April 1, 2015

Magic Lantern Just Figured Out How to Boot Linux on a DSLR, and That's a Huge Deal

Magic Lantern Linux on Canon DSLR
Magic Lantern may have just revolutionized how we work with DSLRs -- again.

Without a doubt, the fine folks over at Magic Lantern have done more for the DSLR video world than anybody else. First, they added professional video features that were sorely lacking from the early video-capable DSLRs, including all sorts of helpful exposure, focus, and audio tools that made shooting with these cameras so much easier. As if that wasn't enough, then they gave us uncompressed 14-bit RAW recording directly to CF/SD cards. However, the next step in Magic Lantern's journey might be the most exciting.

Today they released the first hints that they're working on allowing Canon DSLRs to boot into a Linux kernel, essentially turning the camera body into a mini computer. Why is this newsworthy, you ask? Well, it essentially unlocks the door for third party developers to build apps which can control the hardware and potentially bring new, previously unheard of features to these cameras.

Here's a quick video of the Linux Kernel 3.19 being booted onto an assortment of Canon DSLR bodies:

Here's what an administrator named "a1ex" had to say about the new development over on the Magic Lantern forum:

We took the latest Linux kernel (3.19) and did the first steps to port it. As we have nearly zero experience with kernel development, we didn't get too far, but we can present a proof of concept implementation that ...boots the Linux kernel 3.19 on Canon EOS DSLR cameras!

  • it is portable, the same binary runs on all ML-enabled cameras (confirmed for 60D, 600D, 7D, 5D2 and 5D3)
  • allocates all available RAM
  • prints debug messages on the camera screen
  • sets up timer interrupts for scheduling
  • mounts a 8 MiB ext2fs initial ramdisk
  • starts /bin/init from the initrd
  • this init process is a self-contained, libc-less hello world
  • next step: build userspace binaries (GUI, etc)

While I am not particularly well-versed in the technology and programming intricacies of any of this, it's easy to say that opening up Canon's hardware to industrious software developers looking to improve on the existing functionality of these cameras will do nothing but good for the low-budget and independent filmmaking communities. 

If you're interested in trying out the Linux bootloader on your camera, you can download it from the Magic Lantern forum at the bottom of the original post. For those of you who are a bit more tech savvy, what kind of possibilities and applications would you like to see out of this new development, and what impact might it have on filmmakers who use these cameras? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

28 Comments

Turn my T2i into a 4K camera, and you'll get my undivided attention. All I ask for is clean 4K HDMI.

April 1, 2015 at 9:44PM

2
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E. David Nazario
Filmmaker
188

Come on David, everybody knows that the T2i can not record 4k because the 680FPS limitation.

April 1, 2015 at 10:05PM

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Edgar More
All
1206

I wonder if magic lantern has their eyes set on the c100's.....imagine the possibilities :)

April 1, 2015 at 10:11PM

9
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If this is an April fools joke...

April 1, 2015 at 10:15PM

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Jon du Toit
Writer / Director
228

I extremely need skype and whatsup on my 5d so I can send my 14bit raw video to my friends. Music player won't hurt either. And of courses the alarm so I can wake up with shutter sounds and beeps.

April 1, 2015 at 10:43PM

4
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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1247

I'm looking forward to checking my email during the middle of a long take!

April 1, 2015 at 11:25PM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4844

Cue dramatic music
pararan PARARAN! pan pan pan pan pan
Director: action
actor 1: GIME THE COOOOODES!!
actor 2: THERE-IS-NO-TIIIME!
camera 1 : you got mail...

April 2, 2015 at 1:42AM

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Edgar More
All
1206

Can you image you are in the middle of a tense-dramatic
scene when the camera tells you "you got mail"

April 2, 2015 at 1:38AM, Edited April 2, 1:38AM

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Edgar More
All
1206

I wonder if Canon will drop the whole threat of going after anyone who takes a crack at hacking the C100/300 firmware? Especially now that they're going to be old hat and have dropped in price dramatically. Might be a way to get some extended life out of the line if industrious people can milk a bit more out of it? But it might also cannibalise their own product line...

April 2, 2015 at 2:31AM, Edited April 2, 2:31AM

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Ben Howling
Writer / Director
600

Can I get the Mac OS booting sound when I turn on my 5d ? Or perhaps windows XP start up music?

April 2, 2015 at 2:58AM

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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1247

Wasen't it just the 1st of April?

April 2, 2015 at 3:39AM

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Louis F. Golay
Filmacker
74

I hope this means we can attack the lack of easy anamorphic squeeze capabilities with software/apps!

April 2, 2015 at 4:29AM, Edited April 2, 4:29AM

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Manny Villanueva
Cinematographer
161

I think you could have a little sound board for talent/crew control.. When you're on the 22nd take and the whole scene is falling apart and people are threatening to head to the pub - https://youtu.be/M4W0qUaM9xQ

April 2, 2015 at 5:54AM

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PJ Palomaki
Cinematographer | Motion Graphics
320

This situation is going out of control. That is to say completely out of Canons control.
It seems to me that any dslr camera will be apt to be taken over this way. The ML developers are awesome!

April 2, 2015 at 7:10AM

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I want to run premiere in the 5D , so I can edit while doing long takes

April 2, 2015 at 7:19AM

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Thank goodness this is an April Fools - the tech talk had me completely freaking out that I'm going to miss out on something amazing unless I either befriend a coder or learn to do it myself!

April 2, 2015 at 7:28AM

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Linux on your camera! Just think of the possibilities, like... erm... ?

An AI crap filter. When it detects crap filming, it shuts the camera down. Michael Bay would then be so puzzled why his camera won't even switch on.

April 2, 2015 at 7:36AM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1260

kudos to these guys at magic lantern.and hell: they're not getting paid for any of this ... but i remember jumping out of my skin about two years ago because they announced a raw hack for the mklll .... two years later, still no stable release .. the workflow is preposterous. i wouldn't hold my breath to realize any benefits from this.

April 2, 2015 at 7:49AM, Edited April 2, 7:49AM

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stephen knifton
owner / creative director
437

The current release is pretty stable, I think they are never going to officially call it stable because they would then be responsible for any wackiness that COULD happen. I haven't read or heard of ANY bricked or damaged cameras in any of the recent nightly builds.

I thought the same thing until a few days ago but then I discovered MLRawViewer. Super simple to view and Export raw clips.

http://www.magiclantern.fm/forum/index.php?topic=9560.0

Hell I've had more problems from official DJI firmwares than I have ever had with ML

April 2, 2015 at 12:10PM

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Wally Argueta
Video Editor / Colorist
74

"While I am not particularly well-versed in the technology and programming intricacies of any of this..." = "I know how to turn on and off my iPad..."

April 2, 2015 at 11:48AM

5
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Some days I even have a difficult time turning the iPad on. The struggle is real.

April 2, 2015 at 1:31PM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4844

It would be nice if they could get detailed h.264 in 1080p up to 60fps out of the 5D3. The Canon 1080p looks like mush.

April 2, 2015 at 12:39PM

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All of Sony's cameras have run Linux for years. It'd be interesting to find out what Tim Bird thinks about this, as he's managed Sony's embedded Linux development efforts in recent decades, and also a lot of industry-wide embedded Linux committee and event activities. Not sure what bits of Sony's stack are GPL'd, or if the hardware architectures are compatible (both likely ARM, but little-endian? big-endian? etc.) but perhaps some Sony software could be ported, giving a boost to those hoping to implement a full Linux-based software stack for Canon DSLRs. This might be a good place to start looking for usable software bits: http://oss.sony.net/Products/Linux/DI/category01.html

April 2, 2015 at 3:08PM

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It's a big deal because it essentially turns every Canon camera into an Apertus Axiom. With a custom Linux running you could run anything you want from the camera (provided that the ARM-processor is strong enough for the task). Clean 4K out should be no problem, a better internal codec or a flat log space. All suddenly possible.

Suddenly the limitations to what you can do with the camera isn't what Canon decided to let you do, but what the hardware is capable of doing.

April 3, 2015 at 4:45PM

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"Well, it essentially unlocks the door for third party developers to build apps which can control the hardware and potentially bring new, previously unheard of features to these cameras. "

Can we hear of some please?

April 4, 2015 at 4:00AM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1260

One thing for example might be better quality RAW video, as we would have direct acess to hardware, instead of having to work blindly guessing DryOS's ways of doing things. It's essentially the same thing as building and having templates and maps for the maze instead of being thrown blindfolded into a maze built by a stranger who only wants you to go certain directions....

April 5, 2015 at 10:41PM

0
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Fernando Henrique de Sousa
CEO, Evil Genius, Steadycam, editor & jack of all trades
180

Hey, I recently made a video comparing the Raw recording of the Canon 70D versus the compressed video of the same camera. Here is the link for whoever is interested:
https://vimeo.com/125666437
Thanks!

April 22, 2015 at 6:49AM

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Booting linux makes many possibilities to roll in. This can be used for many things after all now many developer are free to handle DSLR with programming skills and many new features can be added. Linux provides the very basic but useful open source platform and next thing is for developers from world wide to take over lets hope for best. I am blogger write about oily hair care and products reviews. For best oily hair shampoo also I am passionate Photographer This is good news for me lets see.

February 7, 2016 at 2:25PM

6
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virat s
blogger
88