Unlock Features of Your Canon Digital Camera

My first digital camera that I bought was a Canon G2 in 2002. I liked the camera because it took great pictures, included a rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery, and was able to take RAW pictures. When my G2 broke, I was provided with a Canon S3 IS because of the warranty. The S3 in itself is a great camera, and includes some features that the G2 didn’t have, like the the TTL (Through-The-Lense) viewfinder.

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The one option that I do miss, however, is the ability to take RAW digital photos. I always liked editing my images before printing, and RAW photos allowed me to do that better than JPEGs. Recently I stumbled upon a utility that will allow my S3 to take RAW photos as well as change other previously unavailable settings.


I like to visit LifeHacker once in a while because they provide information on useful applications, tips, and general information. I have found several useful tools on that web site.

While searching the LifeHacker web site (I can’t remember the search terms), I came across a page titled Turn Your Point-and-Shoot into a Super-Camera, and was immediately intrigued. At first I thought would just provide a list of tips on taking pictures, but soon realized there was much more to it.

In the article, the author explains how to use a development kit to unlock many of the settings found within a Canon camera. I should mention that this development kit is only for Canon-made cameras. This development kit is called CHDK.

CHDK (Canon Hacker’s Development Kit)

The CHDK is an open source project that is designed as a firmware enhancement for a Canon digital camera. Unlike traditional firmware changes, CHDK is not permanent (turning off the camera resets your camera), and is non-destructive (no changes to the camera’s firmware).

Installing CHDK is a matter of visiting the CHDK web site, downloading a zip file, and copying the two files within the zip file onto the root directory of your memory card. To uninstall CHDK, simply delete the two files from your memory card. The article mentioned earlier describes how to install and use CHDK.

I tried out the kit and was able to get it working without issues on my S3. I was amazed at the fact that I was able to take RAW pictures. The only problem was that the RAW files weren’t the same as the Canon RAW files, so Adobe Camera RAW couldn’t identify them. There are other RAW converters on the market that can read the CHDK RAW files. I’ll look into them to see how the RAW images turn out. In the meantime, I can also now capture both a RAW and JPEG image at the same time.

Besides the RAW images, CHDK also allows me to change the live histogram (I can now have coloured histograms), take time-lapse photography, and even play games (although I probably won’t play any games with my camera). It also has the ability to change the maximum and minimum shutter speeds on my digital camera.

I’m not sure about how it affects the warranty of the camera, as it doesn’t make any permanent change to the camera, however, I am using the camera outside of the manufacturer’s recommended usage. The warranty on my camera has expired anyway, so I decided to try it out.

If you have a Canon digital camera, and your model is supported by CHDK, you can give it a try if you want. As I mentioned it isn’t permanent, and it does provide you with many more options that are unavailable within the default camera’s firmware.

Related Posts

What is a Digital Raw File?
Digital Photo Workflow
Overview of Various Image File Formats

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5 Responses to “Unlock Features of Your Canon Digital Camera”

  1. Hm.. I’m getting a Canon G12 next week. I’m wondering whether these can be used on it or not. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. George says:

    Wow, thanks. I have a Canon SX30IS 14.1MP and I just installed CHDK. I took two pictures and it’s great.I appreciate it

  3. safis says:

    thank you for sharing my friend.

  4. Aldon Hynes says:

    I installed CHDK on my Canon SD 1000 last night. I took my first few pictures that way. Pretty much all I did was change some of the display options. I like having the option of seeing how much battery time I have left.

    I did play a couple games on the camera.

    Over the next few days, I’ll spend more time getting used to the options, but so far, I’m pretty impressed.

  5. Lisa Irby says:

    Good post, Paul. I just bought a new Canon digital camera and need to look into this. I am one who always just uses the factory settings. This is good to know.

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