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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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  • Lame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @03:38PM (#14726468) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @03:39PM (#14726479) Homepage
    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...
  • by Artfldgr ( 844531 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @03:42PM (#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!
  • Raw data (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msbsod ( 574856 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @03:48PM (#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 [].
  • Case modders.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @04:14PM (#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.

  • by computational super ( 740265 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @04:25PM (#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.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley