One of the greatest things about technology isn’t what it does, but it’s what it can do. This is a shining example of this very concept:
If you have a point-and-click digital camera made by Canon, you may be able to turn on all sorts of features usually reserved for more expensive SLRs. That includes live histograms, depth-of-field calculation, under and overexposure highlighting, and — best of all — shooting your pictures in RAW. The secret is CHDK, an enhanced, free software replacement firmware.
I’m going to have to disagree that the best part of this is being able to shoot in RAW mode. Don’t get me wrong, I love using RAW (or NEF as it’s called on my Nikon) but the best part of this enhancement is that fact that you can do scripting in a BASIC like language in the camera. Wow… This is like getting a computer that has predefined programs on it and then discovering the programming tools for it. With these scripts you can do such amazing things as automatically create a series of photos for HDR stacking that can later be run through software to extend the dynamic range of the images. You can run an interactive interval timer to take X number of photos ever X seconds, minutes, or even hours so you could do a time laps study of ice melting or a building being built. Those are just two examples of what can be done with the powerful feature.
One clever thing is that if you make a mistake and screw something up that chance of you ‘bricking’ your camera is quite low. To remove the firmware enhancement you simply remove the CD card and power up the camera. Bingo, everything is back to normal. I for one will be on the lookout for a camera that this will work on.