For those who have never heard of Magic Lantern, it is an open source firmware “hack” that can be installed on most Canon DSLR’s that significantly enhances the capabilities of the camera. It’s been developed by a small group of enthusiast film makers and software engineers that wanted to add and enhance the capabilities of Canon bodies that are already present in the hardware, but limited by the Canon firmware. This firmware resides inside the camera and controls such things as the menus, ISO capabilities, filmrate for video, etc.
Now I’m hesitant to use the word “hack” since it has some negative connotations, so let me explain what it means exactly. It is a software only modification that actually runs from the memory card and is loaded into the camera when it is turned on. It does not modify any hardware components, and can easily be removed by simply using a regular memory card that is blank. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve been using the ML software on my Canon 60D for over a year now without any issues whatsoever.
After a long development period, ML has finally released a new significant update that I think is worth considering if you use a Canon body. Their website says:
“Magic Lantern v2.3 represents an important milestone – professionals from all around the world are already trusting it for their paid work. We can safely say it’s no longer a hack, but it’s strongly heading towards a solid piece of engineering that you can trust. We have worked a lot on bug-fixing and usability improvements and we sincerely hope you will find it a great companion for all your shooting sessions – from hobbyist to professional.”
So why use ML on your Canon DSLR? Well here are a few benefits that I use regularly:
- Built-in intervalometer – eliminates having to purchase an external unit from Canon
- Automatic HDR bracketing – great for HDR photography AND video
- Advanced ISO control – more options and control over ISO settings which can improve image quality
- Zebra focusing – if you shoot video, great feature which makes it much easier to lock focus
These are just a few of the many options that can be adjusted, but these alone are great for me. If you think these might be useful for you, check out their website and give the software a try. I just love the idea of getting more out of the hardware I already paid for. There is a great online user guide, a PDF user manual (it’s also built into the software so you can read in-camera), and many video tutorials showing how others are using it for their work.
The current latest release is free, but they are asking for a small donation for 3 weeks to cover the costs of development. After 3 weeks, it will be free to download and try. Of course with any “hack” there is the possibility of damaging your camera, but I have never had issues nor heard of anyone else damaging their camera – and their is a very large use base.
Any questions or feedback, let me know.