Magic Lantern: a filmmaker-friendly firmware replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II

Trammell sez,

Magic Lantern firmware introduction from Trammell Hudson on Vimeo.

I've released a custom firmware for the Canon 5D Mark II that adds lots of new features that are missing for film makers. The video mode on the camera is an amazing step forward for independent films -- it has a full 35 mm sensor for "film-like" depth of field, it works with any Canon EF lens and it produces beautiful 1080p h.264 files at 50 mbps.

But the stock firmware has limited audio support and is missing many key features. So I wrote my own extensions that include onscreen stereo audio meters, over-exposure displays, crop marks for different formats, and higher-quality audio.

After a few weeks of private alpha testing and evaluation, I have released it under the GPL for other folks to be able to extend it further.

(If you don't have a 5D, check out CHDK for Canon's point-and-shoot cameras. It provides pro-level features for their low-end cameras, including a scripting language!)

Magic Lantern firmware introduction (Thanks, Trammell!)


  1. Communist! Didn’t you know that those features where going to be added(along with an extra couple of grand on the purchase price) to the otherwise-identical Canon 5Dv Mark II?

    When will consumers learn that it isn’t their place to add value…

  2. Is it “filmmaker” or “filmaker”? Is there a new rule in English for eliding duplicate consonants?

  3. Wow. He wrote custom firmware for his $2500 camera – and had the guts to try it? That is HARD CORE.

  4. Ahem! From the site:


    DO NOT SEND THIS LINK TO ANYONE ELSE. Until the official release, this is still a private beta, even though it is on a public website.

  5. @Falcon Seven — that was on an older version of the download page. The official announcement was last night and the software is now publicly available.

  6. Anyone know if there is anything similar for the Nikon prosumer cameras like the D-70 or D-90?

  7. @7, you are correct, but the updated wiki site says this when you go to the download page:


    This software is not fully functional yet. The Err70 bug is still somtimes affecting recording while drawing to the screen.

    Do not use this for production work: if you can’t deal with a lost take or dropped frame or other problem, you shouldn’t be running it!”

    I’m not doing any hardcore video work until later this summer, so I’m going to wait on this one. I want to be sure I can use my camera until then as a still camera.

  8. KPS666,

    No Nikon firmware hacks that I have seen. Only a few scripts to move D90 video into Final Cut Pro a little better.

    Canon users seem to be more into firmware hacks, probably because of a larger base of people that have been doing it to Canon cameras for much longer (see: Rebel Russian hack to 10D, circa 2004).

  9. Palilay,

    You are absolutely correct. If I made movies for a living, I would totally not use my camera like this.

    However, since I want to extend my camera to use all of it’s functions, this seems like a clever idea, as the sound is awful. Another solution is to simply buy a $300 Beachtek XLR adapter and save myself some time.

    But I have to say, having shot some video on a sensor larger than the sensor on any video camera, it looks absolutely incredible. Helping to solve the audio issues is a huge help for those who want to use this camera to shoot. It’s great for any B roll already, this can help make it better.

  10. @Palilay: What video camera would you suggest with a full-frame 35mm sensor that doesn’t cost £150k like the CineAlta F35? Or what video camera that has a 50 mbps data rate for less than $10k? Or that accepts a wide range of EF lenses? There isn’t anything on the market that even compares to the 5D in its price range.

    @Mccrum: Checkout the comparison in the noise between the different preamps (the previous video on vimeo or the thread at cinema5d). The Beachtek didn’t fare so well.

  11. @11 Palilay, Because buying a video camera with the sensor size of the 5DMkII, and interchangeable lenses is prohibitively expensive compared to this camera. This thing really shook up the independent filmmaker world, the way that Red Scarlet was supposed to. It seemed to shake up Red a bit as well – why else would they have opted to change the physical format of Scarlet so much?

    I’m curious though about this fellow who loves filmmaking so much that he hacks his $2500 camera, tests out a variety of audio units with it etc… but still seems to have no concept of editing. If he’s reading this and wants to hook me up with an editing job…… :)

  12. #13, yeah, I know about the preamp reviews, but what I like about the Beachtek is that it reduces the in-camera audio messing about with the left side non-audible signal with minimal work on my part.

    If I was to jump into it right now, I’d probably just get a Beachtek and just get to work. Since I have some time, I can wait until Tram comes closer to finalizing his work and then probably go for the JuicedLink. Whatever anyone chooses to go with, off-camera sound is undoubtedly better than the existing mic.

  13. But is there a mod for 24p! I don’t know enough to say whether this is even possible (as maybe it’s a hardware-based limitation), but I’m dead sure this would be by far the most useful add-on for the Mark II. It’s pretty much the only thing (visually) that separates this camera from a $30,000 RED setup.

  14. #16, no. There’s been much passionate discussion about the lack of PAL support as well, given the percentage of the world that is not NTSC.

    However, there has been no official word from Canon as to when, or if, they will be adding multiple fps functionality. There have been numerous rumors floating about that 24p is planned, but they could not get it completed for the 2 June firmware update due to claimed problems with the sensor’s native 30p rate:

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