Magic Lantern: Firmware for Canon DSLR filmmakers

Magic Lantern is an open platform for developing enhancements to the amazing Canon 5D Mark II and 550D/T2i digital SLRs. These cameras are “game changing” for independent film makers:

  • It allows the use of a wide range of lenses (anything that can be adapted to the EF mount).
  • The 5D’s 35mm full-frame sensor is larger than the RED ONE’s sensor, Super 35 film. It is approximately the size of VistaVision. This means shallower native depth-of-field than anything on the market, except for the Phantom 65.
  • The dynamic range and latitude are close to the capabilities of high-end HD cameras.
  • The low-light performance is currently unrivaled, even by the RED ONE.

But, the software in video mode has limitations, even after the recent 1.1.0 upgrade from Canon that fixed the most glaring manual exposure “bug”.

That’s where Magic Lantern comes in — it turns your 5D Mark II into a 5D Mark Free. We’ve written extensions and widgets that fix many of the annoyances in working with the 5D Mark II on a film or video set. Our first set of fixes are targeted at the audio limitations of the camera, but there are some video enhancements included, too:

  • On-screen audio meters
  • Manual gain control with no AGC
  • Zebra stripes (video peaking)
  • Custom Cropmarks for 16:9, 2.35:1, 4:3 and any other format
  • Control of focus and bracketing


How cool is this! Though the (slightly cringeworthy) video above talks specifically about the 5D, there is also firmware for the 550D I use, which could open up a world of possibilities.

Magic Lantern 0.2.0 for 550D firmware 1.0.9:

  • GUI menus: press the ERASE button to display them
  • Bit rate control (QScale parameter) for the H.264 encoder
  • Zebra stripes for overexposed / underexposed areas
  • Spotmeter, histogram
  • Cropmarks (16:9, Cinemascope, Fisheye)
  • Simple intervalometer
  • Trap Focus: camera takes a picture when something comes in focus
  • Wireless trigger with the LCD face sensor & your own hand
  • AE bracketing (like on 5D2 ML)
  • Rack focus
  • Stack focus (Live View only)
  • Lens data computation
  • Onscreen audio meters
  • Manual audio gain, selectable input source, disable AGC and digital filters
  • Display time remaining during video recording
  • Debug functions (display CMOS temperature, screenshot, logging)
  • Fine tuning for ISO and shutter speeds; also ISO 25600
  • Kelvin white balance
  • Clean LiveView display without any overlays (selectable)
  • HDR Timelapse
  • On-demand auto tuning for ISO, shutter & kelvin white balance
  • Quick access to some useful settings like HTP, ALO and contrast

(via 550D –

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