Owners of some models of Canon point-and-shoot cameras have some interesting features that can be added to their cameras with the help of CHDK firmware hacks.
CHDK stands for Canon Hack Developer Kit and can add features like RAW file output, motion detection that’s fast enough to catch lightning in a bottle, automatic bracketing, full manual control, zebra mode, a live histogram, and crazy high flash sync speeds.
The changes are temporary and can be reset just by switching data cards and resetting the camera. All the same the software is free and experimental, you’re responsible if something goes wrong.
Even better CHDK is being actively developed, so you’ll have new features being added all the time.
If your camera is on the support camera list in the FAQ all you need is a spare SD card and you’re right in business.
CHDK does not replace your camera’s native firmware, it loads as an add-on program that extends the firmware’s capability in lots of interesting ways.
For DSLR users of the Canon 5D MK II, 550D, 60D, 50D, and 600D, you also have some nifty firmware hacks you can play with over at Magic Lantern. Initially developed for video users it has since been expanded to find some of the features found in CHDK.
There’s some debate about whether using CHDK or Magic Lantern voids your warranty so it’s worth some research before deciding whether to try it. Messing with the firmware is never completely risk free, even if you’re upgrading the factory firmware.
Still there is no firmware fun for Canon 7D users. Magic Lantern has finally got the blank firmware to read properly, but no time frame on further developments.
If you have one of the compatible cameras, read the installation instructions carefully and go have fun.