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For all you Canon P&S users out there who miss the facility of RAW shooting and extra long and extra short exposures, and a host of other features, some people have been hard at work to provide you all that without buying a new camera.

CHDK (which stands for Canon Hack Development Kit) is a firmware add-on, similar to any normal application for Windows/Mac that allows you to unlock hidden features in your Canon P&S. Major CHDK features include (as indicated on the website):

  • RAW – CHDK can record raw files, giving you access to every bit of data the sensor saw, without compression or processing. Raw files can be manipulated on the camera, or processed on your PC. CHDK also has experimental support for the open DNG raw standard.
  • Override Camera parameters – Exposures from 64s to 1/60,000s with flash sync. Full manual or priority control over exposure, aperture, ISO and focus.
  • Bracketing – Bracketing is supported for exposure, aperture, ISO, and even focus.
  • Video Overrides – Control the quality or bitrate of video, or change it on the fly.
  • Scripting – Control CHDK and camera features using ubasic and Lua scripts. Enables time lapse, motion detection, advanced bracketing, and much more. Many user-written scripts are available on the forum and wiki.
  • Motion detection – Trigger exposure in response to motion, fast enough to catch lightning.
  • Edge overlay – Detect the edges in a scene, and display them later. Ideal for timelapses, stop-motion, stereography and much more.
  • Live Histogram – CHDK includes a customizable, live histogram display, like those typically found on more expensive cameras. RGB histograms are also available.
  • Zebra-Mode – Displays under and overexposure areas live on the screen.
  • GRIDS – Create custom grids and display whichever one suits your shooting conditions.
  • Multi-Lingual Interface – CHDK supports about 22 languages, and adding more languages is simple.
  • DOF Calculator – Display detailed DOF information on the screen.
  • Customizable OSD – Improved display of battery status, free space, camera parameters, and much more. Fully customizable with an on-screen editor.
  • Filebrowser – Manage files without a PC.
  • Textreader – Display text files on your camera.
  • Games – Play Reversi, Sokoban, Mastermind or 4-in-a-Row on your camera.
  • USB remote – Simple DIY remote allows you to control your camera remotely.
  • Benchmark - Compare the performance of your SD cards.
  • User Menu – Edit your own customizable User-Menu for fast access to often used features.
  • there is even more → read the Manual & explore this wiki.

Those are a LOT of features, especially considering the fact that they’re absolutely free! Understand that this is NOT a firmware mod i.e. it is not changing your firmware in any way. You can load it on to your SD card and start it whenever you feel like it. According to the CHDK website, the Canon technical people have confirmed that since CHDK does not play with the firmware in any way, it does not void your warranty. And although the CHDK people do not guarantee that it is 100% safe, a lot of people test it, and are using it, and there have been no complaints so far.

The RAW file used in our recent post illustrating the power of RAW was obtained using CHDK on an S5 IS only, and you can clearly see the advantage. You can download CHDK from the official website here after checking if there is a version available for your camera (and there most probably is).

Go ahead, check it out, play with it, and tell us what you think.

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