Old Cam, New Tricks

Unlock your Canon digital camera's hidden features by replacing its firmware with a hacked version

Displaying the alternate main menu. Luis Bruno

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Camera makers love the incremental update: selling a new model with just enough enhancements that you’ll be tempted to trade up. But if you own one of several Canon point-and-shoots, you can get new features, such as shooting in high-quality RAW format, measuring accurate exposures via a live histogram, and even running simple applications like games or a calendar, without having to pay for an upgrade. All you need to do is replace your firmware, the computer code embedded in the camera’s memory that serves as its operating system.

Adding the hacked firmware, called CHDK, unlocks functions that the company normally won’t let the camera perform. Within minutes, your pictures—and your bank statement—will look better than ever.

As are all open-source projects, CHDK is constantly evolving. Check the project’s website for additional feature additions and camera support.


Time: 20 Minutes
Cost: Free

  • CHDK currently works on the Canon A570 IS, A610, A620, A630, A640, A700, A710 IS, S2 IS, S3 IS, SD500 and G7. Go to chdk.wikia.com for instructions on checking your camera’s firmware version and to see if more support has been added recently. If you need to upgrade it, go to usa.canon.com.
  • Download the proper CHDK version at chdk.wikia.com. Copy the files DISKBOOT.BIN and PS.FIR to the top-level directory on a memory card using an SD card reader.
  • Insert the SD card, start the camera in playback mode, and select “Firm Update” from the main menu.


Three of the Features CHDK Enables

Zebra Mode
This mode identifies over- or underexposed areas on the LCD by blinking a solid color over them before you shoot a picture.

Live Histogram
Press the shutter halfway to display a live-updating histogram, a graph displaying the range of colors in the shot, to help ensure an accurate exposure.

It wouldn’t be a hacked gadget if it couldn’t run games. CHDK can play Reversi [pictured] and Sokoban. No 3-D graphics, but hey, it’s a camera.