Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Where Photography Meets Hacking

"What's that all about?", I hear you thinking... Well, this is where thing a really getting cool.
CANON cameras, at least some, in particular the cheaper ones, all of a sudden, make sense to be preferred over other brands. Yep, that's right! This is how to get a camera shooting in RAW or even DNG for very little money.

Being honest, on this topic, I am just reporting, nothing bears any contribution from me, all honors to the guys who made the following available:
CHDK

No, this is not some sort of UNIX command such as chmod, chgrp, chown, etc. it is the Canon Hack Development Kit... great stuff!
Mind you, today's digital cameras are more like computers. They might even have the compute power that the world was dreaming of 20 years ago. CHDK makes use of this fact and open a new world to photographers.

I learned about the CHDK some months ago and I was a little scared applying it to my older generation EOS DSLR. Anyway, this camera does everything I wanted anyways, so why bother?
A more recent member of my camera family had to hold up for my curiosity, the G15. If you study the CHDK homepage, you will notice why I made that choice.
CHDK works fine with the G15, however, again, there was not much to gain from the kit. The G15 shoots in raw, has custom settings etc. So, yes, CHDK worked fine, but was not adding "much" at the end (more about that at the end of this post).

There is a catch to the G15, it is not a camera to carry about in your pocket. Neither is the Panasonic DMC-LX7 (presently my favorite camera), although doing a bit better in terms of dimensions, the LX7 is still to big for a camera to carry on a daily basis. Something smaller had to join the group.
Have a look:
Canon IXUS 140, Samsung S760, Panasonic DMC-LX7, Canon G15, (*)
The Samsung S760 (see earlier post) followed me quite a bit, in my pocket, it is however clear that neither the LX7 nor the G15 will be able to take that space.

Initially I though of a Panasonic DMC-XS3, for its compactness and the advanced sensor, however, for the good stuff provided by CHDK, a new Canon was in order, one that fits into any pocket w/o disturbing too much. My first choice fell on an IXUS 125, being on sale for just €66, however, the store was not local, which would cause additional cost of shipping. My second choice was the IXUS 140, which not only has a longer zoom than the IXU 125, but also employs WiFi. A local store asks €119 for this camera, so I bought it.

Here comes the good stuff. There is an alpha-version of CHDK available for the IXUS 140. Believing that this camera will be very popular, I am sure that this alpha will evolve into a full release (I am willing to help). 
Anyhow, for just above (or under) €100,- one can get a pocket compact camera that shoots in RAW! How cool is that?!
And here comes the magic, your inexpensive little Canon is not only shooting in RAW, it is even able to create DNG-files (Adobe digital negative).

Best things to come (this is where I close the loop to the G15), with CHDK suitable cameras can be automated to an extend beyond wildest dreams. CHDK offers 2 different ways for automating your Canon by scripts: Lua and uBASIC. At a first look, Lua reminds me of FORTRAN with influences of C. uBASIC looks like BASIC to me, fair enough.
Hence, due to scripting, the camera also can do things that only you can come up with and you were only able to dream about to be implemented into your camera.
And... thanks to the small form factor in which some Canon cameras are available today, all that fits in your pocket easily.



(*) Note the different setting of the mode dial: the S760 on manual for the recent HDR demo, the LX7 on C1 (handheld HDR mode) and the G15 on P (like P&S). And yes, I like to use the straps, preventing me from dropping stuff to destruction.

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