CHDK: the second youth of the digital camera, or what is hidden by your Canon?

We all were lucky to live in the era of electronic gadgets. Every day we come across a whole mountain of temptations, which for most people are too expensive: displays with huge diagonal and ultra-realistic color transfer, fabulously fast SSDs, smartphones with high performance, etc.

Our desires are often at odds with our capabilities, not every person can afford to live "on a broad footing". Therefore, between one day when the idea of ​​buying a new mobile phone, a laptop, a TV or a camera, and another day when this dream becomes a reality first appears, it usually takes a long time.

For many, a digital camera – this is not a basic need, so the question of replacing it rises much less often than, say, the question of replacing a laptop or mobile phone. But the digital camera becomes obsolete at about the same speed as any other electronic gadget.

The heart of any digital soap box is the matrix and the processor, so as soon as the next camera model with a new generation matrix and a more powerful processor comes out, the old camera starts to take a sharp turn. Three or four new models – and the old camera already seems uncomfortable in all respects: the resolution of the shooting is not enough, the camera does not support recording video in HD quality, etc.

Despite the fact that it is impossible to keep up with the latest novelties in principle, there is a rather curious way to "slow down the aging" of the camera, or even give it a second life.

What can you do with the old camera? To answer this question, first of all, it is necessary to think about how a modern digital camera works. When you turn on the device, a nested menu system appears on the screen with various settings and functions. Depending on the selected parameters of this complex menu, the camera uses various hardware capabilities. In other words, while the camera is turned on, the user works in some environment – a program that is processed by the processor. This program is called firmware, and it is she who is responsible for the normal operation of the device. At the moment of shooting, the data received from the camera matrix is ​​processed by the processor according to the algorithm that is embedded in the firmware. For example, the line of popular Canon Digital IXUS cameras after receiving frame data uses the JPEG compression algorithm, and then writes the files to a memory card.

The easiest way to upgrade the camera is to replace the software that manages its functions. By the way, at one time on one of the spaceships Voyager scientists remotely reprogrammed the data transfer module to Earth, resulting in the speed of obtaining information from the probe increased several times due to the compression of transmitted packets. So, with the help of software update alone, the whole system was upgraded.

In the case of the camera, the situation is, in fact, similar. Since during the process of saving a photo to a memory card data from the matrix is ​​used, it is not necessary to subject them to a defective compression algorithm. If you save them in their original form, we will get a RAW file without any loss of quality.

If you own a digital camera Canon, you can try using an alternative firmware CHDK, created specifically for cameras of this company. CHDK does not work with all Canon camera models, but with an overwhelming majority. To support CHDK, one of the processors must be installed in the camera: DIGIC II, DIGIC III or DIGIC IV.

CHDK is an abbreviation, which stands for Canon Hacker's Development Kit. In our article, we will conditionally call it firmware, although, strictly speaking, this is incorrect. Canon Hacker's Development Kit is a program that runs on your device. It does not write to the camera's permanent memory and does not make any changes on the hardware level. Moreover, if your device is under warranty, Canon's official support will not consider using this software as a violation of the operating rules. If you do not believe me, you can send a question to the official Canon support service regarding CHDK and check it out.

Before installing the CHDK, you need to determine what type of firmware is used in your digital camera. It is quite easy to do this. Remove the memory card from the camera, insert it into the card reader, and create an empty ver.req file on it (for example, using the Notepad text editor.) But do not mix it up – the extension should be req, not txt). Then insert the memory card back into the Canon camera and switch to the photo and video view mode. Press simultaneously Func.Set + Disp., Then the information about the firmware will be displayed. Among the output data, the firmware number also appears, for example, Firmware Ver GM1.00B. This number is also required to select the version of CHDK that you want to write to the card. Now reinsert the memory card into the reader and download from the firmware archive the one that fits your digital camera model with the firmware number. Find a large list of supported devices on the site. In fact, this is not a complete list of all CHDK firmware that can be found on the web, so if you do not see your camera model in it, you can try to contact other sites. Benefit through Google to find them is not difficult.

Next, we format the memory card (full format mode, FAT16 file system). We draw your attention to the fact that cards larger than 2 GB are better formatted on the computer with the operating system. Otherwise, there is a possibility that the camera will format the media in the FAT32 file system, and this will not allow the firmware to boot.

After the formatting is complete, we insert the card into the reader and unpack the contents of the archive from the CHDK to the card. All, the installation process is complete. Now you need to run an alternative shell in the camera itself. Switch the card to write-protect mode and insert it into the camera. Switch to the playback mode and press the Menu button. After that, select Firm Update and confirm your intention to update the firmware by clicking OK.

The camera will then restart, blinking with the blue LED that is used by default to indicate direct printing from the camera. If on the screen you saw the CHDK logo in the form of a pair of gears – everything is done correctly and the firmware is ready for operation. For subsequent starts of the device, do not forget to switch the card lock mode to the normal position. If something went wrong during the start of the alternative firmware, the problem is solved very simply and safely – by pulling the battery out of the camera.

How to see the alternative CHDK menu? For this purpose, the Direct Print button is used, which, frankly, very few people use. Select the manual shooting mode and press this button. The screen will display .

You can press the Menu button – an alternative CHDK menu appears. By default it is displayed in English, but the language can also be changed. To do this, go to Visual Settings> Language and select the name of the desired language module in the file list (for example, Russian.lng). The menu has a lot of different commands and options, so Russification is not superfluous.

So, let's see what we have in practice. Firmware adds a lot of functions – both useful, and sometimes frankly superfluous (such as games).

The exact list of new features of the old camera depends on its model. For example, we tried an alternative firmware for the camera Canon Digital IXUS 800 IS and got a powerful arsenal, among the tools which can be noted as follows:

  • Optical zoom option began to work in the process of video shooting (previously was not available).
  • CHDK made it possible to adjust the bitrate and control the quality of the video being shot.
  • The battery charge level indicator appeared on the screen. Previously, this small trifle was sorely lacking.
  • The screen shows information about the status of the memory card.
  • Added support for RAW format with an incredible number of options (more on this in more detail).
  • A full-fledged file manager with a two-panel interface became available, as in FAR.
  • A text editor has appeared.
  • The data of the whole series of temperature indicators – batteries, matrix and optics are displayed.
  • Added the ability to use the remote control.
  • An accurate manual focus became available.

In addition, one of the menu options allowed to create a bad pixel map, so it became possible to obtain images without defective areas.

Of course, one of the most important purposes of the firmware is to support the RAW format in cameras where it was not previously implemented.

After installing the CHDK in the camera, there are two options for storing data from the CCD matrix – in RAW and DNG files. Strictly speaking, the "non-native" RAW format does not have a unique specification, so using RAW files is extremely inconvenient, since not all applications work correctly with it. To correct the situation, the data must be converted to a more convenient DNG format. In this case, no information is lost (in contrast to, say, JPG). Conversion can be performed "on the fly" by the camera itself, or it can be done independently using a special utility.

Usually the final image is modified by the photographer in Photoshop or other similar package. In the graphical editor, the user often corrects the color reproduction, using for this purpose the own curves of the curves. Often the shape of the curves used remains the same from the snapshot to the snapshot. This can be, say, in those cases when the survey is conducted in the same or similar conditions – with similar illumination and so on. In this case, CHDK can greatly simplify the work of the photographer. One of the functions of this resident program is that each RAW file created can be adjusted to suit the data of the user curve.

⇡ # Conclusion

We examined only the most important aspects of installing and working with CHDK. In addition to the functions described above, the alternative shell provides a lot of useful and necessary features that can be useful to the amateur photographer. In part, you can get an idea of ​​the richness of the functions of CHDK on the accompanying screenshots. Those who want to learn more about the alternative firmware, can safely install it and use it for their own pleasure. As noted above, this is an absolutely safe procedure.

If you notice an error – select it with the mouse and press CTRL + ENTER.

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