As you can see in the image above, I can now get RAW photos from my Canon IXUS 70! Actually that’s not clear at all from the image above, but that’s what it is – RAW DNG photos produced by my little IXUS.
How? By using the latest version open source firmware, Canon Hacker’s Development Kit, or CHDK. As the name implies, it’s only for Canon cameras and only for those with DIGIC II or DIGIC III firmware.
I remember hearing about this last year when I had my IXUS 55. Back then the IXUS line of cameras wasn’t supported, so I didn’t pay much attention and soon forgot about it. But the other day it was posted on Lifehacker so I had another look.
Turns out they’ve developed the firmware a lot and it’s (pretty much) completely safe to use and doesn’t modify the camera at all. You just load it on to an SD card then when it starts up, tell the camera to use the firmware on the card and it re-boots with a bunch of new features.
From the Wired How-To Wiki:
Digital cameras have powers beyond what is immediately available to the user. On a standard Canon, for example, the fastest shutter speed option offered is 1/1,600 second, but the hardware can handle much more than that — up to 1/60,000 of a second… It unleashes new features including RAW file format, live histogram display, a battery readout, and the ability to run scripted actions on a camera.
When I was looking for a replacement for my IXUS 55, having the ability to shoot RAW was one of the functions I would have liked. All the point a shoot cameras with that ability were quite expensive though, so I just went with the IXUS 70 (mostly for it’s looks and time-lapse movie function, and the IXUS 55 had been good to me).
Shooting RAW is the main feature that I like. Having a decent battery read out is good too, as well as an always-on clock, a built in calendar, text reader and this CHDK firmware also adds a couple of games (Sokoban and Reversi).
I don’t particularly care about the faster/slower shutter speeds and higher ISO (anything above 200 ISO is already too noisy!) and some of the other features, but it’s nice to know they’re there.
If your model is on the list of supported cameras, I’d highly recommend giving this custom firmware a try.
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