Canon P&S shooters have CHDK, Canon film makers have Magic Lantern, and GH2 shooters have pTool. All are unofficial firmware updates, developed by the community, that provide additional features in the camera firmware.
A Nikon firmware group was started a while back, but it has seen very little progress.
Sometimes those are features developed by the dev team, like scripting, or HDR time-lapsing, but some features are simply unlocking camera capabilities that are enabled in hardware but are blocked by the firmware. Sometimes camera manufacturers develop a platform and disable certain features on specific cameras depending on marketing needs. (This is similar throughout the silicon industry and is not limited to camera, it is a way to save on R&D, tooling and manufacturing).
This is why this post over at 43rumors is a really interesting one. An anonymous hacker claims to have hacked the Olympus OM-D EM-5 claiming it is capable of features like clean HDMI output, focus peaking and 1080p@120. This is great news for Olympus shooters. Click to continue ›