The Canon Powershot SD800 IS is a notable compact digital camera if only because of its 28mm equivalent wide-angle lens. However, with the recent RAW enabling firmware hack I think it’s fair to move the SD800 into the category of “epic.”
As I have explained in a previous post, unless you are shooting 300mm+ nature or sports photography, the benefits of having a wide-angle lens far outweigh those available with an ordinary optical zoom. Not only are you able to fit more content into your image, but you also gain a more realistic depth of field and a higher aperture.
Yet what truly separates the SD800 from other wide-angle compact digital cameras is the recently released CHDK firmware hack. This hack unlocks previously unavailable features such as a battery indicator, live histogram, increased exposure times, improved video quality (hi-speed SD card required), script support for KAP, and most importantly the ability to capture images in RAW, a feature typically limited to more professional SLR cameras.
RAW is the original pixel data captured by the camera’s CCD before it is processed by an image correction algorithm and compressed into a JPG. In other words, a RAW is to a JPG, what a WAV is to an MP3. Thus, being able to capture RAW gives you finer control over how the image is optimized. To demonstrate the significance of RAW I’ve posted a basic example below. The first photo was taken using the default JPG settings, the second is a RAW image optimized by yours truly. A simple comparison of the skyline in each image should serve to demonstrate the advantages of shooting in RAW.
JPG image, enlarge
RAW image, enlarge