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