Instant Bill Henson

*WARNING: This is a geeky tech post. If things such as hacking devices to make them more fun don’t interest you, you should go have a coffee and a donut.

A recent article over at Lifehacker* explains how you can hack your digital point-and-shoot camera via software and turn it into a ‘super-camera’. The hack requires that you own a Canon camera and have some (fairly basic) computer skills, but it is on the whole pretty damn easy.

I have a Canon IXUS55 and it’s a great little camera. Most of the images that I’ve shot specially for The Cow have been recorded with it. It’s pretty darn versatile, but now I can can do a multitude of things that were previously not possible with it, and yet, bizarrely enough, are still functions contained within the camera’s operating parameters.

One thing that has always bugged me about my IXUS is that there is no battery life indicator. Well, with the Canon Developer’s Hardware Kit (CHDK) firmware installed, I get my wish, plus a host of other neato functions. For instance, I can now override the shutter speed of the camera, allowing me to take exposures of up to 60 seconds in length. Or, if I am inclined, go the other way and fire the shutter at faster than 1/10,000th of a second. As another feature, the CHDK also allows me to save my images as RAW (that is, uncompressed) image files, something that is usually the domain of professional gear (most point-and-shoots compress the images to jpg, which means you lose some of your potentially useful exposure data).

With the addition of some executable software scripts, I can also turn my little Canon into a motion-sensing camera (ie, movement will trip the shutter), an intervalometer (to allow automatic ‘time-lapse’) and rig it to record lightning flashes. There are a number of other very useful scripts written by users, and the database is increasing all the time.

I’ve only just started playing with it, so nothing especially great to show you right now (I quickly snapped the image above just for fun), but next week I’m intending to give it a good workout so stay tuned!

Cow Cool Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆


*I highly recommend that you check Lifehacker out. It’s not just geeky electro/computer/software stuff and I guarantee that no matter what your interests, you’ll find something there that’s totally cool. It is a little Windoze-heavy for my tastes, but at least they don’t totally ignore the Mac community.