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Hacking Digital Cameras

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the say--virtual-cheese dept.

Technology 102

whawk640 writes "I came across this book via the author's website www.camerahacker.com. I was interested in making a pinhole lens at the time so I picked up the book. Disclaimer: I'm NOT a hacker by nature. I only did a hack on a lens cover. Most of the hacks in here are for those with a better relationship with screwdrivers, drills and soldering irons than I have. I don't think this book was intended for me, so keep that in mind when reading my review." Read the rest of Daniel's review.

A quick list of the types of hacks in the book are as follows.

1: Hacking Cameras -- (triggers, tripods, raw data, power, remote control and updated firmware)
2: Hacking Lenses -- (accessory adapters, changing magnification, pinhole, lens extension, macro adapters)
3: Creative Photography Hacks -- (filters, infrared, and removing infrared blocking)
4: Building Fun Camera Tools -- (car mount, headrest mount, bicycle spy cam, stabilizer, flash bracket, monopod, and studio light)
5: Flash Memory Hacks -- (CF Type I to PC Card Type II, removing microdrives)
6: Appendices -- (Soldering Basics, Circuit Symbols, Glass Cutting Basics, Photographer's Glossary, Index)

This book has quite a few hacks and if you're interested in hacking, the step by step instructions presented in the book will be useful and interesting. Quite honestly, I've only performed one of the hacks myself. I followed the step by step instructions for making a pinhole lens and it worked just perfectly. My wife will tell you I'm no Bob Vila. About all I know about a drill is that one end is pointy and spins.

Anyway, if you want to tinker with digital cameras, pick up the book and read through the contents. If the specific hack you want to do is not in the contents, look for something close. If it's not there or the book doesn't give you any ideas on anything to do, then it may not be for you. Read one more paragraph to find out.

In addition to the hacks, this book covers quite a bit of introductory concepts in photography in general and the math behind it. I found it easy to read as a beginner and it gave me an appreciation for why there are professional photographers and 'the rest of us'. Concepts covered in the book include focal length, magnification, filters, softness, ambient light, field of view, white balance, infrared, ultraviolet, depth of field and many more. These sections are brief and provide only an introduction though. If you're an experienced photographer, you probably won't find anything new in these sections. One down side about this is that since an introduction to photography is not the focus of the book, these introductions are scattered throughout the book whenever they tie in with a specific hack. On the upside, it gives you the information when you need it to decide if a hack is right for you.

Now, the hacks in the book are step by step with loads of pictures, schematics where necessary and tips. What you need to perform each hack is identified clearly before you start. Additional ideas about how the hack could be modified in function or in fit are available after each hack.

In my opinion, the disclaimer telling you not to take apart your $400.00 brand new camera is not quite strong enough. People like me are rightly afraid of that sort of thing. From what I hear, your average hacker though is much more adept and less fearful.

This is not the type of book most people would pick up and read cover to cover. It is more like a reference you would want to have handy if you spend a lot of time taking creative pictures or messing with your camera.

Negatives: Hacks seem to apply to specific cameras, if you want to apply them to other cameras, the author's experience may not help you... be careful! I found section 3 very interesting and would have liked to see more chapters on fun camera hacks. Unfortunately, it was the smallest section in the book.

Are you a propeller head who loves to take things apart?
Are you a techno-junkie who has 9 or 10 digital cameras lying around because you always buy the newest one?
Are you an amateur or professional photographer who just can't quite get all the features you want in a single camera?
Do you have a specific need for a hack that the book covers?
Do you have an interest in this sort of hack and a desire to learn some photography basics?"
If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, then this book is for you.


You can purchase Hacking Digital Cameras from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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102 comments

i took my olymous d300 apart (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726458)

and installed linux in it. when i put it back together it didn't work. what did i do wrong?

Re:i took my olymous d300 apart (2, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726471)

Were you hoping to have a cute little penguin show up somewhere in each of the pictures?

Re:i took my olymous d300 apart (1, Funny)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726493)

You put your olymous upside down so now it works as an onotrackba

Re:i took my olymous d300 apart (4, Funny)

greenegg77 (718749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726634)

my olymous d300

What did you do wrong? You paid $25 to some guy in an overcoat in a dark alley for an "olymous" camera, you freaking idiot...

Now, about this "RoIex" watch you're interested in buying, along with these cheap "Vyagra" pills...

Re:i took my olymous d300 apart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727171)

You obviously used the wrong distribution. You should have used the YadaYadaMumbleMumble 2.6.14A Nightly build of 1/6/2006.

I booted my Mac off my Olympus. (no, really) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727860)

Put a 128MB smartmedia card into my D-40 and ran CCC to clone a minimal install of a start-up volume. Rebooted the Mac and the darn thing booted like it was hooked to an iPod. Slow as crap but it was actually sorta useful in an emergency.

I've since moved to a 1Gb jump drive but I still have the camera...

Re:I booted my Mac off my Olympus. (no, really) (1)

mu22le (766735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14731159)

Do you have links? pictures? I'd be more than interested.

Re:i took my olymous d300 apart (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728261)

and installed linux in it. when i put it back together it didn't work. what did i do wrong?

See that single teeny screw left on the table?? It goes somewhere.

Don't blame the penguin for your incompetence. If you can't handle it, ebay it as a "parts only camera."

Lame (3, Insightful)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726468)

None of these really seem much like "hacks". More like cheap, obvious things.

A hack, IMO, would involve doing something funky with the software, like running MAME, doing effects on the image by altering the way its recorded, or something.

Re:Lame (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726523)

That is the first thing that came to my mind as well. When I think "camera hack" I think "make your camera see infrareds", "make a circuit to add remote control to your camera" or "turn your outdated Sony Mavica into a kickbutt mega-deathray laser". At least something that fries the camera and spills its guts on the table, turning it into a camera for the blind. This site is useful, yes, but definitely not hacks.

Re:Lame (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727480)

Actually, (with the exception of the deathray) those hacks are covered in the book.

Case modders.... (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726690)

Just like them PC case modders who think they're untra-cool, ultra-technical and call themselves hackers.

I think though that hacking physical objects is a valid concept. To my mind, hacking does not need to be software, but it should at least mean extension beyond the trivial. Adding adapter rings and modifying the optics etc sounds like hacking to me, epoxying on a nut as a tripod mount isn't.

Re:Case modders.... (1)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728433)

Well, it's really a matter of degree. To you, epoxying on that nut is obvious and trivial. To a photographer who barely recognizes he has chronic motion blur problems and solves them only by setting the camera down on a table, it's a revelation.

Some of his book sounds like it fits your description of hacking, while some of it is beneath your "worthiness" level. The line isn't so black and white for some people, especially the beginners for whom this book seems intended.

Anyway, do you really think titling it "Hacking Digital Cameras Plus 30 Simple Photography Tips" would have improved it any? :-)

Re:Lame (1)

chinton (151403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726855)

Great idea! Port an mp3 encoder to your digital camera -- now that would be a Worthy Hack.

Re:Lame (1)

say (191220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728191)

MAME [mame.org] is Maybe Also an MP3 Encoder, but more frequently known for its Multiple Arcade Machine Emulation abilities. I believe you're thinking of LAME [sourceforge.net].

Re:Lame (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727134)

I was at Rite-Aid drug store last night and noticed they're selling Single Use Digital Cameras for around $15. They have two different models: one with a LCD viewfinder and one without. They don't state the resolution, rather they say it takes "24 high resolution photographs" and it can only be processed at Rite-Aid, where they'll make you a CD of 4"x6" pictures.

When I saw this I immediately though about getting one to actually hack (as opposed to the camera tricks that this book appears to point out). The package clearly states that "This camera cannot be connected to your comptuer to transfer images." When I saw that, my geek instinct kicked in and I immediately began to think how to prove that wrong.

Has anyone ever seen these camera, or better yet has anyone 'hacked' them?

Re:Lame (2, Informative)

HisMother (413313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727353)

I don't know about Rite-Aid ones, but the CVS ones are indeed hackable [maushammer.com]. The first generation required you just to build a cable; later generations have added some attempts at locking out hackers, but these have also been defeated via some clever tricks. I have two of these little CVS guys and they're a lot of fun.

Re:Lame (1)

Atomic Fro (150394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727402)

The rite aid ones are identical. I work at a Rite-Aid, and a customer brought in one from CVS. Looks exactly the same and plugged into the equipment for picture retrieval with no problems.

I haven't seen your link, but looking at the interface on the camera, I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't just USB modified to act like a cartridge.

Re:Lame (2, Informative)

HisMother (413313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727458)

That's exactly what it is -- USB with a funky cable.

I've been out of the "scene" for a while since I hacked my two, so I just went and looked at the bulletin boards that discuss these things, and I'm sad to report that apparently Pure Digital has finally started making a version of these things that can't be hacked using any of the existing methods. Here [forumer.com] is a thread where the guys who figured the hack out are saying that the latest rev may finally be unhackable.

If you can get your hands on older ones, (Rev 3.62 or earlier), then you're in business, but the party may be over for owners of the new 3.70 ones .

Re:Lame (2, Interesting)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728322)

running MAME
Right here. [mame.net]

At the moment I'm digging out all my old digital cameras, including my DC260 that can run MAME, to do calibration sets for some funky software called "PhotoAcute [photoacute.com]". It allows you to double the horizontal and vertical pixel count of your photos be processing multiple pictures of the same image (not useful for action shots, but great for static scenes). The means that your camera's megapixel count is multiplied by four. My A$140 4Megapixel cheapy Kodak Easyshare will soon be a 16Megapixel camera. I'm not sure this qualifies as "camera hacking", but I think it's closer than some of the examples from the book.

RE (3, Insightful)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726479)

I completely understand not wanting to mess around with a new $400 camera- However, most of us have old cameras lying around, that although expensive at the time, are now obselete. Why not use one of your old cameras for this? Or buy one of the super cheap digital cameras, with low resolution, to practice with? Sort of like, I wouldn't practice motor work on a new Corvette, but a $500 V8 Cutlass Supreme would be a great learning/test bed...

Re:RE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14731859)

Why not use one of your old cameras for this?

Because I love Ayanami Rei.

True monochrome? (3, Interesting)

Cybert14 (952427) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726481)

How about having a CCD that takes true monochromatic images? No RGB overlays. So a sodium lamp would register near zero unless near its wavelength.

Re:True monochrome? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726624)

How about having a CCD that takes true monochromatic images?

If you did not want to use a colored filter over the lens, I would think that this would be best done in post-processing with software. Most CCDs in cameras have Red/Green/Blue filters over each (very tiny) lense to pick up the component primary colors of a photo. It would be easier to build/buy a camera with just a greyscale CCD.

Hacking the CCD would be last place to accomplish this. You do not even need to open your camera.

Re:True monochrome? (1)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726803)

got any links to cameras with greayscale CCD's? Easier? I don't think so.

Re:True monochrome? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729095)

Not common, but they are around [i-cubeinc.com].

If you need cheaper there are a couple of webcams/surveillance cameras that could be made to work depending on your specific application.

Re:True monochrome? (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726955)

agreed, instruction for removing the bayer matrix from a camera (preferably a prosumer or a dSLR) would be a strong reason to consider this book IMHO, it's the only hack that I'd actually attempt to do (which is AFAIK what you have to do to get a nice, sharp, b&w-only camera). Yes, I know about converting color images to B&W in PP, but it'd be a nice change, I think... not that I'd do it on my main camera, but still I think that there are many people who at least would attempt it =) and if there's a market for astrophotography-modded cameras (like the Canon 20Da), I think that there would be a market for a sharp, bayer-matrix-less, antialias-filter-less dSLR =)

Re:True monochrome? (1)

Wookie Athos (75570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727306)

Unfortunately the Bayer CFA is a collection of colored filters bonded to each pixel on the chip. The only way to remove it would be to replace the whole sensor chip with a replacement monochrome chip.

There have been some mono digital cameras in the past (e.g. the DCS 760M [luminous-landscape.com]) but unfortunately they've all had their flaws and there are none currently on the market.
While I would love a good mono camera I'm not sure any camera manufacturer has been convinced that there's enough of a market out there to introduce one...

Re:True monochrome? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727892)

Not all color cameras have a Bayer CFA. Just get a Sigma SD9 or SD10 with a Foveon sensor.

They detect colors by how far the photon embeds itself within the silicon. You could just take the raw data from the camera and sum the R, G, & B portions of every pixel to get a raw photon count. Then just gamma correct and you'll have a true greyscale image.

I would recommend using dcraw for this, as it would probably just be a quick hack.

dom

Re:True monochrome? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726998)

Since the CCD itself is just a buncha charge buckets taking advantage of the photoelectric effect, ALL ccds are greyscale but they'll register intensity over a pretty wide range of frequencies. I think it's something like 1.1 m and shorter for our purposes (and depending on voltage). The only way to make it monochrome in the sense that you are using requires some VERY expensive lenses. Like, a Fabry-Perot [wikipedia.org] etalon.

Depending on the bandwidth, these can require the precise deposition of hundreds of atoms-thick layers.

There are other techniques as well of observing very specific absorption/emission spectra, but most run into the same problem: At the bandwidth you're talking about, signal is VERY low (unless all you need to know is, "Is there a sodium lamp in the room? If so, where is it?"). So you need either a gigantic aperature, or something a bit more sensitive and less noisy than a CCD. Or most likly, both. You probably aren't going to be imaging very many things like that.

worst. review. ever? (4, Interesting)

jspectre (102549) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726500)

i'm sorry. was this an amazon.com review posted on /. by mistake? did you try any of the hacks? what did you like? what didn't you like? did you just copy this off the back cover of the book or what?

-1 for content, -1 for copying from amazon or somewhere else, -10 for wasting my time reading and writing this reply

please write a review when you've actually read the book. thanks!

Re:worst. review. ever? (1)

assantisz (881107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726666)

I agree with this 100%. When even the "reviewer" admits that this book is not targeted at him at all why would he "review" it?

WORST. REPLY. EVER. (1)

Jennifer3000 (921441) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726830)

There are SO many false assumptions in your reply... Try actually reading the post first, genius! This post is CLEARLY a book review; the reviewer DID read it; distinctly noted his likes and dislikes; and DID try at least one of the hacks!

Agreed: Review needs info from the book (1)

psyclone (187154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726981)

The review needs to include information from the book -- give at least 2 example hacks so I can understand what types of hacks these are.

This was _not_ a "book review" it was a fluffy "opinion about a book".

Re:worst. review. ever? (2)

AlterTick (665659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727002)

i'm sorry. was this an amazon.com review posted on /. by mistake?

Oh no, Amazon reviews are generally much worse! Besides the typical obviously bad reviews of "I haven't [read/seen/used] this, as it hasn't been released yet, but I love the [author/director/manufacturer] so I give it FIVE STARS!", or "Anyone who likes [whatever] is a fag!-- ONE STAR", there are some real head scratchers. One guy reviewed a raclette set (a swiss fondue thing for cheese):

"This set didn't come with a scraper and tongs like the one I had in switzerland -- ONE STAR"

Most are a little less cryptic, but make just as little sense:

"it came in a box but i was really hoping it would come wrapped in paper -- ONE STAR"

"I was hoping this would be a different shade of white -- ONE STAR"

"Shipping was very expensive for such a small item -- ONE STAR"

and the prize-winningest, most irrelevant review ever, as found by my wife:

"This novel did not have enough pages for what I paid for it -- ONE STAR"

Give me a break!!!!! (5, Insightful)

Artfldgr (844531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726502)

the key in his introduction to getting you to go to his review is:

I don't think this book was intended for me, so keep that in mind when reading my review."

since i am a man, i will go out and review the new tampax smooth style heavy flow tampons, of course i will put the disclaimer that the product wasnt intended for me, and that this should be kept in mind when reading, what the disclaimer makes, a useless review!!!! said one sighted person when reviewing the kurzeweil reading machine for the blind "nice machine, but all the buttons and such have no labels, how do they expect the blind to see what they are doing?" said a double leg amputee in reviewing nikes new air jumpoes... "nice lines, cool colors.. i cant wear them, but if i had legs, i would" does anyone see the uselessness of reviewing products that were not intended for the reviewer? if you dont, then this mans review is perfect for you!

Re:Give me a break!!!!! (5, Insightful)

computational super (740265) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726797)

I got further than you. I stopped at, "If you're interested in cameras, pick up a copy of this book and see if it's the kind of book you're interested in. Then check to see if there's anything close to what you're interested in. If there's nothing in there that you're interested in, or close to something that you might be interested in being interested in, you'll probably not be interested by this book." An insight like that just can't be topped, so there seemed no point in reading further.

Just remember... (2, Funny)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726536)

I'm NOT a hacker by nature.

Just remember, if at first you don't succeed, chainsaw juggling is not for you.

Re:Just remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727778)

It's outrageous! You don't even have to be hacker to post on Slashdot anymore!

Raw data (3, Insightful)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726538)

One of the topics listed in the book is the raw file format. Why do camera manufacturer encrypt our pictures? Our pictures belong to us. We are the copyright holders of our pictures, not the manufacturers of cameras. There is probably no acceptable answer. So, let's just list the culprits. I start with one of them:
Nikon [imaging-resource.com].

Re:Raw data (3, Interesting)

dslbrian (318993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726686)

One of the topics listed in the book is the raw file format. Why do camera manufacturer encrypt our pictures? Our pictures belong to us. We are the copyright holders of our pictures, not the manufacturers of cameras. There is probably no acceptable answer.

I followed your link, and I think your right, there is no acceptable answer to that from a user standpoint. Looking at the information from your link this sounds like a rather lame attempt at locking the camera to the raw processing software.

Its odd in that the image itself isn't encrypted but the white balance information is. It obviously takes additional work to encrypt the white balance, so why not the whole image? Probably its Nikon walking the line between irritating the software developer enough to drop support entirely, yet still keeping them from accessing the full potential of the raw file (locking out the open-source community - good job there Nikon...)

Another case of the corporate mentality to maintain complete control over what you can do with the stuff you buy.

Re:Raw data (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728074)

You have to bear in mind that it is Nikon Japan that make these decisions and not Nikon USA. I suspect Nikon JP could give less than a rats arse about the open source community. Canon and Sony (and no doubt Fuji et al) do a similar thing with their RAW files.

Re:Raw data (3, Interesting)

nodens (137511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726799)

It's not a question of the data being encrypted, it's a proprietary format. Actually, it's not even a single format, it varies by manufacturer and even within models from the same manufacturer. Some manufacturers are pretty good about providing providing details about their RAW format(s) while others aren't. Your statements cast all manufacturers in the same light.

The RAW file is simply the raw data that the sensor recorded (okay, there would be some basic file header info such as EXIF headers too). Yes, some camaeras do still process the data to a certain extent (such as noise reduction) but the file is supposed to be the closest thing to an unprocessed file you can get from the camera. The intention of this is to give you the most to work with when you are editing the image later.

I would like to see cameras use a single open format. I know Adobe has been trying to push the DNG format, I'm not sure how open it is but it would at least be a single standard format.

Re:Raw data (2, Interesting)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727203)

Sure, this is just the usual proprietary file format game and an attempt to monopolize the market. This why it is important to name the manufacturers who do encrypt data or do not disclose the file format.

Personally I would not count on Adobe. Adobe's stupid PDF update sagas serve exactly the same purpose as encrypting parts of the camera's raw data. You may also contact the makers of xpdf and gs. They certainly can tell a few stories about Adobe.

There is an open raw [openraw.org] format. OpenRAW gives more details about this issue. I think it is important that people know how well manufacturers support customers (or not for that matter).

Re:Raw data (1)

nodens (137511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729194)

Thanks for the follow-up with a better link. In your original post it sounded like you were confusing encryption and proprietary formats but you've cleared that up somewhat.

I think you do need to clarify your points though since it really sounds like you're saying that all RAW files are encrypted, which isn't the case. And we're not even talking about the image information in the RAW file, we're talking about the white balance information. A lot of shooters I know don't bother with the white balance when they're shooting in RAW or they only roughly set it for if they're doing RAW+JPEG so that their low-res preview looks okay. Then they adjust the final white balance in post-processing, so it's not much of an issue.

However, there are other pieces of information that can be stored in a RAW file that can be more useful. Off the top of my head, I know some systems (such as Olympus' 4/3 system) are capable of receiving information from the lens regarding lens characteristics (barrel distortion, chromatic aberrations, etc), in theory that information could be used by the RAW processor to correct for certain lens problems. I'm not sure if it's currently being done but the potential is there. If that information were encrypted then that would only be possible in the manufacturers software (until the encryption is broken).

So I do agree that encrypting data in the RAW format is bad. I see the issue with it being proprietary as being a separate issue. Mainly, the file format is supposed to be the raw data from the sensor. This means that the format can change frequently as new models are released with different sensors. I'd certainly like it if there was a standard open format but I'm not sure how feasible it is to create a format that would continue to work with newer sensors or with camera systems that include additional information with the RAW file.

Re:Raw data (1)

gaspyy (514539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14730414)

You didn't read the link.

Nikon is adding a new layer of obscurity by encrypting the WB info (maybe so that they can sue using DMCA).

All RAW formats and Adobe DNG are basically TIFF files, but the tags are different. Of course, there no reason why there shouldn't be a standard format used by everyone.

So far, DNG is used natively by some medium format cameras such as Hasseblad's digital backs. DNG specs are open.

Re:Raw data (1)

nodens (137511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14733028)

Read my follow-up comment.

Yes, Nikon does add some obscurity by encrypting the WB setting. However, the original poster made it sound as if the entire file was being encrypted, which is a very different thing.

At best, encrypting the WB setting makes things mildly more annoying for if you're working with a 3rd party RAW converter. The reason I say this is because I know a number of photographers who don't use WB when shooting and instead handle that in post-production. Others may set the WB simply so that the JPEG preview looks reasonably close to what the final shot would look like.

That aside, let's look at what the WB setting actually does. It adjusts the colour based on the colour temperature of the lighting in order to remove any colour cast. A lot of people obsess over using custom WB settings but it's not really that big a deal. For outdoor shooting you probably want to maintain the character of the lighting so you don't want a custom WB. For instance, if you're shooting just around sunrise or sunset you want that nice yellow-orange light. Setting a custom WB will eliminate that look. Another example would be a message I saw on one of the photo lists I'm on, the poster was complaining that his snow shots didn't have the slight blue colour he wanted to make things look cold. The problem was he was using a custom white balance that was balancing the snow to be pure white instead of slightly blue. Simply using the "daylight" WB would have been the best option.

For indoor shooting you're most likely dealing with either tungsten or flourescent lighting. Both of these can usually be adjust for with standard WB settings.

So what's left? The main usefulness for custom WB settings is when you're working in mixed lighting. Say an indoor shot where you have tungsten and flourescent lighting as well as daylight coming in from windows. That's a tricky lighting situation. That's when you are going to want to set a custom WB. However, you can just as easily take a shot of your grey card (which you should be using to get an accurate WB setting in the first place). If you really want to get accurate colour you should shoot a frame of a colour chart (such as a Macbeth colour chart) and adjust off of that. In your RAW converter you can then use that shot to set your WB for the whole set of shots.

As for the DMCA, it sounds like it would set Nikon up to be in a position to sue if another company decrypts their WB information without permission but you should still be able to read the image data itself. I think you'd create some nasty legal issues for yourself if you were to prevent the legitimate copyright holder from accessing their images.

That said, I do agree that it'd be nice to see an open standard in use. My main question is how well a format would be able to support all current camera models (which store various amounts of information in the RAW file aside from teh sensor data) and also scale with future models? I don't know enough about the DNG format to say how it would work with this. My guess would be that it's like the TIFF format where you can freely add tags to the format. If that's the case then you could still run into the same problem with things like WB settings (or any other piece of information) even without encrypting them because different manufacturers could decide to record the information in different ways.

Re:Raw data (2, Interesting)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727300)

Insightful? You have to be kidding...

Why not ask why camera manufacturers force you to use JPEG. Or TIFF. Why not use PNG? While you're at it, why not complain that most pro cameras use Compact Flash rather than SD cards. Or that the lens mounts aren't interchangeable. The camera is yours, right? Why should you be forced to use an adapter to put a Nikon lens on a Canon body? They should be forced to use what YOU want!

Nikon encodes the white balance in their camera RAW format. That's their option. Don't like it? Don't use the format or don't use Nikon. That's your choice.

Re:Raw data (1)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727406)

Nikon encodes the white balance in their camera RAW format. That's their option. Don't like it? Don't use the format or don't use Nikon. That's your choice.

This is exactly why I brought this up. People can make a better decision if they know all facts.

Re:Raw data (1)

dslbrian (318993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728202)

Why not ask why camera manufacturers force you to use JPEG. Or TIFF. Why not use PNG? While you're at it, why not complain that most pro cameras use Compact Flash rather than SD cards. Or that the lens mounts aren't interchangeable. The camera is yours, right? Why should you be forced to use an adapter to put a Nikon lens on a Canon body? They should be forced to use what YOU want!
Nikon encodes the white balance in their camera RAW format. That's their option. Don't like it? Don't use the format or don't use Nikon.

I would agree with your solution to the "problem", however I think the original posters point is that its a completely unnecessary and artificial problem to begin with.

Most of the things you mention have to do with legacy. They used JPEG because back whenever digital cameras started to appear most all imaging programs supported JPEG, but they did not necessarily support PNG. CF versus SD, no idea there (however I personally like CF because the contacts are not exposed). Nikon ships nikon mounts on their cameras because they have a had their own mount and lots of lenses for a long time now.

The encrypted white balance on the other hand has no legacy behind it (there aren't old imaging programs which only work with encrypted white balance info for instance), and apparently it exists ONLY to control which future programs will work fully with raw data. It takes intent and work to encrypt the white balance info, its not as if it comes out of a sensor that way, so they went out of their way to create this "problem".

Re:Raw data (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727383)

I worked in the photography industry for 6 years, many of them for Kodak.
Camera Manufactures don't format images to keep you from doing anything with your pictures. They could care less what the masses do with their pics. They encode the images to take up less space so that the majority of consumers(not /. readers) can fit an entire vacation of pics on a single small memory card. Most professional level camers allow RAW format images and have for quite a while.
Their decision to encode images on low-mid level cameras is a calculated marketing decision, and a correct one in my opinion.

Re:Raw data (1)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727440)

Compression is one thing. But encrypting data and not disclosing the file format is another.

Re:Raw data (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14731567)

One of the topics listed in the book is the raw file format. Why do camera manufacturer encrypt our pictures? Our pictures belong to us. We are the copyright holders of our pictures, not the manufacturers of cameras. There is probably no acceptable answer. So, let's just list the culprits. I start with one of them:
Nikon.



Nikon has an SDK that lets developers use all of the features of their NEF (Nikon's raw file format)raw files so that 3rd parties can create convertors. Nikon chose to keep their file format for whatever reason and still make it possible for other companies to create conversion software. In addition, there are a variety of converters and plugins available that cann read Nikon NEF files. Nikon is hardly limiting anyone's creative rights.

Hacking Webcams For Astrophotography (5, Interesting)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726540)

Astronomers have been doing the same kind of thing with Webcams - specificly the Phillips TouCam, Vesta Pro and the Quickcam 3000 all use CCD sensors which are sensitive enough for astrophotography. It's possible to open them up, modify them for long exposure photography, add peltier cooling to reduce noise and some people even replace the CCD with a different kinds.
http://www.qcuiag.co.uk/ [qcuiag.co.uk]

Re:Hacking Webcams For Astrophotography (3, Interesting)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727678)

Astronomers have also been doing this with digital SLRs. Modifying the firmware to allow longer exposures, removing the IR dichroic filter... One camera manufacturer seems to have noticed this and made a specialized version: http://www.dpreview.com/news/0506/05060101canon20d a.asp [dpreview.com] No, I don't work for Canon, I just wish Sony (and others) would either open up their firmware or provide more flexible options for semi-pro cameras such as the DSC-V3.

Re:Hacking Webcams For Astrophotography (1)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727994)

They don't exactly use long exposures. They take a long series of photos and use specialized stacking software to average them, eliminating any random noise that wasn't caught by their dark noise control images.

Re:Hacking Webcams For Astrophotography (1)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728492)

Yes with webcams this is what you would do because their small chip size and various other deficiencies means each frame will be extremely noisy. But with multi-megapixel digital SLRs, you'll probably want to take fewer (or just one) longer exposure. I once made the mistake of running the stacker software on a 4.1 Megapixel image, my computer is still cooling off, gathering its wits and freeing swapspace. Most stack aligners are happier with the rough webcam images no bigger than 640X480.

Re:Hacking Webcams For Astrophotography (1)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728621)

Well by long exposure I mean 'Longer than the 0.04 second exposures the Webcam normally maxes out at" - I do take 30 second+ exposures with my wife's Digital SLR, but beyond that the tracking on my scope starts to show up.

Hacker?? (2, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726562)


When I first read the URL I thought I saw "camerawhacker.com".

Maybe it's the Elmer Fudd in me. Maybe I should put down the soldering iron.

Referral rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726583)

Another fine book review, brought to you by the ever vigilant /. editorial staff. Guess their click thru rate with bn.com was getting a little low...

If you answered NO to any of these questions... (1)

loadedcrap (569873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726681)

Are you a propeller head who loves to take things apart?
Are you a techno-junkie who has 9 or 10 digital cameras lying around because you always buy the newest one?
Are you an amateur or professional photographer who just can't quite get all the features you want in a single camera?
Do you have a specific need for a hack that the book covers?
Do you have an interest in this sort of hack and a desire to learn some photography basics?"

If you answered no to any of these questions, Maybe you shouldnt write a book review about this book

How apropos (2, Funny)

fatboy (6851) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726719)

I received this email from my wife a few minutes ago....

The camera is FU*KED.

I took pictures of the flowers. Showed someone the picture of your parents. As it was handed back, it was dropped. It is hosed. Know any good camera repair shops?

Please don't kill me. I am SO sorry. I hope we can get the pictures of the flowers out of it.

Re:How apropos (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726868)

That's funny... I got this email from my girlfriend about half an hour ago...

The camera is FU*KED. I can't delete those pictures from last night - I'm afraid my husband will see them!

So, I took some pictures of some stupid flowers and then pretended to "break" the camera showing them to his parents. (oh, how I despise bill!). I'm afraid I didn't break it enough to get rid of those pictures. Should I drive a nail through the memory card?

I'll play the "please don't kill me" line with the puppy dog eyes. He should fall for it.

See you this weekend!!

Re:How apropos (1)

xdjyoshx (804247) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727220)

I would have owned up to that one, good laugh.

Re:How apropos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14728582)

I've got mod points right now and I've got some good knowledge of disposable camera hacking, so I thought it would be more valuable to mod than to sign my name. Plus, +1 funny doesn't affect karma.

Re:How apropos (0, Offtopic)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727377)

That's funny... My daughter-in-law just came by to show me some pictures she took in our new garden. She made me feel so guilty for breaking her camera.

That lying slut is going to be in a world of trouble. "Oh, how I despise Bill." Make that a two-faced lying slut.

I'm e-mailing this thread to her husband. But should I show my wife? She never liked that tramp anyways

Re:How apropos (1)

manaway (53637) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727957)

Let's see if I understand this correctly. An anonymous nerd has a girlfriend, and he spends the night taking pictures of her. OK, I'm with you so far, JPGs make good girlfriends. And what gets fu*ked is the camera? You sir are a dedicated hacker. Ya know, I think your post is more informative and typical than funny.

Now here's a real digicam hack... (3, Interesting)

norite (552330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726820)

LOL.....Have a look here [blip.com.au] to see a real camera hack. There's even a gallery to see what you can do with this camera in the air, and post your own results...
I have just got one myself for my model plane. It's just an ordinary 2 Megapixel aiptek pencam, but modified to run off a model aircraft's battery pack and take instructions from a spare channel on your receiver. It has a programmable chip inside so you can alter the time in between shots. I'm taking mine to Spain this summer; we're going to try out some basic geological mapping, but with a bit of luck I should be taking some aerial photos of our model flying field this weekend to see how it turns out... :o)

They're out of stock right now - I was lucky to get mine before they ran out! Perhaps a better camera will be modded by them in future....

Hacking? (1)

iBod (534920) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726824)

The term 'Hacking' now seems to mean any form of mild experimentation or improvisation outside of the scope that the product manufacturer had envisaged.

Wow! How cool is this hacking thing????

Re:Hacking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727335)

The term 'Hacking' now seems to mean any form of mild experimentation or improvisation outside of the scope that the product manufacturer had envisaged.

Actually, it seems to be used to mean anything that doesn't come in the box. Tripods, accessory adapters, filters, etc. are all things that the manufacturer would be happy to sell you. Firmware updates are typically free (though the update process varies by manufacturer and camera), and remotes are sometimes included with the camera. Perhaps an introductory book titled "Beyond the on button: What all the stuff on your expensive new camera does" should come before a book of "hacks."

Re:Hacking? (1)

queef_latina (847562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728149)

You know, the first thing I did when I saw the title of the article was to type 'hacking?' into my browser's search. And sure enough, some downtrodden internet-weenie was fuming that his precious geek language was being co-opted. Just like clockwork.

CVS One-Time-Use Camera Hacking (2, Informative)

rtaylor187 (694389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726837)

There's a whole forum dedicated to hacking the CVS/Ritz/Wolf/Rite-aid digital cameras and camcorders here: http://www.camerahacking.com/ [camerahacking.com]. Beyond hacks for reusing these "one time use" cameras, there are a number of folks taking them in the directions discussed by this book (i.e. lens mods, flash memory modification, IR lighting, etc.)

But, alas, recent CVS camcorders are now almost unhackable since the developer has closed most holes that were there intially. The still cameras are still accessible via some hardware hacks.

- Rich

Is this like the $40 iPod secret books? (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726933)

I.e. lots of common sense things that anyone with a brain should understand, but feel they need the comfort of reading it in a book first before they feel comfortable exercising their God given intellect, or rather, being ripped of $40 to find out you already know everything the book feels the need to explain.

Anyways, my digital camera cost $1200, so I don't think I will go near it with a Dremel tool just to make it work with some tripod that wasn't designed to use as universal camera adapter. About the closest thing I did to hack my Digital Rebel was to update its firmware with one from a more expensive Canon digital camera, only to find out that while most of the menu options from the more expensive camera are available, most of the features are not supported in the Rebel.

I found it interesting that the book had to explain the math and concepts behind photography. This is analogous to the editor saying that you need to write a 500 page book, and you found out you only have 200 pages of real content, so throw in some superfluous information that you can find in an encyclopedia so you can fill in the void. I bet the book also features lots of full color picture pages showing all the neat things a camera can do (like take pictures of pretty things).

I find most how to manuals and "hacker" guides to be generally lacking in anything practical and filled with information you could probably think of if you took the time to think of it. The author hopes you don't think too hard and would drop $40 on the book. The only two "how to" guides I found ever useful and worth the money was "101 things to do with a dead cat" and "Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten".

BTW, I hear Opera is bitter and doing an expose on the author of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" because apparently the author lied and the truth is that men and women are both born on Earth.

Just one question - mirror lockup hack for Canon (2, Interesting)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727316)

....does it have instructions on how to hack firmware so that the mirror lockup functionality is behind a single button on 20D or 5D? I especially wouldn't mind replacing 5D's "Direct Print" with a mirror lockup button.

i h4x0r3d my webcam once (1)

MrP-(at work) (839979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727382)

removed the IR filter, replaced it with a couple layers of film negatives and took scary pics of my eyes and the strips in money and the beam from my remote control. fun stuff, although i kind of liked that webcam.. oh well

Re:i h4x0r3d my webcam once (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727495)

"and the beam from my remote control" Hell, I've done this with my camera phone and a Kodak easyshot... kinda cool, actually.

How to build your own (1)

Rac3r5 (804639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727455)

For a while now I've been thinking, wouldn't it be cool to build your own digital camera? Has anyone tried this out? or even thought about this?
I can take care of the software/firmware and a bit of the electronics side of things, but I don't know much about the camera parts that actually take the picture.

Re:How to build your own (1)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728753)

wouldn't it be cool to build your own digital camera? Has anyone tried this out? or even thought about this? I can take care of the software/firmware and a bit of the electronics side of things, but I don't know much about the camera parts that actually take the picture. Yes, I was involved in a project to build a astronomical camera. First off it's cheaper to simply go buy a DSLR from Nikon or Canon but you don't build a camera to save money. You build one because you can't buy what you need. For example one of the cameras ran in"drift scan" mode. We shifted the charge on the CCD so that we coul integrate an image of an object that moved relative to the fixed camera. I've seen one project that that needed tilts and shifts like on a view camera If you are willing to use a Pentium t control the camera you can do most everything in software I'd liket o build a sensor for an adaptive optics system with the goal of keepingthe cost s_WAY_ down by putting PC hardware to best use

Infra-red! (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727625)

I'd like to hack a digital camera to produce infra-red false-color thermographs. Filtered pinhole. Do-able?

Re:Infra-red! (1)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728070)

No. Normal digital camera sensors will pick up IR just outside the visible spectrum, but they're not sensitive enough to pick up differences in heat.

There are digital imagers available that can do thermographs without cryogenic cooling. Unfortunately, they cost tens of thousands of dollars, last time I checked. Example: http://www.ir55.com/ [ir55.com]

Accidental Fisheye hack (1)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727723)

When, after 4000 photos, the front zoom element jammed on my Casio QV-4000, I removed it and found that the remaining elements were still able to form an image if the camera was in macro mode. The camera has a save presets feature so now when I turn it on, it is in macro mode and since the focal length of the remaining elements is much shorter, I now have a very distorted ultra-wide angle non-zoom camera which can take in most of a room, the entire family or weird artsy photos such as this. [flickr.com]

It's not Broken, its Differently Functional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14729306)

Very cool. Have you considered or tried additional external lenses on it now? I'm thinking a telescope adapter...

Hacking for Infrared (1)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727950)

Maybe the most common digital camera hack is removing the IR cut filter to allow for better IR photography. High-speed IR film is awkward to use because it has to be loaded in a dark bag, it's difficult to get the exposure right, and you can't see the image in the viewfinder if you're using a visually opaque IR-pass filter. Digitals hacked for IR are awesome, because with a visually opaque filter over the lens, you can still preview the image.

The only problem is that, because the IR cut filter is typically behind the lens (right in front of the sensor), you have to replace it with a IR-transparent filter with similar refractive properties, or the camera can't focus properly. I took my Nikon Coolpix 2200 apart and replaced the IR cut filter, but I guess the optical glass I replaced it with isn't quite right, because it doesn't focus well. I never got around to finding a suitable substitute.

Underwater camera housing (1)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728515)

A friend [inventorsgarage.com] once told me a technique for minimising leaks in homemade underwater camera housings. Take the valve stem from a bicycle inner tube, attach it to the (PVC/HPVC) camera housing. Just before immersing the camera, pump 15 psi or so into the valve stem. That way if there is a slow leak, air pressure will help keep the water out (up to 30' or so)
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