Camera Modding - Canon SD 1000

Some video game players like to modify their video games, a practice known as ‘modding’. There are many different approaching to modding a computer game, and it possible to apply some of these to other digital devices as well. Last night, I modded my camera.

I have a Canon PowerShot SD 1000. It is a small but powerful little camera, and some Canon camera users have gotten together to create CHDK, free software to modify how your Canon PowerShot cameras operate.

I first heard about CHDK last May when I still had a PowerShot SD 410. It wasn’t clear if I could get CHDK to work with the firmware on my old camera, so I never got around to testing it. Later, my old SD 410 died, and I upgraded to the SD 1000, which clearly works with CHDK.

However, it wasn’t all that simple to get CHDK working on my camera. The way CHDK works, is that you install some files on the memory card which changes the operation of the camera. The SD 410 used a Compact Flash (CF) memory card that I could plug into my HP C 3100 printer, and the memory card would act as a disk on the computer the printer was connected to.

The SD 1000 uses the Secure Digital (SD) memory card. I have an eight gigabyte Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) card. Unfortunately, the printer cannot read the high capacity card. I can connect the camera, with the card to my laptop using an USB cable. However, the driver doesn’t allow me to place the sort of files I need in the appropriate directories.

However, I also have a Motorola RAZR V3xx cellphone. I’ve put two gig microSD card in the Razr, and have an adapter to use the microSD card as a regular SD card, and that card works in my printer.

The first thing that I did was put a file named ver.req in the root directory of the memory card. Ver.req is an empty file that tells the camera to allow the user to do a Version Request to determine the firmware version in the camera. My camera was running version GM1.02A. This version on an SD 1000 camera can run the Allbest build #50.

So, I downloaded that build, unzipped the file, and copied the files into the appropriate locations on the memory card. Then, when I started up the camera in playback mode and went to the menu, which had a new option and the bottom of the list to do a firmware update. When I attempted to do the update, it asked if I wanted to update from firmware version to It is worth noting that CHDK does not really update the firmware, and instead runs as a memory resident program, so this is safe to do.

With the update installed, the camera works basically the same as it did before, except that there are new options on the display and new functions that can be run. As an example, it displays how charged the battery is. That, in and of itself, makes the program worth it. It provides many options for overriding settings. For example, you can use higher shutterspeeds, ISO settings, use the zoom while filming video and even read text files off the memory card, play a few games, and run any scripts you’ve written.

I haven’t written any scripts yet, nor have I tried taking advantage of any of these new features yet, but I look forward to it.

Since this is a memory resident program, you need to reactivate it each time you start the camera. This is nice since it makes it less likely for you to turn the camera into a brick. For me, right now, however, it has a downside. I can only use the new features when I’ve taken the microSD card out of my cellphone and placed it into my camera. In addition, you need to be careful about moving the card from the cellphone to the camera. In some cases, the memory card will end up locked. To avoid this, it is best to turn off the cellphone before removing the memory card.

So, the next step is to get a new SDHC reader so I can install these files on an SDHC card. If this works, I’ll start using the features all the time.

It is pretty satisfying to be able to install some extra software and get new features on a digital device that you have, especially if it is open source and extensible. Now, if I can only find ways of doing this for my Motorola RAZR V3xx, my 2001 Toyota Prius, the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4200 set top box, or many other random digital devices around the house, I can have even more fun.

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Great News!