I was just wondering if anyone could provide names and a bit of background on the Operating Systems the current day DSLRs (namely, Nikon, Canon) use.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is interesting, but I can't see it really having an answer that is complete and stays maintained as new models come out. Asking about specific brands individually might be better. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 might also be good to have some context. Are you just naturally curious, or wanting to hack or write an alternative OS? \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 23:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I read your comment and instantly thought it a good idea to have all the current DSLRs of Canon and Nikon listed. But on second thought, all technology based machines, including PCs do evolve so it is a question that will remain valid in all cases without any specific machines listed. As far as a relevant answer is concerned, one would look at the date of the question and answer(s) and see the context. What do you say? \$\endgroup\$
    – Regmi
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeW Well, I just found out that the top of line Nikon Camera also uses the same interface as a Nikon 3000's which is 'primitive'. Also, wifi is unheard of (except as a big 'attachment' for some, there is no touch interface and the LCD resolution is so bad even in the top DSLRs (among many other things), when a cheap android phone has them all and more in a greatly advanced form. And hence the question about OS. \$\endgroup\$
    – Regmi
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Regmi - so the question is really why are DSLR OS's so weak compared to smartphone OS's. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 22:09

3 Answers 3



So far what we know based on ML work

DRYOS version 2.3, release #0023

  1. 5Dm2
  2. 500d/T1i
  3. 50D

DRYOS version 2.3, release #0039

  1. 7D
  2. 1Dm4

DRYOS version 2.3, release #0043

  1. 550d/T2i

DRYOS version 2.3, release #0044 or #0049

  1. 5dm3
  2. EOS M

DRYOS version 2.3, release #0047

  1. 60D
  2. 600D/T3i
  3. 1100D/T3

I'm generalizing but I see in Canon P&S they tend to reuse DIGIC processors so a quick check on a Wiki indicated that DRYOS is used.

It isn't specifically mentioned but ML developers indicate that they think this DRYOS is a derivative of uLTRON. They also did indicate that some concepts in DRYOS could be compared to or understood from VxWorks.


BusyBox 1.4.2 (Linux Kernel)

  1. NEX-3
  2. NEX-5
  3. SLT-A35

BusyBox 1.13.4 (Linux Kernel)

  1. SLT-A99

  2. SLT-77

  3. SLT-65

  4. NEX-7

    Sony firmware hacking project got it's own website at http://hackingalpha.wikia.com and forum at http://www.nex-hack.info/

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, older Canon DSLRs had an OS based on VxWorks (everything older than the 40D, I believe. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 8:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyone reading this and know of Nikon or Sony OS, feel free to edit and add to the list \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 9:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Canon labels the kernal of DRYOS as µlTRON4.0 here (scroll about halfway down the page to the DRYOS entry): canon.com/technology/canon_tech/explanation/cp_tech.html#dryos \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 9:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark The 30D and the original 5D both ran the VxWorks based OS. It's probably the main reason why there is no ML/CHDK for the 30D, as I've found out to my frustration. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ That makes a lot of sense because both had DiGIC II processors. The original DiGIC board ran Datalite ROM-DOS. The DiGIC II and III lines appear to have all run VxWorks and the DiGIC 4 and later have been on DRYOS. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:40

In the case of Canon and Nikon the current models are all proprietary.

There are apps for Android devices that allow them to control a Canon camera via a USB cable, but the camera is not running the Android OS.

Of course in certain areas the firmware includes compatibility with accepted standards such as USB, DPOF, EXIF, JPEG, etc.

In the past some of the early Canon DIGIC boards ran Datalite ROM-DOS on an x86 compatable NEC V20 emulator. Beginning with DIGIC II the processor was embedded in proprietary ASICs and ran on the VxWorks OS. This continued with the DIGIC III line of cameras. DIGIC 4 and later cameras have run on Canon's proprietary DRYOS, the kernal of which is built around µlTRON4.0

For further reading about Canon DSLRs look at the Wikipedia entry for DIGIC.
For further reading about Nikon DSLRs check the Wikipedia entry for EXPEED.

In the case of most recent Canon DSLRs that have video recording capability, a third party firmware add-on named Magic Lantern is available. It does not replace the original firmware but runs within it. There are similar firmware add-ons for some Nikon DSLRs, but none have been developed to the point they are consistently stable as of early 2013.


There are a few cameras runnin Android. The Nikon Coolpix S800c for example. There will probably be more to come. As you guessed, most of the current DSLRs run on proprietary operating systems, although there is the CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) and Magic Lantern firmware hacks for Canon, that provide some extra functionality to the OS.

There was also a similar Nikon project, but I don't think it ever got to the stage where it was usable.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The original question was concerning DSLRs. The Nikon Coolpix S800c and the Android cameras in development that the article referred to are all compact digital cameras, not DSLRs (in spite of the goofy illustration). \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 9:58

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