How to turn your Canon S2IS into a DSLR

Getting into this digital astrophotography lark requires the right kit. This usually means some form of DSLR camera, starting at several hundred quid. Most people have some sort of digital camera nowadays, some from the Canon brand. I’ve owned a Canon S2IS 5mp camera for about three and a half years and its usually spent time on holiday or attending the local air show, once a year. Its a very capable camera, its 12x level optical zoom and image stabiliser helping me to take some great action shots of aircraft displays. It is what is classed as a ‘creative compact camera’, having DSLR-level controls but without the bulk and the ability to change lenses.

Whilst looking for information on how to get the best (if possible) out of the camera in taking astro pics, I was steadily coming to the conclusion that the lack of RAW file saving and the ability to take exposures longer than 15 seconds was going to force me to change the camera.

However, I stumbled across a website that mentioned how to hack your Canon Powershot digital camera, giving it extra capabilities such as RAW file support, a greater range of exposure controls and lots of other features.

Called ‘CHDK’ (‘Canon Hackers Development Kit’), it a freely developed kit, created by enthusiasts which taps into the operating system of the DIGIC CPU’s in the Powershot cameras, which increases the level of capabilities it has. So much so, my S2IS now has ‘as good’ capabilities as a DSLR camera, optically and electronically at least, even though I can’t do much physically with the lenses like an DSLR. It is a firmware add-on and does not permanently alter the camera, though as always with anything that ‘pushes’ the capabilities of hardware, you should use at your own risk and no warranty is offered.

The homepage for the site is http://chdk.wikia.com . At the time of writing, around 47 Powershot cameras are supported with nearly 100 firmware versions.

Support is not limited to some of the more expensive cameras, even point and shoot digicams are supported such as the A400 series.

A quick summary of some of the features available:

– RAW image support and saving of files.
– Override camera parameters such as exposure control.
– Bracketing.
– Video capabilities extended.
– Scripting using a BASIC-like language.
– Motion detection.
– Histograms and Zebra mode for over-exposed areas of the screen.

What This has given me is increased the capabilities I have for taking digital astrophotography images; what sort of results I can achieve are to be decided, but I feel a lot more confident in having the potential ability to take low-light shots of the night sky.

And save a load of cash not having to change the camera… Watch this space…

Posted by Wordmobi

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