Aug 27, 2009

Turn your little Canon point-and-shoot camera into a miniDLSR

I'm sure many of you have bought Canon Powershot cameras. Those little guys are super compact and easy to use so you carry them everywhere with you. Sure you can lug around a large DSLR (and, while you're at it, add an 18-200 lens) to ensure you get the best shots possible but many times the DSLR is just too inconvenient. Sometimes it's better to tuck a Powershot in your shirt/pant/short pocket and go. But what if you can combine the pocketability of a Powershot and the flexibility & power of a DLSR? Well...if you have a Canon camera, you're in luck. Check out CHDK.

In short, CHDK gives your little Powershot camera the ability to do a lot of things that only large and expensive DSLRs can do. A few notable features include:
  • Save images in RAW format - RAW is an uncompressed image format. Most cameras save to JPEG by default. JPEGs are compressed versions of the image which causes it to lose detail. RAW retains everything and gives you complete control over your picture (with a RAW-capable image editor of course).
  • Ability to run "Scripts" to automate the camera - Many DSLRs don't even have this capability.
  • Live histogram (RGB, blended, luminance and for each RGB channel) - this is very useful in composing your shots. Live histograms (especially color histograms) tells you a lot about the amount of light hitting your subject(s). This determines how light or dark your pictures will turn out (or how much of each color is in your picture). You can read more about histograms here.
  • Zebra mode (blinking highlights and shadows to show over/under exposed areas) - This does the same job as the histogram but it highlights areas of your actual screen, live.
  • A higher compression movie mode, and double the maximum video file size - Very useful for those of us using Powershots as pocket video cams (with near HD quality too).
  • Exposure times as long as 65 second - Very useful for night and other long exposure shots. Here's a few samples of long exposure shots.
  • Exposure times as little as 1/10,000 of a second - Super fast exposure. Quite frankly, this is why I'm using CHDK with my cheapo ($65) Powershot SD1100IS. Here's a few samples of fast shutter shots.
  • Ability to use the USB port for a remote trigger input - Can you say time-lapse? This feature allows you to hook your camera up to a computer and take snapshots at different intervals. You can simply set it up to take a picture every minute for an entire day. Then, string those pictures together to form a time-lapse movie.
Best of all, it's not a permanent change! Simply load the software (free) onto your memory card, stick it into your camera, turn it on and select the option to run CHDK.

Pretty awesome don't you think?
ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast

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