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Hacking Digital Cameras 102

whawk640 writes "I came across this book via the author's website 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.
Hacking Digital Cameras
author Chieh Cheng, Auri Rahimzadeh
pages 519
publisher Wiley
rating 8/10
reviewer Daniel LaFuze
ISBN 978-0-7645-9651-3
summary Interesting and Fun

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.

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Hacking Digital Cameras

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  • slashdotted (Score:3, Informative)

    by testednegative ( 843833 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @04:11PM (#14726678)
    posters please submit coral links to the pages too, thank you.

    link: []

  • by rtaylor187 ( 694389 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @04:30PM (#14726837)
    There's a whole forum dedicated to hacking the CVS/Ritz/Wolf/Rite-aid digital cameras and camcorders here: []. 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
  • Re:Lame (Score:3, Informative)

    by HisMother ( 413313 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @05:26PM (#14727353)
    I don't know about Rite-Aid ones, but the CVS ones are indeed hackable []. 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 (Score:3, Informative)

    by HisMother ( 413313 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @05:37PM (#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 [] 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 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @05:39PM (#14727480)
    Actually, (with the exception of the deathray) those hacks are covered in the book.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.