Thursday, June 18, 2009

Amazing software for my Canon S3 camera

I stumbled onto this software site tonight. I have a hard time explaining how wonderful this software add-in sounds to me. There are a number of things that I've been wanting to do and was disappointed that my camera couldn't do that now are possible through this software!

If you want to read about it, the main page is here.
I found out about it through a kind of roundabout means. I read the MAKE: blog. It is a blog for folks who enjoy making things. The post I read on that blog is interesting enough. It is about making an automated robotic device that allows you to create panoramic views with your digital camera at the push of a button. The post is here.
While I was reading it, it linked to the actual construction instructions here.
And on that first page of the 13 steps to make the robotic controller, the CHDK program was mentioned. I did not know before that moment that anyone was mucking about, adding software TO the already existing instruction set inside my Canon camera. I wouldn't have thought of it, though that is the domain of a lot of the MAKE: projects: "hacking" or changing either hardware or software of modern devices to make them do things they couldn't before or extending the possibilities of the device far beyond the manufacturer's thinking. CHDK makes use of the microprocessor that controls the camera (every digital camera contains a microprocessor) to act as a programmable computer that provides the extra capabilities.
This software does that with a vengeance! Here's a partial list of things possible through using CHDK, divided into six categories:
a. Enhanced ways of recording images - you can capture still pictures in RAW format (as well as JPEG), and for video images you can have increased recording time and length (1 hour or 2 GB), and a greatly increased range of compression options.
b. Additional data displays on the LCD screen - histogram, battery life indicator, depth of field, and many more.
c. Additional photographic settings that are not available on the camera by itself - longer exposure times (up to 65 seconds), faster shutter speeds (1/25,000 sec, and faster in some cases), automatic bracketing of exposure, etc.
d. The ability for the camera to run programs ('scripts', written in a micro-version of the BASIC language) stored on the memory card - these programs allow you to set the camera to perform a sequence of operations under the control of the program. For example, a camera can be programmed to take multiple pictures for focus bracketing, or take a picture when it detects that something in the field of view moves or changes brightness.
e. The ability to take a picture, or start a program on the memory card, by sending a signal into the USB port - you can use the USB cable to take a picture remotely.
f. The ability to do a number of other more useful (and fun) things, such as act as a mini file browser for the memory card, let you play games on the LCD screen, etc.
And (just think about it), the possible things that the software can do for the camera and user may GROW in number, because, now that the genie is out of the bottle, there are a host of folks out there, poking and prodding away in multiplicities of experiments, trying to create new features no one else has thought of. I'm boggled...and excited...and anticipating my camera getting much more use.

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