Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ich versteigere meine Canon PowerShot SX200 IS!

[Sorry, German only today!]

Aus gegebenem Anlass poste ich heute ausnahmsweise in Deutsch!

Ersteigern Sie meine nur zwei Monate alte Canon PowerShot SX200 IS in bestem Zustand OVP inkl. Zubeh├Âr:

http://cgi.ebay.de/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300379576981

Monday, December 14, 2009

My new new camera

I recently purchased a new camera.

You think I already wrote about this in my last blog post? Nope, that's my now old camera. I bought a new camera, again!

Why?

The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a great digicam. I enjoyed it a lot. Especially after installing the Canon Hacker's Development Kit.

It has the power of a bridge camera (or even a DSLR, thanks to the CHDK) and the size of a compact camera. But it's its size that made me reconsider my purchase.

It's exactly in the middle between a small cam that I can always keep in my pocket and a big cam which supports useful extensions like flashes or lenses. It's too big to always have it around, that's why I sometimes forgot it and had to take photos with my iPhone (which the camera was supposed to completely replace for photo taking). It's too small to let me add a flash or exchange the lens.

I thought about getting a more advanced bridge camera like the SX1, SX10 or SX20. They would certainly be better, but also much more expensive. The price and size difference between such a high-end bridge camera and a low-end Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera would be almost negligible.

Of course, a DSLR camera body wouldn't be enough, I'd also need some accessories like a good lens. That's both an advantage and a disadvantage. But I think so many accessories being available is more of a blessing than a curse.

Since it's a substantial investment, I thoroughly researched DSLR cameras. It turned out to be pretty easy to figure out which DSLR camera would be the right one for me.

Canon is the market leader and I'm already familiar with their cameras. Plus almost all of my friends and colleagues who own a DSLR have a Canon EOS 450D. That's why I chose Canon.

The cheapest entry-level EOS camera is the 1000D. The 450D costs just a little bit more, but the difference in features doesn't really matter (at least, to me), and the 1000D is supposed to take even better photos than the 450D because of its fewer megapixels (since both cameras share the same sensor size).

So I chose the Canon EOS 1000D! If you'd like to know what else I ordered, here's my list: Meine Fotoausr├╝stung

Sunday, December 6, 2009

CHDK - a Canon PowerShot power user's dream cam come true

I recently purchased the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS as my new main camera. I wanted a digicam which would support both automatic and manual modes to get more seriously into photography.

After thoroughly researching all current digital cameras in the targeted price range, it was the one that always came up as my best match. Here's a link to a highly informative resource (in German):
http://www.testberichte.de/p/canon-tests/powershot-sx200-is-testbericht.html

And it really turned out to be a great cam: With its smart Easy and Auto modes, it couldn't be any easier to use. On the other hand, it includes semi-automatic Tv (Time value) and Av (Aperture value) modes as well as a full Manual mode.

Then I followed a free online course about photography where I learned a lot. Here's the link (in German, too): http://www.striewisch-fotodesign.de/lehrgang/lehrg.htm

So far, so good. But then, equipped with better knowledge, my equipment's limitations suddenly became obvious to me.

Having learned about focal length, depth of field and hyperfocal distance, I couldn't use that knowledge with my camera. It simply didn't display those values in any meaningful way. My hope to do HDR imaging also appeared to be lost since the camera lacked saving RAW images and bracketing. I even thought about getting another camera, possibly a DSLR, although that would have been out of budget.

But then I stumbled upon an acronym in some forum. And now I have a new camera for free. No, I didn't get a new one, I basically upgraded the old one. With a free open source software project called CHDK (Canon Hacker's Development Kit).

This modification is simply installed onto the SD card which is then made bootable. When the camera boots off the card, its firmware is extended with an Alt mode that provides many, many great new features. The camera's actual firmware is not modified physically, the extension is just a program it runs, so it doesn't void the warranty or damage the system. Everything is well documented and easy to set up, and when it's done, it's almost as if you got a new, better cam.

I can't speak highly enough of this project! I can't recommend it highly enough! This is one of the coolest hacks I've ever seen. I'm amazed by how much it adds to an already powerful camera.

Here's what it does for me:
  • Shows zoom value as 35 mm equivalent focal length - unmodified, the cam only showed a zoom bar, without focal length.
  • Shows depth of field (distance of subject, nearest distance in focus, farthest distance in focus, depth of field, and hyperfocal distance) - unmodified, the cam only showed a focus bar, with little information.
  • Adds shortcut to automatically set manual focus to hyperfocal distance - unmodified, hyperfocal distance was pretty much useless, with depth of field information not being displayed.
  • Shows live histogram (before taking a picture) - unmodified, a histogram was only available when viewing an already taken picture.
  • Shows over- and underexposed areas live (before taking a picture) - unmodified, only overexposed areas were shown when viewing the histogram.
  • Optionally saves pictures as RAW/DNG (in addition to JPEG) - unmodified, only the JPEG format was available.
  • Bracketing modes (Tv, Av, MF, and ISO) - unmodified, automatic bracketing wasn't supported.
  • Plus other extras like battery status displayed with remaining charge as a percentage, optical zoom during video recording, and much more - in fact, custom scripts can be loaded which provide even more capabilities and features.
As you can see, if you're a fellow Canon cam owner (PowerShot or not), this is truly something big! I'm rarely that excited about some kind of software, but CHDK certainly deserves all the attention. It's continuously improved by some very skilled and even more generous hackers, so a great big THANK YOU to you all!

Here's a link to the project's wiki where you can get much more information about it: http://chdk.wikia.com/

German-speaking users should also take a look at the German forums here: http://www.wirklemms.de/

There's even a further improved German version, CHDK-DE, check it out there as well: http://www.wirklemms.de/chdk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1559

I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Keep spreading the word. Free open source software is even improving digital camera firmware now! Thank you all very much!