Magic Lantern – detailed instructions for work!

Magic Lantern is an alternative firmware that extends the functionality of Canon DSLR cameras. At the same time, it absolutely does not interfere with the operation of the camera and it can be removed without any problems. The first experiments with firmware Canon cameras were carried out back in 2003, when as a result of these actions it became possible to reflash Canon EOS 300D with unlocking many functions inherent in Canon 10D. Among these features were ISO range expansion, mirror lock, flash power control, and more. They were, to say, very lacking in the Canon 300D. Especially, locking the mirror before releasing the shutter and adjusting the power of the built-in flash. It’s a pity that the range of the shutter cannot be extended by flashing.

Description of Magic Lantern

The Magic Lantern project appeared in 2009. At the moment, the following cameras are officially supported by the Magic Lantern firmware:

A great theme is timer shutter release for time lapse shooting, zebra in focus, shutter mileage preview and other functions. The instructions and description of the Magic Lantern menu functions I have given in this article below.

Key descriptions of Magic Lantern 2.3 settings

  • Audio: Disable automatic volume control (AGC), adjust audio recording level, manual audio adjustment, selectable audio source (built-in, built-in + external, external stereo, balancing), audio monitoring via A / V cable.
  • Exposure assistance:  undershoots and overexposures (zebras), Exposure estimation (false color), histogram , brightness levels – displayed as “Waveform” (waveform), brightness at the focus point, brightness levels as “Vector shape” (vectorscope) …
  • Focus utilities:  focus peaking, zoom while recording , focus trap (shooting when the subject is in focus), focus shifting (moving focus from one subject to another in a video), focus tracking, focus bracketing (for macro photography ).
  • Video recording assistance:  bitrate control, video logging (additional data similar to Exif), auto-restart after overflow of the card / buffer or 4GB limit , video with high dynamic range (HDR), additional control of frames per second (fps), RAW video recording.
  • LiveView adjustments: contrast, saturation, display brightness for LiveView in dark environments.
  • Magic Lantern Image Overlay: User editable on-screen overlays for easier composition and image frame selection.
  • Controlling exposure parameters:  sensitivity, shutter speed, color balance in Kelvin and other image settings.
  • Bracketing: Advanced Exposure Bracketing , Focus Bracketing .
  • Remote shooting:  face in the frame and triggering on sound, without additional equipment.
  • Work with time intervals: intervals between shooting (for stills and video), exposure time (bulb) of a frame (manual and automatic), video recording with very low frames per second (FPS) (minimum 0.2 frames per second), silent shooting without shutter release;  endless bulb timer for very long exposures (up to 8 hours).
  • Information on the display: information about focus and depth of field , matrix temperature, number of shots, time .
  • For strobe: flash exposure compensation, range -10 to +3 stops (EV) (varies by camera).
  • Battery Saver in Magic Lantern: Turn  off the display or dim the LiveView backlight when idle.
  • Features for convenience:  fast zoom in view mode, shortcuts for the most frequently used functions, customizable menu, screenshot

The list is incomplete and depends on the camera model. I have highlighted functions useful for me in italics. For shooting at long exposure, it is very convenient to have a built-in function in the camera, than to buy an intervalometer (and they cost decently), or to carry a wired remote control with you and press the button for a long time.

Installing Magic Lantern on Canon Cameras

Installing Magic Lantern consists of several steps:

  • Go to MagicLantern website

  • Update the firmware of your camera to the latest for Magic Lantern
  • Select from the list “your-camera-model.-firmware-current-for-Magic-Lantern”
  • Download firmware file Magic Lantern
  • Place files from the archive at the root of the memory card by copying or moving. The firmware file has the .fir extension, the rest of the files and folders are needed for Magic Lantern to work.
  • We insert the memory card into the camera, start the flashing by selecting an item in the menu with the name of the current version of the camera software.
  • Magic Lantern will start installing. In this case, the memory card will be assigned the “bootable” status. Subsequently, without a memory card, or with another card, ML will not boot, but the camera will function properly.

You do all this, by the way, at your own peril and risk. Therefore, the minimum required for flashing is a fully charged battery of the camera.

Magic Lantern menu buttons and interface

In Canon 60D, the button for deleting photos is responsible for calling the Magic Lantern menu, and in LiveView mode – Info. Variations are possible on other cameras. The interface is a text menu in the form of system fonts on a black background. The pictograms at the top of the menu show the main sections.

Known Issues

  • The first seconds of recorded video can be very loud.
  • Sometimes, moving focus (rack) and focus bracketing (stack) may just stop working. You need to reboot the camera for them to work again.
  • External monitors are not fully supported (magic zoom and RGB utilities will not work).
  • Magic Lantern does not have audio controls for Canon 600D / T3i and newer cameras. You can turn off AGC from the menu.
  • Does not fit on new Canon cameras

Magic Lantern removal

To remove the alternative firmware, it is enough to format the memory card through the camera menu. In this case, formatting the card by default leads to the loss of the firmware. To format without deletion, just before formatting, you must press the Q button. In other words, the camera itself will kindly tell you about this on the page for formatting the memory card.

Nightly Builds

Previously, on the ML download page, you could select either fresh compilations of the program (nightly builds), but not tested, or the so-called Stable (stable) releases. Currently, only Nightly Builds are available for download by default.

Magic Lantern setup instructions
(Canon 60D)

Here and below are the Magic Lantern settings in Russian. Now let’s start describing the sections and settings in them.

Audio

  • Analog Gain – is responsible for the analog gain of the input signal from the microphone, has values ​​from 0 to 32dB, the higher the value, the greater the gain.
  • Digital Gain – enables separate digital gain of the digital signal for the left or right channel. Has sub  items R-Digitalgain , L-Digitalgain and AGC (automatic gain control, useless in most cases). Disabled by default.
  • Input Source – the item is responsible for selecting a sound source. It has the following sub-items: Auto Int \ Ext (automatic selection of the sound source), Internal Mic (built-in microphone), External Stereo (recording stereo sound from an external source), L: int R: Balanced (the left channel is recorded from the built-in microphone, the right channel is balanced, usually paired with concert microphones), L: int R: ext (left channel from built-in microphone, right channel from external source)
  • Mic Power – when this option is enabled, the camera will serve as a kind of amplifier for an external microphone, however, if the microphone has a low impedance, the function should be disabled.
  • Headphone Monitor – playing sound in headphones
  • Headphone Volume – amplification of the sound transmitted to the headphones
  • Speaker Volume – volume of the built-in speaker
  • Beep, test tones – setting the warning signals that the camera gives in one case or another (for example, when the recording is interrupted)

Section “Exposition” Magic Lantern

There are the following items here:

  • White Balance – setting the white balance manually, the light temperature is set in Kelvin, with a step of 100K. You can also adjust the color shift (color bracketing) and color multiplier.
  • ISO – sensitivity adjustment with a shorter interval than the default in the camera (works in manual modes, the values ​​change in 1/3 stop increments). Equivalent ISO adjustment is possible, in this mode camera settings will be overridden by ML adjustment from this menu item.
  • Shutter – setting the shutter speed in steps less than the default in the camera (if the camera supports it), it is possible to automatically adjust to the shooting conditions using Magic Lantern for more accurate exposure.
  • Aperture – manual aperture setting. The step is slightly different from that displayed on the camera menu. A useful trick for cameras that have a firmware-limited parameter change by 1/2 or 1/3 stop.
  • Picture Style – selection of a picture stylization preset for both photo and video modes (! RECpicturestyle).
  • Exposition Lock – setting aperture \ shutter \ ISO without changing the exposure. It is possible to support maintaining the relationship between the exposure triangle parameters. Works in manual mode.
  • Exposition Presets – exposure presets. You can use several for work.
  • Exposition Override – Bypass Canon firmware for working with exposure parameters in video mode.
  • Exposition Simulation – Enables exposure simulation directly for display on the camera display in live shooting mode. The function turns the camera display into a digital viewfinder. Can be turned off, can be switched to photo and video modes. Zebra and histograms are not displayed in this mode.
  • Dual ISO – Using this parameter increases the dynamic range of the camera, but requires additional post-processing tools. In this mode, the camera’s sensor shoots with alternating rows of the base ISO value and the extended one.

Magic Lantern Overlay Menu

Customize the different blend modes of Magic Lantern. There are the following sub-items here:

  • Global Draw – enables or disables the display of various overlays, included in the items below.
  • Zebras – display of underexposed and overexposed areas in Live View (hereinafter LV) mode and on the finished image. It contains several profiles for displaying overexposures and undershoots (Luma, Luma Fast, RGB), as well as additional settings, such as the percentage at which the program starts displaying a zebra for underlit / overexposure.
  • Focus Peak – this item allows enabling display of DOF in LV. Perfectly helps to navigate, and to view the depth of field on the camera screen when using manual lenses. It has sub-items Filter Bias (selection of the algorithm for determining the focus area), Image Buffer (settings for night shooting and in daylight), Threshold (sets the percentage of pixels by which the focusing accuracy is determined), Color (color for displaying the Focus Peaking mode ), Grayscale image (Discolored LV mode image).
  • Magic Zoom – displays an enlarged part of the image to determine focusing accuracy, can be used during video recording. It has sub-items Trigger Mode (setting the display mode, Always On – always on), Size (size of the Magic Zoom window ), Position (position of the Magic Zoom square on the display in LV mode), Magnification (magnification factor of the displayed area) and Focus Confirm (setting the visual Focus confirmation. Interesting items SplitScreen and SS ZeroCross , the inclusion of which ensures the display of the MagicZoom square in the style of dual-image focusing screens)
  • Cropmarks – Magic Lantern cropping frames. By default, 5 preloaded frames are available. It is useful, for example, to use cropping frames to make it easier to compose when shooting stills and videos. Loading your own frames is supported.
  • Ghost Image – overlaying a semi-transparent image over the image in LV. Useful, for example, for panoramic photography.
  • Spotmeter – exposure meter, displays the brightness metering module by default in the center of the screen, as a percentage. You can change the display mode of values ​​to EV, or others (RGB – color temperature, IRE), and also select the metering area (center, or focus window)
  • False Color – used to estimate the exposure using the white channel brightness difference palette.
  • Histogram – turns on the display of the Magic Lantern histogram (a graph of the distribution of halftones of the image). It is possible to display both the overall brightness (Luma Color Space) and the individual color brightness ( RGB ). Used in difficult lighting conditions. The choice of calculation is possible, both logarithmic and linear (the logarithmic mode is used in cases when any color prevails in the image). Enable Clip Warning (oversupply of information on a channel).
  • Waveform – responsible for displaying the incoming signal in the form of waves. Replaces the histogram in some cases, gives a little more information about the exposure.
  • Vectorscope – turns on the display of the Magic Lantern vectorscope in LV mode. The vectorscope helps you determine the hue and saturation of the image.

Video Tab Magic Lantern

In this section, you can change the video bitrate, and some other settings:

  • Bitrate (CBR) – bitrate control. When using the constant bit rate (CBR) parameter, it is possible to change it both up and down. The unit is the standard 45 megabits / second stream for the camera. The maximum value is 3. Using the Qscale parameter VBR is constant quality with variable bitrate. The values ​​to change are from -16 to +16. The lower the number, the higher the bitrate. In this mode, the bit rate increases when the amount of information in the frame increases. FW default – reset to factory values. In the same menu item, you can set a warning about the buffer filling during video recording.
  • REC Key – setting an additional function to enable / disable recording for the REC button.
  • Gradual Exposure – for video mode. Use smooth transitions when changing exposure by compensating by ISO value.
  • FPS override – here you can change the number of recorded frames per second. Recommended for use without audio recording.
  • HDR Video – HDR video recording. It is recorded as a sequence of frames with different sensitivity, and requires additional processing in post-production. Suitable for shooting static subjects.
  • Vignetting – vignetting. Either remove or add as an effect.
  • Image Fine-Tuning – this mode allows you to fine- tune the image quality of a movie directly by changing the register values ​​of the Canon Digic processor.
  • Creative Effects is an experimental feature that adjusts the effects for video recording – inverting colors, channels. You can also record video in grayscale mode by toning the image using the Picture Style.
  • Movie Tweaks – Various video mode settings. Remaining time indicator, saving video metadata, resuming recording after it was interrupted (due to a buffer overflow or exceeding the file size), informing when starting / canceling video recording, locking the shutter when shooting, and disabling the lens missing warning.

Shooting

Has the following sub-items:

  • Advanced Bracketing – advanced bracketing settings. Even ISO bracketing is available.
  • Intervalometer is a built-in intervalometer. You can set the start delay, as well as the shooting time.
  • Bulb Timer – Used for long exposures.
  • Audio Remote Shot – shooting can be done remotely by clapping your hands, for example.
  • Motion Detect – release the shutter when motion is detected or the exposure is changed. You can also set a delay between changing the state of the camera.
  • Mirror Lockup – lock the raised mirror before the shutter is released (with a programmable delay).
  • Flash Tweaks – built-in flash settings. Exposure compensation, as well as alternating frames with and without flash firing.
  • Shoot Preferences – additional settings for shooting with an intervalometer, focus stack and remote shutter release, launching scripts.

Focus

A very interesting section:

  • Trap Focus is a focus trap. The picture is taken when the subject is in focus. Mainly used for macro photography with manual lenses. Works in photo mode.
  • Follow Focus – software imitation of Follow Focus. Using the buttons of the device and the autofocus lens, you can smoothly adjust the focus. You can set the step and delay for the focus command.
  • Focus End Point – an option that defines the end point of the smooth focus transition of the Follow Focus mode.
  • Rack Focus – Automatically controls the transition between Follow Focus start and end point.
  • Focus Stacking is a function that allows you to take multiple shots in automatic mode to increase the depth of field. Used for macro photography, for example. The resulting photos can be combined in post-processing, for example, in Adobe Photoshop. When using this function, the Rack Focus must be configured.
  • Focus Settings – focus settings. Step, delay before the next step, wait before firing. Used in conjunction with Rack Focus or Stack Focus.
  • Focus Patterns – focus pattern. Here we set the focal points by which the camera will orient itself during focusing.

Section “Display” Magic Lantern

Camera display settings.

  • LV DIGIC peaking  focusing outlines in LV mode.
  • LV brightness, LV contrast, LV saturation – functions to improve the display of images on the camera screen.
  • LV display gain – signal gain on the camera monitor in LV mode. Useful when shooting in the dark or when using ND filters. In photo mode, it does not affect the picture quality; in video mode, video is recorded as on the camera display.
  • Clear overlay – remove overlays. Configurable to a timer, a button or a combination of buttons, when pressed, additional information superimposed by Magic Lantern is removed.
  • Defishing – used when shooting fishies, straightens the image in the preview.
  • Anamorphic – setting for anamorphic lenses. Stretching the picture vertically in LV mode.
  • Advanced settings – additional settings for displaying the interface on the camera screen. Change orientation, color scheme, blending mode.
  • Level indicator – electronic level in LV mode and Magic Lantern overlay. Accuracy – half a degree.

Preferenses

Various Magic Lantern settings are hidden here. Such as displaying configuration files, previewing images, LiveView zoom, square focus area, enabling warning of incorrect settings, enabling power saving in LV mode, and menu settings. Nothing complicated so that you can focus on this.

Modules

Section in which you can connect additional modules preloaded with ML. There is even a toy and a file manager. This section will come in handy if you want to enable something like Dual ISO or RAW video, which are disabled by default.

Debug

The technical mode of Magic Lantern settings, in which you can view both information from the camera sensors, about the shutter mileage, matrix temperature, battery charge, and perform stress tests of iron for failures.

Screenshots of the camera menu for this entry, and some others on the portal, were taken from this menu. The format of the saved file is .PPM, it opens in graphic editors without problems, but the standard Windows photo viewer does not understand the Magic Lantern screenshot format.

Help menu item Magic Lantern

A section that reports on hotkeys for controlling Magic Lantern, and contains information about the firmware and its build.

Should I install Magic Lantern?

The answer here is at your discretion. Considering that a lot of things are missing on cheaper models of cameras (an intervalometer, for example, or additional focus display settings), then advanced owners are simply a must have. Thanks to the developers of this add-on, the effect of Canon’s marketing policy is smoothed out – there is no point in overpaying for new functions if you already have a camera suitable for your requirements.

Personally, I haven’t yet regretted contacting ML. So are my comrades.

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