I've played with time-lapse photography using my father in law's Canon Rebel, using a USB cable, gphoto2 and an Ubuntu laptop. I want to create similar videos using my own A590 IS, but it cannot be controlled from a USB cable. The only solution I found on the web is firmware enhancement using CHDK.

How safe is CHDK? Is there really a way back? Are versions above 1.xx mature?


Update: Thanks for all the advice. I've successfully installed CHDK on my SD card and shot my first time-lapse using my A590. Works great!

Another Update: Installed on my 550D. Works without problems, and I can choose not to load CHDK at boot time (by long-pressing a button).


As you can see right on the main CHDK wiki - "Temporary – No permanent changes are made to the camera." You also can find very detailed information in the FAQ here.

Basically - Yes you are hacking your camera. So things can happen that the original manufacturer did not intend(if this wasn't true, you wouldn't want it anyways). But the chances of any permanent damage to your camera are near 0.

Technically CHDK is not firmware. It does not permanently reside on the camera. You can remove it, and go back to your factory default settings and firmware without any issues. Overall - install away!

  • 1
    Bad example with the beer - blog.hajma.cz/2010/05/beer-explosion.html
    – rfusca
    Aug 4 '11 at 19:52
  • Yea, it can explode, but I do it, and it works. Just don't forget about it.
    – dpollitt
    Aug 4 '11 at 20:19
  • 2
    So the analogy is use CHDK but if you forget out it, it could hose your camera? lol
    – rfusca
    Aug 4 '11 at 20:24
  • 1
    +1, been using CHDK for almost 2 years without any issue. Aug 5 '11 at 1:12

CHDK is alternate firmware that is loaded on your SD card. It does not alter the factory firmware at all. When you start up your camera it loads this alternate firmware. When you are done with it, or don't care for it, simply put in an empty SD card and turn off/on your camera and it loads the factory firmware, just the way you left it.


I've had no problems with CHDK on a A430 doing timelapses over a day or two. I've also used it to enable raw capture.

I would concur with cmason's use of the phrase "alternate firmware". It's still firmware, it just doesn't replace the factory firmware. There are warnings on the CHDK website indicating that CHDK may make it possible for you to request your camera performs an action that the factory firmware prevents for good reason.

But for something like timelapses, I think you should be fine.

Here's a timelapse I did with CHDK on my A430: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJXGGwZ2ZCo

  • 1
    Examples: You can specify extreme short/long exposures that can damage the shutter. You also can specify apertures excluded by original firmware that can damage the camera. Summary: Just apply common sense before you use CHDK ;)
    – Leonidas
    Aug 4 '11 at 22:41
  • 1
    @Leonidas - how can a long exposure damage an electronic shutter?
    – ysap
    Aug 4 '11 at 23:37
  • @ysap Admittedly, damaging a shutter with long exposure seems to be difficult. I'd replace: s/shutter/shutter or sensor/g. (BTW: not all compacts have an electronic shutter only, my Canon A610 has a mechanical shutter (too?).)
    – Leonidas
    Aug 5 '11 at 9:39
  • @ysap - i assume sensor overheating can be the greatest problem. Aug 5 '11 at 9:53
  • @JoséNunoFerreira - I can see the potential problem with the sensor (although I doubt that you can actually permanently damage a sensor w/ long exposure, but I may be wrong). However, my comment related to the shutter, as Leonidas mentioned that explicitly, and CHDK is intended for compacts.
    – ysap
    Aug 5 '11 at 11:27

CHDK itself does not modify the firmware. Remove the SD card or replace it with a different one, or just format it and the camera boots from original firmware. Or even switch the write-protect tab to unprotected!

BUT CHDK modifies camera's internal persistent settings which are not normally modifiable. Example: highest achievable ISO on EOS 350D. Once you use a CHDK-enabled CF card with this camera, you have ISO 3200 option enabled permanently (no, not "stuck" just "pickable") - I can't do most of CHDK miracles in my EOS 350D if I replace the CHDK-enabled card with a different one, but once I enter menu, I can pick ISO value of 3200 from the menu, something I was unable to do before.

Of course the photos taken in ISO 3200 are grainy like hell. That's probably why the manufacturer decided to disable it, to avoid complaints that the photos on this setting are sub-par. But the camera physically supports it, and CHDK enables it permanently, and I really have no clue how would I go about disabling/hiding that option (not that I'd want to), so the "no permanent changes" policy does not really hold here.


I used the 400plus version and when I booted it, the camera would sometimes hang, so I had to pull the battery. but if I inserted a card without it, there would be no issues. So even if it is unstable, you just stop using it and everything is fine.

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