May 15, 2013

Will the Magic Lantern Canon DSLR RAW Video Hack Kill Your Camera's Sensor? Short Answer: No

Canon 5D Mark III with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Zoom LensLong Answer: Nope. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what is actually happening with the new Magic Lantern hack in development that enables RAW Video output on Canon DSLRs. While it seems like some sort of magic on the surface (and it basically is), the reason this is possible is because of the RAW data stream that the camera is already outputting during normal operation. Read on for a clear explanation as well as some words from the Magic Lantern team on how this affects your camera.

One of the testers, g3gg0, posted this recently:

Meanwhile alex refactored all the code and optimized buffering, so that we are able to record 14 bit raw bayer data. the result is a module named 'raw_rec' which he highly optimized to get the maximum out of our beloved canon cameras. 

Our focused target is the 5D Mark III, but the devs are porting it to other models as you can see (thanks 1%, coutts, nanomad) 

Yet this code is EXPERIMENTAL. It will cause any random failures that lead from data loss to crashing cameras. As you know, ML is very stable, but sometimes code at this early stage causes unforseen problems. Prepare yourself for that before you go shooting. (a backup CF card, ML-free SD card)

Key ingredients:

- canon has an internal buffer that contains the RAW data

- we understand the high speed DMA controller "EDMAC" a lot better now and know how to crop areas out of an image

- we know how to get the maximum rate out of the CF card and so achieve to get up to 90MiB/s

- we provided a reference tool that converts the Magic Lantern .RAW movie into single .DNG frames plus a MJPEG script

All together sums up to the most advanced 14-bit RAW recording system people can get for less than 3 kEUR. We will prepare a full article as soon we see this code being stable enough for public testing.

Later, he mentioned what was clear to some from the start, but it's worth going over again:

About sensor heating rumors:
The only thing that could get warmer is DIGiC and the CF circuitry, but i am sure that the power dissipation that reaches the sensor
through all that plastic housing will not have any noticeable temperature raise.

detailed: when doing that much DMA transfers and CF writing, we may cause a bit more current drain (which causes squared power dissipation)
but we do not encode any H.264 while recording, so we use less power there.
its *possible* that the CF writing will consume less energy than the encoding with H.264, which will result in *less* power consumption.
raw is being produced by the DIGiC for every single frame anyway. we "just" save it away.

still this is a *theory*, but i expect the consumption and the temperatures not to raise at all.

In Live View mode, the Canon cameras take all of the pixel information and scale it down to a usable video resolution (how exactly they are doing this, only Canon knows, but not all of the cameras are doing it exactly the same way -- some might pixel bin, line skip, or a combination). This usable video resolution is still in a RAW form, which means if you looked at it as-is, it looks terrible. RAW sensor data with most single sensor cameras (like DSLRs) is missing a ton of information because each pixel only represents one color (Red, Green, or Blue). This missing information is then interpolated later by surrounding pixels, and that's how we end up with something we can actually look that (which is also the reason it's helpful to start with more resolution than you need on single sensor cameras).

To put it very simply, Magic Lantern found a way to access that RAW data stream from the sensor before it gets to the LCD or the H.264 compression. What does this mean exactly?

The camera sensor is doing no more work than it was already doing in Live View -- even if you aren't recording anything.

When you're recording the RAW data, the camera is no longer compressing the image to H.264, which is normally a very processor-intensive task and requires a decent amount of power. Anything requiring power generates heat, and the harder it works, the more power it needs, and the more heat it generates. With this process no longer happening in the camera, there is a power savings, which in turn means a reduction in heat for that process.

The H.264 compression, at its least compressed, is around 10-12 Megabytes per second, but since we are dealing with much higher data rates (around 83 MB/s with 14-bit 24fps 1080p), the CF card itself has to work a bit harder. This may cause some extra heat, but we should keep in mind that it is still within the spec for CF and the cards. We aren't overclocking anything, and stress testing for these components and this hardware likely goes well beyond what would happen in a normal environment.

The camera is doing around the same -- maybe a little more -- work overall than it would normally be doing while shooting video, so if you've had overheating issues in the past with a particular model, you will probably face them once more. This is not because of Magic Lantern, but because of the hardware in your camera.

So will your camera explode? No, it won't. Does that mean everything is going to work perfectly recording hours of RAW footage every day on end? Not necessarily, and more testing certainly needs to be done -- so if you're worried about your camera, you always have the option not to install Magic Lantern. The Canon 5D Mark III will likely be the most stable, as it is the newest technology and video was intended to be included right from the start.

Those who have been proclaiming doom and gloom should read a bit more into the situation before explicitly stating that cameras are going to blow up just because we're shooting RAW video.

Link: Uncompressed 14-bit Raw Recording -- Magic Lantern Forum

Your Comment

100 Comments

But doesn't it still void the warranty?

May 15, 2013

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Chris

I guess technically, but Canon has no way of knowing you've been running Magic Lantern. It runs off the card on top of the firmware.

May 15, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

good job joe!

May 15, 2013

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aboy

Magic Lantern runs off of your cf/sd card. It only changes a couple values on the camera's firmware itself, and you can change them back later. No one will ever know :)

May 15, 2013

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Dan

FatRick says, thank you Joe!

May 15, 2013

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FatRick

Sure if you send your camera in for repair with ML installed. As soon as you reset the camera with a new fresh card however, the magic is gone.

May 15, 2013

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Thank you for putting this together Joe.

May 15, 2013

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Of course, it needed to be said because people seem to be very unclear about what's going on, and plenty of professionals have been saying things that are literally the opposite of what is happening.

May 15, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I had to dispel a lot of rumors about this same exact issue on EOSHD.com. In fact, Digic is actually doing less when shooting RAW. It is just hard for people to believe that shooting higher quality frames actually requires less work!

May 15, 2013

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Oscar M.

"It is just hard for people to believe that shooting higher quality frames actually requires less work!"

This is true for the Digic 5+ processor.

And an annoying discovery for Canon since it shows they intentionally worsen the video quality, A LOT.

Canon doesn't think customers need RAW video, sure. But WHY they worsen it so much is a BIG QUESTION.

The latest Firmware 1.2.1 with the widely promoted "Clean Uncompressed HDMI 4:2:2 8bit output" is a joke (a cheat in fact, since it doesn't deliver real better video than in-camera H.264 recording).

As someone said, Canon didn't spend more than 6 months to deliver clean uncompressed HDMI output with higher resolution and dynamic range, but to worsen it...

Shame on Canon. Their "innovative vision" is just marketing fake, they cripple their own cameras because they don't want to deliver the huge potential of the hardware they have inside. It's so ridiculous paradox...

Canon needs a refresh on their management since many years ago because the Chief Managers are limiting and crippling the AMAZING Engineering Team at Canon.

May 15, 2013

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"Anything requiring power generates heat, and the harder it works, the more power it needs, and the more heat it generates. With this process no longer happening in the camera, there is a power savings, which in turn means a reduction in heat for that process."

WELL SAID JOE!

To break it down on a molecular level.

The more energy(electrical) that goes into a system, the more active its molecules are.
The faster molecules move, the more heat or thermal energy they create.
So, the amount of heat a substance has is determined by how fast its molecules are moving,
which in turn depends on how much energy is put into it. NO in camera compression = NO HEAT!

Thanks Joe& ML For all that you are doing. The revolution never comes from the governing bodies(corporate) but always from the people! LOL! :)

May 15, 2013

1
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Ramaatis

Hey Luke, random shoutout! Love your toolbag and stock aerial stuff!

May 15, 2013

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KingAtRock

Thanks!

May 15, 2013

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"Short answer: No. Long answer: Nope." Brilliant. Now people can stop holding the panic button down prematurely.

May 15, 2013

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Samuel Neff

What resolutions are currently working at the moment? as so much information is flying around

by working i mean eg. 1080p raw is currently 4gb max? 2+k was a few seconds? etc etc As I get the impression people are mix mashing info and getting the impression this camera is suddenly going to be able to do 2-4k raw and what is achievable and realistic seems to change too quickly to keep track of

May 15, 2013

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Chris Lambert

I think it's probably best to wait until the dust settles. There is still a ton of testing that needs to happen, and new advancements are happening on a daily basis.

May 15, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

They got it running 1080p at 24fps continuously.

May 15, 2013

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Adam

2048x1080p at 24fps works continuously. Anything past that is too much for the current fastest card (1000x) to handle. As CF cards get faster you could possibly do 2.5k-2.8k continuously! 1920x1080-1200 is what is possible now though.

May 15, 2013

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cheers folks

May 15, 2013

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Chris Lambert

Does anyone know, are they going to make RAW video recording for other Canons like 600D or 5d mark II ?

May 15, 2013

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They are working on it, yes. What frame rates we will be able to get out of RAW when all is said and done is unclear. So again, it's best to just wait it out until the testing is beyond the pre-Alpha stage.

May 15, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

My testing with 5d2 is going well - 1880x720 is the max I can do continuously with a 1000x card:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW5QqQUC8jM

May 15, 2013

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Nice! I have stopped doubting that anything is impossible. For the average person they might as well wait it out.

May 15, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

That looks very very nice, the colours are gorgeous

May 15, 2013

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Really nice @coutts but i'm seeing drop frames or tearing, u know it's not fluid yet, but it's developing fast!

Perhaps the contoller can't handle that amount of data, or need some tweaks on the buffering method... Who knows...

Other than that, amazing stuff man! This camera has almost 5 years for god's sake!

May 15, 2013

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Alex Mand

How did you get it to work on your 5D2?

May 15, 2013

1
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Gregory

Everybody shuould wait, in two month we will have a camera able to shoot RAW 3K. Believe me!.

May 15, 2013

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Nelson

even 4k

May 16, 2013

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gerald

how long can you record?

May 15, 2013

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DIO

Right now, about half a minute at a time. Eventually, It will be limited by the size of your CF card. 128gb 1000x CF - about 20 minutes. They're hoping to send it out the HDMI but most likely it will be sent to SSD through a CF to SATA adapter . . . or something like it.

May 15, 2013

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Oscar M.

Am I right in saying the image is 14 bit 4:4:4 RAW image . Is it then same as an ALEXA or RED camera? Ive heard its 4:2:2 meaning its still throwing out information. Hard to keep track with so much information being thrown about.

Also would you still use flat profiles on top of the RAW image (such as technicolor profile) for as much latitude as possible?

May 15, 2013

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4:4:4 and 4:2:2 refers to the type of color sub-sampling used for images in YUV space (which seperates luma and color into separate channels, allowing the color channels to be lower resolution...4:4:4 means the chroma is the same resolution as the luma, 4:2:2 means it's half the resolution).

Raw means the data is simply the photosite values the camera reads straight off the sensor...those values have yet to be converted to a color space like RGB or YUV. Bayer sensors have effectively less chroma resolution than the total sensor resolution, but that has nothing to do with chroma subsampling, and it's something that affects all bayer sensor cameras which includes the Red Epic and Arri Alexa.

May 15, 2013

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Gabe

Can you explain please which would be better for VFX-Work, Green screen and integrating CG with Live Action Footage.

12-bit - 4:4:4 or 14 bit - 4:2:2:

Thank you.

May 15, 2013

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Fred

Honestly either will probably be great as long as it isn't heavily compressed...and resolution also makes a difference. 4k 4:2:2 is better than 1080p 4:4:4, all else being equal.

May 15, 2013

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Gabe

I'd say that the full color resolution of 4:4:4 would be better for green screen keying and fine detail, while the increased 14-bit color depth might be nice for overall visual effects composites and color grading.

May 16, 2013

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Blah

Thank you both of you!!

May 16, 2013

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Fred

And color profiles don't matter with RAW. The color profiles on the camera are for JPEG's, H.264 and the live view screen on the back of the camera. The color profile is how the camera interprets the RAW data to make an image. Technically the .cr2 RAW stills form Canon camera's include a JPEG in them so the camera doesn't have to re-interpret the RAW data every time you want to look at the picture on the LCD. That JPEG was processed from the RAW data of that picture with the color profile you had chosen when shooting. On some of the newer models you can change the profile in camera after shooting, which I believe re-saves a new JPEG re-interpreded from the RAW data. This is also why Canon RAW stills are larger than DNG stills. DNG throws out the embedded JPEG.

May 15, 2013

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The footage you get out of the camera on your CF card will be uncompressed 14-bit 4:2:2 YUV raw.

May 16, 2013

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Blah

I'm please to read this.
Thanks for the answer and thanks to magic lantern staff for doing this!

Good Luck for your tests

May 15, 2013

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Andrea

So, I assume a high speed SD card on Rebel series still won't handle the speeds necessary to read/write like a CF card could? Still neat though!

May 15, 2013

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Kudjo

come on... get it working on my T2i! haha

May 15, 2013

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Dovahkiin

This is what the hack is going to do to your sensor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpUVPvsIF5w

May 15, 2013

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Razorx

So to clarify; is it an actual lantern, and if so do I need some lantern oil like they sell at ikea? It still sounds dangerous having a burning lantern on top of my camera whilst shooting. Especially indoors.

May 15, 2013

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Mike

That's why the 5DmIII performs so well in low light. Worth it.

May 15, 2013

1
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LOL

May 15, 2013

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Brian

It's not any ol' lantern... it's a 'magic' lantern!

May 15, 2013

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VillageBoi

So does that mean I have to recite a special oath whenever I want to recharge the camera?

May 16, 2013

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jorden

Wow! Just when I thought I needed to sell my 5D II and buy a black magic, everything changes.

May 15, 2013

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Joshua

Please get this on the 5dmk2 thanks!

May 15, 2013

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Robin

It works on Mark II, you'll need a 1000x card to get it running on higher resolutions though. Like 1880×720

May 15, 2013

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