Canon Hacker's Development Kit, Canon Camera Firmware Extension

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 12, 2010

The open source project Canon Hacker's Development Kit (CHDK) adds several interesting new features to select Canon digital cameras using Canon's Digic-II and Digic-III processors. Canon cameras that use those processors are many Canon PowerShot and Canon IXUS models, a full listing is available at the German CHDK-Treff website.

Among the features that can be enabled for supported camera models are the following:

  • Shooting in RAW / DNG (Fast SD card is beneficial)
  • Live histogram
  • Always visible battery indicator
  • manual settings for many parameters that would not be available otherwise
  • Zebra mode
  • Shutter speeds from 1/40.000 to 64 seconds
  • Scripting interface (uBasic & LUA)
  • Games (sokoban & reversi)
  • Bracketing
  • Timelapse Videos over weeks or months with external power supplies & eye-fi wireless sd cards
  • Motion detection with response times of just 60ms or less
  • a lot more

The most interesting aspect of the development kit is that the new functionality is gained by loading files from a memory card which does not modify the original firmware of the digital camera.

It also means that it is possible to reset the camera by shutting it down and firing it up again. International users can download the most recent builds from the CHDK-SVN autobuild listing. It has to be noted that each supported camera and each firmware of that digital camera needs its own build.

The first step in the process is to check if the camera is running a compatible firmware. The easiest way to check is to read the CHDK for Dummies guide which explains that and more.

The same guide contains information on how to use CHDK with a compatible camera. It is not that complicated but may take some time on the first run. Again, check the guide or a connected user forum if you have questions about the process.

Users with compatible Canon digital cameras can add useful features to their cameras this way.


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  1. Jojo said on December 13, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I’ve used CHDK for a couple of years. It has a huge number of options that takes some time to setup. I got ti to enable the ability to shoot RAW photos on my Powershot A650IS camera.

    Suggest you get Cardtricks to install the firmware, whichmakes the setup a lot easier:


    The CHDK builds are here:

    CHDK autobuild downloads

  2. milithruldur said on December 13, 2010 at 1:20 am

    It’s amazing how consumer devices can be extended in function nowawadays. I’ve heard of CHDK before when I got my first Canon PowerShot digicam.

    Think: CHDK is to cameras as OpenWRT is to routers. Both projects can extended the functions of the devices they support, even turning some into their professional or hi-end equivalents to some extent.

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