what a great camera! CHDK makes it an EXCELLENT camera

Jan 2, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:<b>CHDK CHDK CHDK</b>, almost no shutter lag, fast powerup, takes great photos, pocketable, macro ability

Cons:older technology now, lack of controls w/o CHDK, small lens

The Bottom Line: CHDK changes this from being a great camera to an EXCELLENT camera to have on your person everywhere you go.  Tons of features with CHDK

What can I say about this camera that hasn't already been said?  CHDK!  I'll go into CHDK at the end of the review.  For those who don't know what CHDK is, it's a software update you can put on your memory card that completely OPENS up the camera's physical abilities.  It's a great reason to actually buy a slightly older camera IMO.  I'd actively choose an older camera now with CHDK than a newer one w/o CHDK.  In the meantime, I'll just repeat a few key points if this happens to be the first review of this older camera you are reading. 

Firstly this is a great little point and shoot!  It is small, pocketable, and takes very good pictures for what it is.  I've taken photos with this that have won photo competitions or placed against more expensive gear (DSLR).  The old addage that you have to have a camera to take a photo holds true every time for me, as I always have this on my person.  A great photo is part being in the right place and part at the right time, but also having something to capture it with.  I only carry a DSLR when I'm purpose shooting (going out specifically to take photos) and if left to that, I would miss SO many photo ops when just driving down the road or commuting to and from work or even just walking in the park for exercise.

Shutter lag is not an issue with this camera, it's quick to turn on and very quick to shoot.  Sometimes you can get ahead of the autofocus and it'll shoot a blurry photo, but if you take an extra half second for the autofocus to do it's job you will get a crisp photo. 

Macro shots are VERY good with this camera.  Closeups of food or flowers or anything else is great.  Lots of detail and you can get pretty close (about 3" or so) and still focus on the target.

Battery life is quite good, letting me take in the range of 200-300 shots on one battery, depending on conditions (use of flash reduces the number, brightness of LCD also does)  This is one of the few digital cameras that still includes an eye piece so you don't HAVE to use the screen, but it's not representative of the image you will get, as it crops what you would see on the screen.  However, I suppose it's a nicety that does little harm to have if you ever find yourself in need of using it.

I shoot primarily in "manual" mode, and once in a while will use the scene modes, such as sunset or folliage to add extra color punch in the shots.  As mentioned in other reviews, this camera doesn't allow you to do much in manual mode (compared with bigger or more expensive cameras).  That is sort of inherent of being a lower cost point and shoot.  The target audience for this camera generally has little use or possibly even knowledge how aperture, faster shutter speeds (you can control slower shutter speeds 1 - 15 seconds) or how adding a ND filter can effect the final image.  However, they can have a VERY dramatic effect on how your image turns out if you know how to control them or if you have the ability to control them.  For instance, a ND filter is used to make things darker, the benefit of this is that you can use a longer exposure to make moving water look softer.

Possibly the greatest compliment that I've been paid is that a few people I know that shoot only DSLR's (those big expensive looking professional cameras) have purchased this camera after seeing the photos that I was able to produce with such a tiny point and shoot.  They still primarily use their DSLR, but they now carry this little point and shoot with them, for spur of the moment pics.

The downsides to this camera are few, but there are some, and they aren't specifically the fault of this camera, but more so the "sub-compact point and shoot" category as a whole.  The lens is small and that means it might need longer exposures in dark lighting.  It's a physical limitation of the camera's small size.  This means that photos might appear blurry in low light conditions.  It can be compensated for a bit by cranking up the ISO (more graininess) or using a tripod if the subject isn't moving.  There are newer cameras (slightly larger) that have very fast lenses and offer a whole host of other upgrades as well (the canon s90 and s95), but they are more than double the price of this camera.

Another fault is the lack of manual controls on the camera.  Again, not a big deal for most users of this target market, but I appreciate having the option to excercse more control over the camera functions to better control the final exposure.

Flash is weak, good for maybe 10' or so.  Another physical limitation of the size, and not really this camera's fault specifically.  Works excellent for indoor shots or fill flash on a bright day for close up subjects but pretty useless for anything greater.  I generally try to avoid using flash except for fill purposes.

Now for the exciting part of the review.  CHDK!  CHDK stands for Canon Hack Development Kit.  An independent group of programmers have taken it upon themselves to decipher Canon's programming on some cameras and basically supercharge the camera's abilities.  Essentially, Canon has handicapped the camera for marketing purposes and so it better fits in the lineup.  Physically the camera can do a lot more than the programming allows for.  CHDK unlocks the true potential of the hardware.  It is a firmware update that you put on your memory card and it's activated by physically locking and unlocking the SD card.  (that little switch on the side of the card)  So there is no permanant change to the camera... everything is reversible.  At the flick of a switch, your camera is reversed into the same old camera you bought from the store.  But flip that switch again, and some of the features that you unlock are live histograms, a TRUE battery percentage read out (anything above 25% reads as full 3 bars), RAW shooting mode, full exposure and aperture control, shutter speeds that go as fast as 1/125,000 of a second (faster than most DSLR's on the market can shoot) or as slow as 65 seconds, auto-exposure bracketing mode for HDR photos, access to manually turn the in camera ND filter on and off, and even motion detection so that you can capture lightning strikes effortlessly!

quick article on CHDK:

CHDK for the SD 1100;

CHDK Wiki:

In my opinion the CHDK is a game changer in regards to what point and shoot cameras I am willing to purchase.  If I had to buy a new camera for some reason, I'd only buy one that CHDK was available for.  It really is THAT good.

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