night, took some high speed shots. So, I thre this one on my flickr page
posted by lattiboy at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


One wicked setup with CHDK used to add a USB-based remote trigger capability.
posted by GuyZero at 2:10 PM on March 14, 2008


Nice job lattiboy. Since I already have a cheap point and shoot, I went out and got an S3 :). Should be getting in within a week so i'll throw up some pics.
posted by Mach5 at 9:32 PM on March 14, 2008


goddammitstupidixus60grumblewhine
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:31 AM on March 15, 2008




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