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10 PC projects: teach your camera new tricks

Add features and remotely control your camera

Adding features to your camera is much easier than you think, and it can make a real difference to your photography.

How to add new features to your camera

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 20 mins

Unless your photography requires maximum megapixels, the most meaningful differences between your old camera and a new one have less to do with image quality and more to do with features.

Newer cameras and more expensive models support the RAW format, let you set manual exposure times, shoot in burst mode and perform other tricks. With a simple firmware hack, you can add the same capabilities to older models that don't support them.

This trick works with many Canon point-and-shoot models. Intermediate and advanced photographers will grow into the high-end extras it provides, but even beginners will appreciate its quantitative battery meter and other features.

The camera's firmware usually governs all the settings, but in this hack you'll use a separate utility to install a program on to an SD Card and override the camera's basic features.

Canon doesn't support this sort of hacking; it isn't permanent, however, as the camera will fall back to its original state when you remove the SD Card. Before you get started, visit tinyurl.com/2lovop to see whether your camera is compatible.

Set the camera to Play mode and then turn it on. Hold the Func Set button, and press Disp. A window should identify your firmware; look for a number with a letter following it. For instance, our SD870 IS displays ‘Firmware Ver GM1.00C'. With that information, you can identify the correct CHDK software for your camera.

Download and run ZShare Card Tricks and put an SD Card in a card reader connected to your PC. Within Card Tricks, click the SD icon and select your card. Verify that the size listed is the same as your memory card, not a hard drive or other device. Click Format as FAT.

Click Make Bootable, then choose Download CHDK.

A web page should open and prompt you to select your camera's model and firmware version. Save the zipped file to your desktop without extracting it.

In Card Tricks, choose CHDK, Card and select the firmware file. The software will transfer the file to the card without unzipping it. Next, remove the card, slide the physical lock switch on it away from the metal connector, then pop it into your camera.

(You'll still be able to record images.) When you turn on the camera, you should see a brief splash screen indicating that CHDK is running. Now you can access features beyond the original specs.

The basic steps above will get you started. You'll find additional instructions on using the CHDK tools here.

NEXT PAGE: how to control your camera remotely

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