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Magic Lantern No Longer a Hack, V2.3 is a Mature Release with More Features Than Any Canon Camera

Magic Lantern, the hack third party firmware solution for Canon cameras, has come a long, long way since its first release. Stability and new features have been the top priorities for the team, and it looks like with the newest release they are delivering on both counts. Even though Canon has been increasing the feature set of the higher-end cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III and the 1D X, they have been trying to differentiate the video and photo product lines as much as possible. For those familiar with the traditional features of a video camera, using DSLR presents quite a few challenges. The goal of Magic Lantern, however, is to introduce in firmware all of these quirks that make shooting with real video cameras that much easier.

Here is the release video for the version (they certainly don’t look like a ragtag group of hackers — this looks like a professional release):

Here are some of the main features, courtesy of Sebastian at cinema5D:

  • Full support for 5D mark II
  • Fast Zebras
  • Customizable menu and shortcut keys
  • Automatic HDR bracketing
  • Timelapse features
  • Advanced ISO control (ISO 80, improved highlight rolloff, ISO 51200…)
  • Advanced FPS control (24.000 FPS and 0.2 FPS possible)
  • New menu design
  • Image analysis tools in photo mode
  • Contrast and saturation adjustments for LiveView
  • Improved Stability
  • Very fast playback zoom
  • Compatibility with: Canon 5D Mark II 2.1.2, T2i/550D 1.0.9, 60D 1.1.1, T3i/600D 1.0.2, 50D 1.0.9 and T1i/500D 1.1.1

Recently Marcus Waterloo has been shooting with this new version, and he sent over a video:

This was his process and his take on the new release (using a pre-release version of 2.3)

I just took  my canon 5D-II with a Rode VideoPro mic plugged directly into the camera and no monitor or loop

Picture style on the camera was Marvels Advanced and I just set up one light, an LED panel. I only had about half an hour to do every thing , before the delicious food arrived , as we were in the  lovely Muyar Ethiopian  restaurant  in Camden. So just got the band to run thru the song 3 times and I shot it on two lenses: a Voightlander 40mm  f2  and a Nikon 85mm f2. I found the hack very stable and an great help with the sound, being able to adjust the levels during the take is amazing .

I’m not really a sound person, and I know how important it is , but just being able to plug the mic straight into the camera with the AGC disabled for little shoots like this is massively useful. Using the Magic zoom (expanded focus box) during the take is a wonderful help too , as I only had a barebones set-up this really helped me check focus during the take. Being able to turn it on and off and being able to move it around whilst  recording too is a work of genius.

These is a video made using the timelapse functionality of the hack:

One from a frequent contributor featuring the HDR video capability of Magic Lantern:

Judging by all of the material and the reviews, Magic Lantern is right not to call this a hack anymore. The firmware has reached a very mature stage and is many times more capable than Canon ever wanted these DSLRs to be. What is fascinating is just how much functionality was hidden in the code of the camera — which just shows that if a company really wants to release a feature, time is usually the only thing stopping them. Unfortunately the firmware is not free just yet, as they will require a donation until August 13th. Donations help keep the project moving forward, and if you really need the functionality of the new release, it won’t cost you that much to get it. Of course, you can also wait a few more weeks until it is released for free.

The team is working hard on porting Magic Lantern over to other Canon cameras, like the 5D Mark III and the new Canon T4i (and maybe even the EOS M), so the donations help them spend more time and energy getting it right. It would be nice to have all of this functionality from the start, but let’s face it, Canon is running a business, and providing every feature imaginable in a camera body under $1,000 doesn’t make people want to go out and purchase a new camera.

For more information about this release (there is way more than we can fit here), head on over to the Magic Lantern site and check it out. If you have already been a supporter the download link is at the bottom of the page.

Link: Magic Lantern – Version 2.3

[via cinema5D]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 47 COMMENTS

  • And STILL nothing for Nikon..

  • It’s such a shame the 7D can’t be hacked :(

    • john jeffreys on 07.26.12 @ 1:38PM

      It doesn’t really need to, its a perfectly capable camera on its own especially with the version 2 firmware coming out. I think the fact that it has a gyroscope (for perfectly level shots) and full HD monitoring make up for it.

      • They’re entirely different features. If you want your picture style to change automatically when you hit record, a gyroscope isn’t going to do that for you.

        That said, if you’re willing to pay for monitors with peaking, false colour etc, then the HD monitoring does give you options on that front. But that costs a lot more, and isn’t as convenient as having it “built in”.

        • john jeffreys on 07.26.12 @ 4:45PM

          My point was that despite the fact that the 7D does not work with ML (due to the dual CPU’s), it has some features that are unique in its class and still make it a desirable camera.

          • wanna buy my 7D? Im over it. I want a 5D. The HDR capabilities are jaw dropping. Zebra peaking. The endless features far out weight what the 7D can has.

  • john jeffreys on 07.26.12 @ 1:35PM

    Mmm, I dunno. I had earlier versions of magic lantern on my 550d and after a year or two of normal operation it started to give me strange red vertical lines all over my photos. Really weird bug, couldn’t find anybody online or on a forum that had the same problem. It disappeared for a while, right up until, conveniently, when I sold the camera on craigslist and it gave me the problem again when the lady was trying it out. She thought I was trying to rip her off and stormed out of the room :/ After that I just went back to stock everything and sold it to someone else, and have been skeptical of ML ever since.

  • Will I be able To film in HDR on my T2i?

  • Can’t wait to try this later tonight…

  • This is a solid upgrade mostly for stability, but it also had improved adjustments of features that didn’t work so well in the December version ( ISO, Shutter Speed). I’m still only able to pull up a single crop mark for use on this version as well as most of of the other recent versions. Before they changed this feature a few updates ago I could choose from six.

  • Andrzej Tokarski on 07.26.12 @ 5:46PM

    It looks really good, but installing this means from what i’ve heard – gwaranty loss…

  • Is Magic Lantern the first ever firmware which is stable in “difficult conditions – even in freezing cold”. I’ve heard of software/firmware “freezes” before but had not thought this had anything to do with external climate conditions !

    • Malcolm Debono on 07.30.12 @ 4:44PM

      You took the quote totally out of context ;-)

      What Chris is saying is that he trusts ML on his camera even in extreme conditions, where there’s no time for retakes if something had to go wrong (imagine spending hours outside in the cold at night capturing a timelapse, only to find that the camera locked down after the first few frames…).

  • “if a company really wants to release a feature, time is usually the only thing stopping them”. What ?? Canon has been crippling it’s low-end cameras for years as regards firmware capabilities and what the hardware is actually capable of – this issue has existed LONG before DSLR’s could even record video. So who thinks this is due to a “lack of time” on Canon’s part, rather than them trying to artificially differentiate the lower end capabilities from the higher end capabilities (in higher profit margin cameras). Time has absolutely nothing to do with it, money does.

    • That goes without saying I think, I’ve written previously about the purposeful crippling in relation to money, actually, more times than I can remember – what I meant was that since Magic Lantern is creating stuff that Canon themselves has never implemented in any camera they’ve ever created (even in the higher-end expensive ones), obviously they pick the features they know they can deal with and are most stable and fit within their release schedule. That’s more what I was referring to by time.

  • the two interview spots using premiere is cool. letting his wedding footage play during his interview was a great idea, I have no idea what he said the entire interview aha.

    the HDR is awesome!

  • I have always been weary of ML, but that was mostly because of my situation. “If” anything happened to my camera I would have not been able to afford a new one. Now that is not the case, it with this new release, I just might trust it enough to install it on my t2i. The only thing that limits me on my t2i is the functions right now and this would break down that barrier.

    Plus the video was super epic and well put together. lol.

    Cool stuff.

  • VINCEGORTHO on 07.27.12 @ 10:55AM

    No firmware upgrade to increase picture quality?
    I’m hoping the CBR and VBR bitrate control will have more affect on the 5DIII than it did on the 5DII.

  • The HDR video looks really nice.

  • 24.000 FPS? Really? Are there some videos using this FPS?

  • Derrick Cleveland on 07.27.12 @ 10:02PM

    Canon will be releasing an update in August 2012 for the 7D. Will Magic Lantern ever release a hack for the 7D?

    • Probably not, the firmware is completely different, and it’s not easy to hack. The 1D Mark IV is the same way.

  • Canon still looks like shit.
    Don’t understand why people are still hyping this shitty brand.
    the panasonic gh2 simply blows all this footage away.

    and i’m not a fanboy, i’ve owned canon for 4 years, till this year.

  • Are there any confirmed cases of Magic Lantern ruining a camera? I think the answer is no (but would like to hear about it if I´m wrong).
    I wasn´t crazy about the earlier version of ML (installed on my 550D) – it seemed a bit fussy and the focus tools seemed to be hit or miss. But I´ve been using the new ML release candidate for a week now (loaded it before travelling) and it feels so much more like a finished product. My 550D just got a new lease on life. Highly recommended for anyone using manual lenses on Canon cameras. No need to be apprehensive. And it is easy to uninstall if you change your mind.

    • Malcolm Debono on 07.30.12 @ 4:38PM

      Never heard of ML bricking or ruining a camera. The worst issues I ever encountered in older versions (usually ERR 70 or 80) only entailed re-inserting the battery. I haven’t encountered any bugs in the latest version, which is running both on my 5D2 and 60D.

      Here’s some more info regarding stability:

  • I just “downgraded” to a 60D, I still have my 7D, just to run Magic Lantern….it’s fantastic, like having a new camera.

    The capability ML infuses into the camera is amazing, more features than I need, but those that I do use are fantastic to have on a “still camera”

    The 7D has been a great camera to use, I shoot double system sound, so the AGC issues has not been an issue for me, it provides a scratch track just fine. Having a WFM and the “magic zoom” feature to check focus while rolling is, for me, a fantastic feature that makes ML a valuable tool, and I “donated” to get the update now rather than wait. ML has turned my DSLR into a very functional camcorder.

    The auto restart function is great when shooting two cameras, I can ride the 7D and forget the 60D till the card fills up, works great for interviews, be mindful of loosing 1.5 seconds of footage, but better than having the camera turn off completely.

    If I “upgrade” to another DSLR, it will run ML or I won’t be buying it.

    One interesting note about the GH2, if the hacks are so great, why has Panasonic made the AF100 hack-proof? Seems idiotic considering the added value the hacks provide. As the AF100 has been slammed by the Sony FS-100 and the Canon camera (crazy expensive) one would think they would open up the software to see what the hackers can do for them to keep the equipment relevant.

    I “wish” the 7D was able to be hacked, as it’s a great camera, that could be much better, but Canon made a decision that unknowingly cost them a lot of money, as I would have bought a second 7D if ML were available for it, and the 7D is a much more expensive product. I prefer having identical camera bodies, less “muscle memory” to go wrong.

    If I were buying my first cameras today, I would get 2 60D’s and ML as the functionality for my work is better served by improved firmware, not a rugged camera body, that will far outlast the sensor as it will be made obsolete in a few years anyway.

    My $0.02 on ML

    • Thurston Howell III (@BabyImARichman) on 05.24.13 @ 10:47AM

      Thanks, I missed reading this before posting my comment below.

  • The firmware is free on donation but it’s priced in euro. How has anyone been able to acquire and test it? And is $0.02 really a valid donation?

  • I just switched to ML v2.3 on my t2i after using ML v1.6 for about 1.5 years and lots of videos with no ML related problems. Now I have started to get the infamous error 80 when I use the cross keys on the back of the camera to change the operating mode (AF, WB, picture style, etc). I thought ML v2.3 is supposed to be stable. v2.3 has all sorts of cool features but locking up the camera until I pull the battery and reinsert it is not a desirable feature.

  • Will there ever be a version of Magic Lantern for the 1D Mark IV?

  • Thurston Howell III (@BabyImARichman) on 05.24.13 @ 10:43AM

    Has anyone tried this on the Canon 60D. I bought it specifically for it’s video capability and have been extremely disappointed, to the point that I went out and bought a Prosumer Sony Video camera. The problem I’ve had is the 60 D will Stop recording when least expected. ( like in the middle of an interview. ) and stop even more often after starting to record again. Canon Tech support blames my SD card which is Bunk since it’s the fastest San Disk makes.
    I’d really love to try this but don’t want to risk my 60D as I do love it for still photography.

  • Hello. My Lantern magically disappeared. It stopped showing up when I press the trash can. I was just using it the other week. Any ideas? Thanks!

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