Telnet Gets Stubborn Sony Camera Under Control

According to [Venn Stone], technical producer over at LinuxGameCast, the Sony a5000 is still a solid option for those looking to shoot 1080p video despite being released back in 2014. But while the camera is lightweight and affordable, it does have some annoying quirks — namely an overlay on the HDMI output (as seen in the image above) that can’t be turned off using the camera’s normal configuration menu. But as it so happens, using some open source tools and the venerable telnet, you can actually log into the camera’s operating system and fiddle with its settings directly.

As explained in the write-up, the first step is to install Sony-PMCA-RE, a cross-platform suite of tools developed for reverse engineering and modifying Sony cameras. With the camera connected via USB, this will allow you to install a program on the camera called Open Memories Tweak. This unlocks some developer options on the camera, such as spawning a telnet server on its WiFi interface.

With the a5000 connected to your wireless network, you point your telnet client to its IP address and will be greeted by a BusyBox interface that should be familiar to anyone who’s played with embedded Linux gadgets. The final step is to invoke the proper command, bk.elf w 0x01070a47 00, which sets the specific address of the camera’s configuration file to zero. This permanently disables the HDMI overlay, though it can be reversed by running the command again and setting the byte back to 01.

As you might expect, the Sony-PMCA-RE package is capable of quite a bit more than just unlocking a telnet server. While it might not be as powerful as a firmware modification such as Magic Lantern for Canon’s hardware, those looking for a hackable camera that won’t break the bank might want to check out the project’s documentation to see what else is possible.

Thanks to [Aaron] for the tip.

13 thoughts on “Telnet Gets Stubborn Sony Camera Under Control

  1. The camera hacks I want to see are breaking the 30 minute video time limit on various compact point and shoot models like the Nikon Coolpix S6200, Olympus FE240, Canon’s ELPH series etc. There are a large number of cameras, all brands, that cut off video at 29 or 29:59 or 30 minutes thanks to the EU camcorder tax/import duty that applies to any still camera that can record video for longer than 30 minutes. Apparently the ones that stop at 29 or 29:59 are fudging it to stay firmly on the non-tax side, lest some government people decide that extra minute or second qualifies it for the tax.

    Thanks to EU government greed, the rest of the world gets stuck with hobbled cameras, apparently because the EU doesn’t want people to sneak in cameras without the time limit from the US, Canada, South America, or Asia.

    How about a HaD article on how various countries and regions get stuck with hobbled electronics because of dumb laws and rules in those countries, or in other countries. Like how and Why North American smart TVs don’t have DVR to USB capability when the exact same model sold in the EU does. Or how many models of cell phones below the flagship models in North America have less RAM, less internal storage, lower display resolutions, and sometimes slower CPUs than the “same model” in Asia or the EU.

    1. yeah, thanks to USAs 11 channel limit on 2,4GHz WLAN even in countries where eg. 13 can be used all routers are “automatically” stuck with three non overlapping channels (1, 6 and 11) instead of four (1, 5, 9 and 13). :-(

      And yet many/most WLAN devices have a country setting….

      -> so I second that request for such an article (series) on HaD

    2. Or how about Sony removing RAW and superfine options out of the point and shoot cameras because they were getting indistinguishable image quality to their more expensive models (having the same/similar sensor).

    3. As someone who uses Sony A6400/A7RII as main video camera for 6+ hour long conferences about electronics, tell me, what do you need 30+ minute long videos for?
      The in-camera compression is awful and produces files order of magnitude larger than what I can get with a HDMI grabber and OBS.
      Also, you cannot make a cinematic shot that long, because usually, a few minutes into a single scene and you get some blooper rendering the footage unusable.
      And don’t tell me that “I cannot use a laptop to grab the video because I shoot in a place with no electricity”. Because the camera cannot record that long on a single battery. Maybe if you use the vertical grip with 2 batteries…
      So, tell me, what do you lose with having to press the record button once in 30 minutes? 5 seconds of a local football match which no one will ever look at again?

      1. Home video of kiddies on Christmas morning when you never know when the cutest moments will happen.

        School plays when the kids are on stage.

        Choir concerts where you want video to match the recorded singing.

        There’s a lot of stuff that goes on where you just want to record it all and edit it down later.

        Old video recorder cameras could do it. Newer ones can’t.

        The batteries are too small. They get too hot. They run into the 30 minute limit just when something really interesting happens.

        With my old camcorder, I made a video of a local festival. One long take. From entrance, through all the attractions, out again. Just like you would experience it live. You couldn’t do that with a modern video recorder.

        1. Your dynamic range on a dslr as it heats up. That’s why you don’t do it.

          I could show you a dozen examples, but seriously: if you let your a6x00 or canon or Panasonic whatever shoot for a few hours and warm the sensor, your dynamic range goes from like 10-12 stops to less than 4. It looks horrific. Its why any decent shooter that has to use a dslr for a gig (price, style for shoot, whatever) records to an odyssey or atomos or whatever. If you record on dslr, it’s gunna get toasty. And your sky in a few short hours is going to look like a blue paint-by-numbers.

          That’s why the a7Siii and the fx3 (same camera essentially, pretty much same price) are different cameras. The fx3 has a MASSIVE Heatsink and fan. I shoot with these regularly as the c cams to the bigger cameras and we NEVER shoot internal if it’s the a series, as it’s unusable after 5 takes.

        2. You can. Video recorders don’t have the 30 minut limit and have larger tax. Photo cameras are not meant as primary camcorders for taking videos of hours long boring march through a festival (who watches that, again?). That’s what video recorders are for. Have a look, you can actually buy camcorders. Photo cameras are not the only thing under the sun…

  2. Is there a way this could be done on a nex-7? It doesn’t have wifi so I’m not sure how one could telnet in but maybe the hack install app has a feature that could be used to work? Any ideas guys and gals?

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