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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


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!

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  • But doesn’t it still void the warranty?

    • 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.

    • 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 :)

  • FatRick says, thank you Joe!

  • 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.

  • Thank you for putting this together Joe.

    • 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.

      • I had to dispel a lot of rumors about this same exact issue on 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!

        • “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.

      • “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! :)

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

  • Samuel Neff on 05.15.13 @ 3:45PM

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

  • Chris Lambert on 05.15.13 @ 3:49PM

    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

    • 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.

    • They got it running 1080p at 24fps continuously.

    • 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! 1920×1080-1200 is what is possible now though.

    • Chris Lambert on 05.15.13 @ 5:09PM

      cheers folks

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

    • 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.

      • My testing with 5d2 is going well – 1880×720 is the max I can do continuously with a 1000x card:

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

        • That looks very very nice, the colours are gorgeous

        • 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!

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

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

  • how long can you record?

    • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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.

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

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

    Good Luck for your tests

  • 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!

  • come on… get it working on my T2i! haha

  • This is what the hack is going to do to your sensor:

  • 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.

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

  • Please get this on the 5dmk2 thanks!

  • Clayton Arnall on 05.15.13 @ 5:00PM

    Thanks for clarifying! I heard that one guy spouting off on twitter and it literally made no sense to me why it would heat the sensor more.

  • It kinda sounds like all Canon DSLRs are capable of doing this. So do you think it would work on my t2i if I were using, say…. a 95 MB/sec SDXC card??

  • Anyone knows where i can download the 1.1.3 firmware or anyone has it? Help!!!!! jejejejeje

  • Joe …. great work. can you give us any info on what we need to know about cards, at this point ?

    I asked this on another thread … someone mentioned that we need 90mb/s real write speed … and said that the real write speed is always less than advertised.

    so lexar cards will make the cut … what about transcend, or the komputerbay guys ? maybe the pre-alpha testers can let us know what cards they’re writing to ?

  • Luke, where can we download this puppy already?!

  • “Short answer, no. Long answer, nope.”

    LOL! :-)

  • Im so psyched about this it is a major game changer … But i was wondering would i be able to get
    1080p 24p continuos shooting on a lexar 800x 120/mbs

  • Does anyone know if this will ever be possible on the 7d?

  • I would be interested in some technical videos as well.. seeing exactly what the new latitude after ML in indtalled, how it performs better for aliasing and moire as well as rolling shutter. Then these tests next to h.264, black magic and higher end cameras if possible. See how well it actually stacks up.

    Latitude is more exciting to me than resolution right now and id love an in depth look at how robust the image is to grade next to Arri Raw, R3D files etc.

    Someone bring back zacuto for another shoot out!

  • Is the major inhibitor card speed or camera processor? Canon will probably announce Digic 6 cameras this year or early next year so would that allow for longer recording ability? I am hoping to buy a 70D which only will take SD cards from what I can tell.

  • Presumably Magic Lantern will be able to port this code to the 6D with nearly the same image quality (20MP sensor vs. 22MP?) The 6D sells under $2000.

    • I hope so, I own a BMCC and a 6D and this would be the best filming arsenal to have two RAW cameras could cut together beautifully!

  • I would really love to see them get an HDMI feed out. I don’t know if it’s possible but that would just make this whole “hack” 10 times better.

  • This is one thing I was wondering and now that its explain it makes a lot of sense and is kind of cool. Havent kept to much on date as I switched over for nikon but man do I wish Magic lantern also worked on nikon cameras. Imagine getting this raw video output on a D800 with its 14 stops of dynamic range compared to the 12 stops of the 5d Mk III. Oh well we can dream right?

  • “So will your camera explode? No, it won’t”
    But my 5D2 ML menu clearly says: ‘you camera will explode’!!!
    Just kidding, for all those who are asking about the 5D2, mine does about 300 frames at 23.976 fps in 1880×720 until it starts dropping frames and 1280×720 continuously (up-scaled it looks as good as 1080 H.264 but with 12 stops of DR) and all this on a not too fast SanDisk 60 mb/s.
    I am already more then happy with this but something tells me ML is still going to improve on it, the only drawback is that with the increase in resolution Moire gets really bad on places where I normally wouldn’t expect it, this is where the 5D3 seems far superior and the only workaround for the 5D2 seems to be the Mosaic engineering filter…

  • For the 5d3 it seems that the 32 and 64GB 1000x KomputerBay cards are working well at full 1080P 1920×1080, however the 128GB is only able to do 1920×900 without dropping frames.
    Other than that there have been no negative reports on these cards at all.

    • hi jp … is this your direct experience ? have you been trying the hack on the komputerbay cards yourself ?
      like other mk lll owners, i’m completely stoked … but since we’re going to be shelling out for a handful of expensive cards, i’d love to spend $200 on kompubay vs $300 on lexar ….

    • I did see a post in the thread from someone complaining he could not get full HD @24fps with the KomputerBay 1000x (5D3) without skipping frames

      • I ordered a KomputerBay 128GB and it already failed on me. I got a Hoodman Steel, and I only get 1 dropped frame until the 4GB max kicks in.

  • I am really curious if a tethered adapter could speed up the SD card slot enough to record continuous raw on the lower end cameras like the 550D and up. The adapters exist for microSD, I just haven’t found any for SD size. You would probably need some sweet custom drivers to run the thing too. I’d love it if something as cheap as the old rebels turned into raw recording machines.


    • I believe the bottle neck is actually before the data gets dumped on the card, while SD cards can handle higher speeds I think the SD module won’t allow anything beyond roughly 35 mb/s, thus even if this adapter would work you’d still be stuck with the same datarate, but then again I have no real clue of what really happens in there and Magic Lantern is true magic to me!

  • I wonder about the Details. Is it possible to actually see what you are shooting or is the display black?

    • You get the normal display although you should turn off the usual ML histograms and other functions to reduce CPU usage by other stuff, it will show you a window with the crop you’ve selected and an indication of you buffer, the amount of frames recorded and a red warning if the camera starts dropping frames

  • João Marco on 05.16.13 @ 6:19AM

    Hello… news about RAW and T2i combination…? Hope so…

  • Does nobody think that Canon sent some secret engineers over to magic lantern to make the 5D Mark III more attractive by an unofficial hack in front of the fact that Blackmagic releases a DSLR killing Camera soon?
    Why did nobody else came up with the idea of blocking the mirror for continuous RAW recording?
    Canon would have been stupid obsolating their new EOS Cinema line by giving raw recording to an DSLR camera, but why not as a hack. We all know that these T2i, T3i 7D, 60D, etc after all these years still have the same sensor in different bodys. This new 5D Mark III sensor could be similar to the EOS Cinema line… You also know Canons politics to release attractive firmware updates after the sales brought in enough money…

    • maybe i’m a little paranoid ;)
      anyway MagicLantern is the most awesome thing about Canon DSLRS

      • Chris Lambert on 05.16.13 @ 10:30AM

        maybe a lil… if Canon can sell a C500 with most of the same parts as a C100 but 10-20k more expensive =raw (pun intended) profit, then why would they want to sell a ton more dslr’s that will eat up that market.

        more likely to be a rogue pissed off software developer within Canon than some insidious plot by them to stay relevant, i think a lot of the people in ML use aliases also the warning off the 1dx a camera most 5d users would aspire too afford demonstrates their alarm over equipping all the cameras with all the features, part of the probable reason ML no longer accepts donations as it’d be harder to sue someone not making a profit

        Also would this have been theoretically possible at the time of the mk3′s release? 1yr of price drops and newer faster memory cards later and it’s still a full on headfuck trying to figure out what is possible, for how long, with what etc

    • You’re not alone. I’ve always been under te impression was an off the books Canon company. The 5D III wasnt moving enough ppl to give up there Mk II’s. Now with 4K BMCC on the way, they had to push an angle.

  • Del8traceur on 05.16.13 @ 8:05AM

    I’m wondering how ML will work with the fastest cf card in the market I’m talking about Toshiba 1066x which is faster than Lexar 1000x. Anyone tried ?

  • Angel Arozamena on 05.16.13 @ 9:13AM

    Hi ! Is this available for 5D MarkII? ( Excuse me but I speak spanish and I dont know if when you say 5D2 are talking about 5D MarkII or about something else) My english is not so good but I’m reading all these things very exited and tryng to install ML in my 5D MarkII. I hope you can help me.Thanks!!

  • canon needs to help ML release the beast in all of it’s c cameras…there’s nothing to protect anymore …i’ve never seen the c500 on a set…maybe make the c500 a 6k

  • I own a Mark II, and I tested it, ML really work in my old Camera. Here the video I did a few minutes ago.

    • Hey Nelson…any chance you could link me to where that specific firmware file is? I’m really confused about which one I’m supposed to download. Thanks!

  • So is it just a matter of time before cannon releases a more polished version of raw video or will those chances be slim to none?

  • This is really cool. i just want 2.0 raw. video on my canon 5D…but the price has gone from 3200$ to $3500 on mk3. No thank you..I will be getting Bmagic mini and a couple stealth looking 4/3 lenses, shoot raw at 1080 and divinchi in post. Anything else I will rent for what the project needs. I was on phone with Canon rep. and he answered no questions and acted as if ML was a fly on their neck and couldn;t even answer when the announcement was going to be for Canon 70D. and acted annoyed. this is who I want to do business with? I met 2 BMagic reps who may have talked me into splurging for the new 4K cine camera with their enthusiasm alone. geesh canon, wake up. ML is the best thing you have GOT going you asses.