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Magic Lantern Firmware
Magic Lantern is a software enhancement that offers increased functionality to the excellent Canon DSLR cameras. We have created an open framework, licensed under GPL, for developing extensions to the official firmware.
Magic Lantern is not a "hack", or a modified firmware, it is an independent program that runs alongside Canon's own software. Each time you start your camera, Magic Lantern is loaded from your memory card. Our only modification was to enable the ability to run software from the memory card.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is it?
Magic Lantern is an enhancement atop of Canon's firmware that frees your Canon DSLR, allowing you to use many useful features. Initially developed for filmmakers, it now has functionality for both photo and video enthusiasts, including manual audio, zebras, focus assist tools, bracketing, motion detection and much more. It is an open (GPL) framework for developing extensions to the official software. It does not replace the existing firmware, but instead runs along side of it. There is no need to "uninstall" it -- simply format your card to reboot to the stock Canon firmware.
Is it only for video?
Initially, Magic Lantern was developed by independent filmmakers and tailored for video production on 5D Mark II. Things changed when Magic Lantern was ported to smaller (APS-C) cameras, like 550D, 60D, 600D and 500D, which attracted developers interested in both still photography and DSLR video.
Where do I get it?
See the Download page.
Will it break my camera?
As of September 2009 the software has been downloaded over two thousand times and there have been no reports of damage to the cameras. While this is no guarantee of absolute safety, the stable releases have been tested by beta testers. Most of the risk is to the developers' cameras while testing new features and probing new portions of Canon's firmware. By the time the software moves from development to beta testing it has been installed hundreds or thousands of times.
What can I do to help?
If you're a programmer skilled in ARM assembly, embedded systems, GUI programming and don't mind risking your expensive camera, get the source code, join the forum, edit the wiki and make improvements.
Where do I report bugs?
Why not just buy a video camera?
If you can find a video camera that a) shoots HD, b) has a 50 mbps data rate, c) has interchangable lenses, d) has a 35 mm or larger sensor and e) costs less than $25k (without lenses, like the RED One), then buy that one instead. There are limitations to shooting movies on a 5D Mark II, notably the limited 12 minute recording time and lack of balanced audio inputs, but a ArriCam Lite only records 5 minutes of Super 35 and a high quality preamp like the juicedLink CX231 provides balanced inputs. The lack of auto-focus in movie mode isn't a problem either -- movies are focused manually with a follow-focus like the Cinevate Durus.
Will it work on my camera?
Check the nightly builds page - if your camera is listed there, it already works.
If your camera is not listed on the nightly builds page, the short answer is: maybe. Longer answer: The CHDK project successfully supports many different cameras running different operating systems, but finding the necessary kernel entry points is a very time consuming process. Since Magic Lantern is publicly available, someone with the time, the hardware and the inclination to port it to other cameras can do so.
For 400D, use 400plus.
For Panasonic GH1 and GH2, please check http://www.gh1-hack.info/. This is a completely different bit of hardware and would require an entire from-scratch reverse engineering effort in order to port Magic Lantern.
For Nikon cameras see http://nikonhacker.com/.
There is also an effort in reverse engineering the Pentax K10/GX10 and K20/GX20 cameras. As of August 2009 they have been able to decrypt the firmware update and are making progress in understanding how the camera works.
For more questions about the Magic Lantern firmware, see the full FAQ
|Magic Lantern Community|
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- CHDK, for point-and-shoot Canon cameras
- DryOS boot process
- Datasheets for the hardware in the camera
- Audio comparison of the 5D with different preamps
- Build instructions
- Focus control
- VRAM for displaying things on screen
- Secret menus in the 1.0.7 firmware
- GUI Events
- Firmware_file : format of .fir (updates) files
- dvinfo.net's 5D Mark II forum
- cinema5d.com's Firmware forum and Technical forum
- DVXuser.com's 5D Mark II forum
- CHDK DSLR development forum
- CHDK DryOS development forum
Support the project!
Thanks to your help, we have covered all our funding needs for now.
Please consider donating to EFF for us, because they do a great job in defending your digital rights, including the right to run third party software on your own devices!
- Without their hard work on understanding Canon's point-and-shoot cameras, this would not have been possible. They did the hard-core reverse engineering on their cameras using only a LED to blink raw machine code and built an entire community on top of it. And since they released it all under the GPL we were able to learn from their efforts.
- Jon Fairhurst @ Poorly Projected Pictures
- Jon did the alpha testing to find a decent set of input gains and to compare the Magic Lantern firmware against other recorders. He also handles much of the tech support and has a few thousand posts over at dvinfo.net.
- Robert at juicedLink provided guidance on the audio testing procedures and provided a CX231 preamp for testing.
- Cinevate has donated a matte box and rails system. Their DSLR shooting rigs turn the 5D into a cinematic camera system.
- Chris Barcellos @ MYF Media
- Chris does a great job of bravely beta testing the Magic Lantern firmware and has been providing tech support.
- SmallHD has provided a DP1 HDMI field monitor so that Magic Lantern can be extended to support external displays.
- Glidetrack produces high quality, low cost and very compact tripod mounted tracks for dolly shots. It's amazing how much a tracking shot adds to the cinematic feel.
- 5D Film Making
- 5dfilmmaking produced a much better intro video for the Magic Lantern project and can teach you to make better films with your 5D (or 7D or other DSLR), too.
- Thanks to everyone who made a donation via PayPal or through equipment donations! You can donate via PayPal to help keep the project going, too.