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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

Related Posts

  1. Magic Lantern No Longer a Hack, V2.3 is a Mature Release with More Features Than Any Canon Camera
  2. First RAW Video Sample DNGs from the Canon 5D Mark III with New Magic Lantern Firmware
  3. Canon 5D Mark III Clean HDMI Firmware Leaks, Plus More from Magic Lantern Regarding RAW Video


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  • “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.

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