I'm interested which digital camera models and brands are most open standard friendly. I'm more an open source fan than a photographer, so I can be picky about openness and tolerant with performance and image quality. I suppose there won't be analogy of OLPC computer in digital camera world, but there shall be some models that meet more open standards than others.

Here is a list of standards I know about (I'm not 100% sure about this, feel free to correct me):

  • ¼" tripod mount is free to implement
  • 4/3 lens mount is more open than others, like Canon or Nikon mounts. It's not fully open, but at least interested third party lens manufacturers don't have to reverse-engineer camera electronics.
  • SDHC is more or less open
  • AA batteries are a standard factor compared to proprietary Li-ion batteries
  • Adobe DNG open raw format is supported by some cameras from Pentax and other manufacturers

So, any other recommendations?

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    I'm for open source and open standards too, but what's the question here? If it's "please compile a list of open-standards related to photography", that's really not the best fit for Stack Exchange. – mattdm Apr 23 '12 at 20:35
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    Sadly I think SDXC cameras use a proprietary file-system which completely negates the openness of the standard. – Zak Apr 23 '12 at 21:44
  • @mattdm I'm willing to know any related info, but the best answer would be either link to a comprehensive list of such standards (which failed to find) or a recommendation of (probably not too popular) camera model or series designed with open standards in mind. And I'm not specifying camera type or price level because I want the question to be generic. – modular Apr 23 '12 at 21:50
  • Well, there's this: ISO standards for photography (of which "ISO" is just one). – mattdm Apr 23 '12 at 22:31

There are literally thousands of "standards" used in digital photography, but few address what you seem to be asking: open standard hardware, os/file systems, etc. ASA/ISO film speed is a standard, as are APS-C and 35mm sensor sizes.

Sadly, all of the consumer oriented brands (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, etc.) are totally locked into a philosophy of locking you into their "system" with their hardware, software in the camera, software to decode the RAW files, etc.

And, IMHO, much of their proprietary software is second rate.

I have no hope for the DSLR business, perhaps cell phone cameras can take over P+S


I like open source too - but you are looking for the wrong thing.

A camera that supports the longest list of open standards is still not "open" - the fact that the camera uses AA batteries or a 4/3 mount (to use some of your examples) doesn't let you extend it or modify it's behavior in any meaningful way (except by buying accessories, obviously, and even then you have more accessories available for Canon and Nikon than for any open standard).

if you are a fan of standard bodies than by all means pick a camera by the number of standards it implements but if you are a fan of open source than the open source spirit is that you should be able to extend and change your equipment, not that a device can be closed and proprietary as long as it has a lot of standard connectors on it.

The only camera that are open in the sense you can freely extend it are (to my knowledge):

  • A computer with a web-cam (preferably with an open source OS)
  • An android cell-phone
  • A "jail broken" iPhone or Windows Phone (it's not open if you can only write software Apple/MS allow)
  • Canon point and shoot via CHDK (supported models only)
  • Canon DSLR via Magic Lantern

All of those are open software on closed proprietary hardware - and most of the items on the list are from companies that are as open as a maximum security jail so it's a difficult choice.

Or, you know, you can choose a camera based on the pictures you want to take not based on philosophy - if you were buying a car would you look for a list of standards or would you look at things like size, safety and gas mileage?


You might have a look at CHDK, an open source firmware add-on (not a firmware replacement: CHDK still makes use of the original firmware, and is more like an extra UI layer that exposes some additional functionality) for Canon P&S cameras. My impression is that Canon isn't going out of their way to make CHDK development any easier, but neither are they trying to halt it and (last time I checked) there are no reports of Canon invalidating the warranties of CHDK users.

Magic Lantern is a similar program for some late-model Canon DSLRs.

  • I understand that CHDK does not work on more recent Canon P&S releases - stopped doing so perhaps a year ago :-(. – Russell McMahon Apr 23 '12 at 20:02
  • @RussellMcMahon that's too bad! Do you have any more info on that (I honestly haven't followed CHDK since I got my DSLR)? I took a quick look at chdk.wikia.com/wiki/For_Developers and the SX40 seems to be at least partially working, and the S100 forum thread shows that a couple people have CHDK working on their S100. – drewbenn Apr 23 '12 at 20:31
  • My information is 2nd hand via a competent friend who is likely to be right but may be wrong. Note that both those cameras were released 17 months ago which is before the reported cutoff date. DPReview announcements here both announced on September 15 2011. SX40 - September 15 2011 and S100 September 15 2011 – Russell McMahon Apr 24 '12 at 1:58

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