Digital camera repair

Digital camera firmware hacks

Written by Gail Bjork

A firmware hack is developed by a third party programmer that adds extra functionality to a digital camera. They are not authorized by the manufacturer and could affect your warranty.

LCD screen shot of CHDK by MIKI YoshihitoFirmware is software stored in the memory of a device such as a digital camera, which controls its basic functions. Manufacturers may offer firmware updates from time to time that fix camera problems found after its release.

A firmware hack is developed by a third party programmer. It is not authorized by the manufacturer.

A hack typically resides in a memory card. When a hack is uploaded to a digital camera, it modifies the software. It increases camera functionality, such as adding a RAW file format to a camera that does not have RAW.

If necessary, the original firmware can be restored.

Damage “theoretically” possible

As an example, some Canon camera users use the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK)* to add features to their Canon camera. While the CHDK website says there are no permanent changes to a camera, it does say in the FAQ that it is experimental and there is no warranty. They point out that it is unlikely to damage a camera but theoretically possible.

Elsewhere at the site, it states: “Although CHDK does not make any changes to the actual firmware on your camera, it may be possible to cause mechanical damage to your camera, but this is extremely unlikely due to the safeguards put in place by Canon.”

Does a firmware hack void the warranty?

Since a firmware hack is not authorized by a manufacturer, it may void a digital camera warranty. Some have reported sending a camera with a hack in for repair without a warranty problem. Either the firmware was reset to the original by tech support, or the repaired camera was returned with the hack still installed.

Should I add a firmware hack?

The decision is entirely up to you. If you do so, it is entirely at your own risk. Certainly think twice if your camera is still on warranty, which may also have an extended warranty if you paid for it with a credit card.


*If your camera stops working after trying to install CHDK: put fresh batteries in the camera, but no memory card. Double click the on/off button. The camera will turned on and then off. Press the button again and the camera should start normally. (Source)


Photo illustration by MIKI Yoshihito. Used under the Creative Commons License

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

1 Comment

  • CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) “firmware hack”  don’t modify firmware into camera EPROM. It’s modifies the running program into the camera RAM. That prevents any physical damage and warranty problems.