A Compact Camera Running Linux? What’s Not To Like!

One of the devices swallowed up by the smartphone for the average person is the handheld camera, to the extent that the youngsters are reported to be now rediscovering 20-year-old digital cameras for their retro cool factor. Cameras aren’t completely dead though, as a mirrorless compact or a DSLR should still blow the socks off a phone in competent hands. They’ve been around long enough to be plentiful secondhand, which makes [Georg Lukas]’ look at a ten-year-old range of models from Samsung worth a second look. Why has a deep dive into old cameras caught our eye? These cameras run Linux, in the form of Samsung’s Tizen distribution.

His interest in the range comes from owning one since 2014, and it’s in his earlier series of posts on hacking that camera that we find some of the potential it offers. Aside from the amusement that it runs an unprotected X server, getting to a root shell is fairly straightforward as we covered at the time, and it turns out to be a very hackable device.

Cameras follow a Gartner hype cycle-like curve in the popularity stakes, so for example the must-have bridge cameras and compact cameras of the late-2000s are now second-hand-store bargains. Given that mirrorless cameras such as the Samsung are now fairly long in the tooth, it’s likely that they too will fall into a pit of affordability before too long. One to look out for, perhaps.

24 thoughts on “A Compact Camera Running Linux? What’s Not To Like!

  1. Ooooh! Goody! I have an NX500 that I use all the time. I don’t expect the NX500 to end up selling cheaply any time soon. It still holds its own against new cameras.
    I have two Canon FD macro lenses (a 50 mm and 200 mm beast) that I bought dirt cheap and added to the NX500 using inexpensive adapters.
    The only problem with it is that you can’t get the original batteries for it any more and the cheap knockoffs don’t have the same capacity as the originals.

    1. I agree that my NX500 is holding up well. I look at newer mirrorless cameras and they’re either far more expensive or they’re not as good as the NX500.

  2. I hacked on one of these years back. I was using it in an 8mm-to-film converter. I can’t remember if I modified a driver or installed another one but I was able to have the camera boot, run a startup script to install the driver and then have it flash its led when capture was complete so I knew when to advance to the next frame, and also read an external signal to trigger the shutter. Unfortunately all the applications were proprietary blobs so I couldn’t get as deep as I would have liked.

      1. The real question here is how long will it take the DSLR makers to incorporate the software magic used in cell phone cameras? Combining good DSLR optics and good DSLR image sensor with the sort of stuff done in cell phones would be awesome.

        1. You can argue they have been ahead of the smartphones on that score for years with their ‘all automatic’ type point and shoot modes. Most of the smartphone trickery outside of that is just as applicable to the DSLR output image – its all post processing anyway.

        2. That’s actually, though not specifically a DLSR, Olympus (now OM Systems) camera’s do. They incorporate a number of computational aspects done in camera for example focus stacking, simulated ND filter to name a few.

      2. The moon thing is an extreme example. I’m more concerned about the way AI can be induced to cough up particulars from the training data, like Microsoft’s code completion volunteering specific magic numbers and encryption keys. I foresee a low-key, slow-motion reckoning where we as a society have to internalize that random details in mundane photos are essentially made the fuck up. Without some kind of cryptographically secure embedded log of edits and “chain of custody” it takes a no-shit expert to suss out whether things have been content-aware deleted, smoothed-over, or otherwise altered.

    1. Even the craziest ‘camera’ oriented smartphones are going to be destroyed in image quality by ancient DSLR in many situations – a good sensor (or 4) is very useful and with post processing you can get ‘good’ images almost entirely because of the higher sensor quality. But you also need a lens that is suited to the task at hand to really get the best out of the sensor. Which is something a camera on a smartphone can’t have in the same way – even the lighter more limited end of ‘real’ camera lens are too bulky and weigh far too much for the smartphone.

      The real lens with its adjustable focus and aperture also means you can actually set up the photo the way you want to capture the objects of interest however you wanted them captured. With the smartphone as it is all so post processing reliant you are only able to get whatever the algorithm(s) give you. Last I heard you can’t even save the raw sensor data on most phone camera to process the way you want.

  3. Also worth mentioning:
    It used to be common for Canon camera’s to load and run temporary binaries from SD-cards. It probably started for running diagnosing software for servicing, but it got hacked into a lot and I think it even went into a pretty universal camera control software for a lot of Canon camera’s that added time lapse and other custom features sone 10 to 20 years ago.

    But I have not kept track with it. I don’t know the current status of such software.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.