In The Desert
Content including photographs are Copyright © 2011 - Don & Linda Gilmore
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Improving your camera
Improving your camera just sounds better!
First, let's be clear about two things here. One, the enhancements using CHDK (Canon Hacker Development Kit) doesn't affect the camera's firmware/software in any way and are really only temporary improvements -- or at least till you format your memory card. Second, we are not telling anyone to do this, if you worry about things like this then don't do it. However if you'd like these improvements, then go for it. We did and it works great and is very controllable, meaning you can turn on/off any of the options you desire. The programing is on your memory card not in the camera. So why would you do this?
We've used our little Canon Power Shot A 710 IS for a lot of the photos on the site and all the videos for the site, so far. This set of improvements only works on Canon Point & Shoot cameras. Other hacks are available for other cameras and have been for a while. For example the hack for the Panasonic GH1 that greatly improves the video mode of the camera -- look into this carefully as it only works on cameras up to a certain serial number. After that Panasonic encrypted the firmware so it could no longer be hacked. This article will deal only with the CHDK hack (improvements) and what the benefits are.
Some of the improvements are:
Battery meter -- can read % and volts
Temperature -- ccd, battery, and optical, or all of them can be read.
Time is available in 24 hr. and 12 hr. format.
Bracketing See below ----
Enhancement to the movie mode, bitrate, quality, zoom availability, more.
Grid lines --- overlay on LCD
Histogram -- red, green, blue, luminance, or all of them. lots of options
Raw image availablity
Zebra option -- blinking colored areas to show overexposed areas
See below for a link to a list of Cameras that can be improved.
This is far from a complete list of options. And it takes up a very small file space on your memory card. By default the options don't come up on your camera till you turn them on, but the options you have enabled are always running and ready to go. Changing the options only takes two button pushes to get into the menu. Simple. The temperature feature is nice and if you set it on optical when you first turn the camera on you'll have a good reading for the outside temp, before the camera warms up. Battery meter is nice too, on our P & S you didn't know where you stood with the battery till it was too late. The bracketing was of prime interest to me and I'll show you why. See the examples below ----
The advantage of doing this should be pretty obvious. Now the sky is correctly exposed and so is the interior of the garage, yet the shadow is still visible in the driveway. We used Mediachance to run the top 3 images to get an HDR image we liked. This was run using default settings in the program. See THIS PAGE for more on the HDR program.
Canon Camera Models
The above 3 images were shot with a variable of 1 1/3 EV. The first one on the left is the way the camera would meter the scene. The home in the distance and the sky are overexposed but some details are visible in the garage. The second (middle) one is darker and the third one has a correctly exposed sky but almost all the detail in the garage is gone. We now have the makings of an HDR image. See the photo image below.
There are numerous options available for the Video on your camera as well. You can change the bitrate, quality, and add zoom availability. Zoom availability may or may not be desirable to you. It can be set up two different ways. We'll show you the outcome with sample videos below.
This is a short video to show why Canon did not allow the use of the zoom while filming. It is very noisy to the point of being a big distraction during the video and there isn't any way to cover it up. See the option below.
This short clip was shot using the option that's available which allows the camera to shut off the sound during zooming. If you use this option remember to not add dialogue while zooming! You can also hear the sound shut off. This is the reason we are showing these options. They may not be desirable for your type of filming.
See below for links to the CHDK site
For a complete list of Canon P & S cameras and their firmware versions see the link below. These are currently all the cameras that have a CHDK upgrade available. When you come back to this page to download your hack, you'll want to download the Complete ZIP file. Before downloading anything keep reading to understand how this must work to be successful.
After seeing if your particular Canon camera qualifies for this procedure the next step is to go to the Main page on their CHDK site for a better understanding of what you have to do. This page will show you how to get the correct firmware revision number off your camera -- this is important and you must have it to download the correct hack for your camera. This page also has the information on how to download the tool to install the hack and how to install the hack on your memory card. Read it over. Now if none of this works for you, you can format your memory card and your back to your original camera settings and options. No loss.
After downloading and installing the software for the hack into your memory card you should visit this page for a short reference of the options that are now available on your camera and how to use them. This is the online users manual. There is also a users manual in PDF format that you can print.
To me this is the safest way to make improvements to your P & S camera. I certainly didn't want to lose this little camera, it came in handy too many times. You will have to lock your memory card (explained on the site) so you don't accidentally format the card and erase the software. This means you'll have to delete the pictures instead, no big deal. One thing I'm not sure of yet, the battery life with a lot of extras running in the background. For example if you have the histogram set to run all the time along with the grid lines, clock, and battery indicator, just to name a few, does this deplete the battery faster? I'm not sure as I haven't used it long enough yet. The battery life in my camera wasn't great to begin with. The newer models are certainly better. Just keep it in mind. Personally I think the advantages outweigh the possible disadvantages.
Some people will not take advantage of this just because it's called a HACK. We think it is a great chance to enhance your camera's abilities and it's free and non-invasive to boot. Those of you that try this will appreciate the upgrade.
Have fun ------