So as I referenced in an earlier post, I bit the bullet and bought a camera so I could test out CHDK. CHDK is a hacked firmware for canon cameras that use one of three imge sensors. I believe it is the digic 2, 3, and 4 sensors. It turns out that all of the powershot line uses the same image sensors. The optics, buttons and features are added or removed based on the price point of the camera. If you use CHDK you can enable them AND add new features the designers may never have thought of! click here to find a compatible camera on amazon More info about my trials and tribulations after the jump.
It isn’t a very difficult install. All you have to do is properly format your memory card, upload the chdk distribution, lock the card, and put it in the camera! My install had a few bumps, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Now on to the meat and potatoes. The programs (or scripts as they are called) are what tells your camera what to do. You simply download these onto your card and then chdk can run them from there. I have only used two scripts, but there are many out there and you can write your own if you are so inclined.
The first script I used was the intervalometer. Regular readers may know that this is near and dear to my heart. I have shot quite a few time lapses, and I have been impressed by a few from this cheapo camera. The small image sensor and lens combination makes it difficult (in my mind) to run full manual and get good results over a long time period. You can set all kinds of variables, from initial delay to number of hours between shots. One concern is that my camera seems to write fairly slowly to the card, so if I am on a fast (<2sec) interval it will occasionally skip a photo because it is still writing. All in all it is a nice feature and it allows me to have a $100 camera I don't feel bad about leaving tied to a tree for a day, but is still capable of capturing 1080p time lapse video.
The second script is a motion detection script. This is mostly a toy for me, but you can set how much motion and where you want the motion to be, and it will wait until is sees something in the frame and take a picture. I think you can set a burst so it will shoot several any time it shoots one. I shot some really cute pictures of squirrels eating peanut butter this way.
Some of the features that CHDK enables out of the box is that it allows for raw images, it will enable longer and possibly higher res video. It allows you to override factory features like iso and shutter speed for very fast and slow results as well.
If you are a geek AND a camera geek. this is for you. It won’t break your camera (you can always wipe the card and be back to factory spec) and it can give you a lot more control over things. On the other hand, it still is no replacement for good optics, or user interface. I would kill for a canon g9 due to its pocketable lens and buttons, but I sadly can’t get one of those for a paltry $100 Go here to find the list of supported cameras, and go here hereto find one on amazon
For more info on chdk check out http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK and you can find all of the info!
I’m running a mac, and someone provided a nice applescript to help get the card formatted and installed. That link is here. There is a problem with the script though, and here’s how to fix it. The location of the chdk image is hard coded in (even though it asks you where it is on your computer)
look for this bit of code in the code
“on copy_CHDK(CHDK_archive, vol_name1, vol_name2) –copies the contents of the specified archive to the proper locations
do shell script “unzip ~/Desktop/a590-101b-0.9.3-688-full.zip -d ~/CHDK”
and replace the a590-101b-0.9.3-688-full.zip with the filename of your chdk distribution, put your zipped chdk file on the desktop, save your applescript and run it! Hopefully that helps.