If you've got a regular point-and-shoot Canon camera but were thinking of upgrading, there is some new open-source software available to download that means you may not have to.

The Canon Hacker's Development Kit (CHDK) claims to add features you'd expect from a digital SLR onto a normal compact camera.

To get them, CHDK requires the user to load two files onto their camera's memory card which will then unlock the extra features - the creators say the files are an enhancement, because they neither overwrite nor permanently change the camera's firmware. When you delete the files the camera continues to operate as it did before.

But you may never go back. Once loaded you can apparently take photos in RAW format and open up a number of new compression types.

There are also extra features such as zebra mode for pointing out very bright and dark areas, and a live histogram displaying current image information including luminance and RGB for each channel.

Other options include shutter, aperture and ISO overrides, allowing longer exposure times up to 65 seconds, customisable high speed bursts and faster shutter speeds.

The software is creating a bit of a buzz online, and has rounded up a lot of praise for itself so far.

One user has said: "Excellent software. Night exposures up to a minute versus the 15 second limit by default, and I wrote a quick script to take five shots at different exposures for HDR images, and the battery life indicator is great. The RAW image support huge as well".

However, other users have warned that it does have its negatives too: "I have used this product and it is fantastic, but trust me it is a huge battery drainer. Live histograms will eat your batteries for lunch. It is nice having the zebra feature on a low-end point and shoot though".

Those interested in the CHDK can find further information on its Wiki page.