Software & Apps

What is Magic Lantern, how to install and new possibilities (Video)


Here you can learn all about Magic Lantern and find out all about the amazing possibilities that this independent firmware can give your Canon camera as it boosts its potential.

Let’s start with a quick description of the Magic Lantern, picked directly from the official site.

What is Magic Lantern?

Magic Lantern is a software enhancement that offers increased functionality to the excellent Canon DSLR cameras. It is an open framework, licensed under GPL, for developing extensions to the official firmware.

Magic Lantern is not a “hack”, or a modified firmware, it is an independent program that runs alongside Canon’s own software. Each time you start your camera, Magic Lantern is loaded from your memory card. The only modification made was to enable the ability to run software from the memory card.

Magic Lantern is being developed by photo and video enthusiasts, adding functionality such as: HDR images and video, time-lapse, motion detection, focus assist tools, manual audio controls and much more.

Why are Canon DSLRs amazing for independent film makers?

These cameras are in fact, a godsend for independent film makers because:

  1. They allow us to use the wide range of lenses Canon EF mount (and Nikon too, with special adapters)
  2. The full-frame sensor of a Canon 5D Mark II is for example, bigger than the Super 35 film sensor of the Red One. It is about the size of VistaVision , in fact . This simply gives the lowest depth of field other than anything else on the market, except for the Phantom 65
  3. The dynamic range and latitude are similar to those of a professional HD camcorder
  4. The performance in low lighting conditions is unmatched , even when compared to the Red One

Which cameras are supported by Magic Lantern?

At the time being, these cameras are supported:

What advantages does the Magic Lantern bring?

The Magic Lantern firmware has been designed to overcome the limits of the original Canon firmware, and transform your Canon 5D Mark II into a 5D Mark Free.

In Magic Lantern, extensions and widgets have been written that settle many of the “annoying things ” that you had experienced working with a Canon 5D Mark II on a video set .

The first changes were aimed at the audio limitations of the camera, but there are also improvements to the video, such as:

  • On-screen audio meters
  • Manual gain control with no AGC
  • Zebra stripes
  • Factors crop customizable for 16:9 , 2.35:1 , 4:3 and any other
  • Control of focus and bracketing (useful only for HDR photography, thanks to the shooting bracketed exposures greater than 3)
  • Motion detection
  • .. and much more!

Moreover, there is also the possibility (for the advanced developer) to develop their own extensions.

How to install Magic Lantern?

The Magic Lantern is a bit like the CHDK: you don’t need to actually install it. It is in fact a different “operating system” for your camera which boots alternatively, using those files that are saved on the memory card.

  • Format the card in the camera (low-level format).
  • Unzip all of the files from Magic Lantern zip archive to the root of your card.
  • Launch the Firmware Update process.
    If the card LED is blinking for more than a few seconds, upgrade your Canon firmware from the links above (even if you already have the correct firmware version number!) and try again.
  • Once you see the green confirmation screen, restart your camera.
  • Done.

And that’s pretty much about it!
We look forward to seeing you in our dedicated Magic Lantern forum, should you have any inquiries on this article!

Don’t forget to visit the Magic Lantern‘s official site to get the latest information on the project.


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