articles for photographers

What is Magic Lantern? Pros and cons

magic lantern for rogues

Magic Lantern Firmware hailed on the Internet as a surprisingly unique opportunity to turn old photo junk into a pro-camcorder that can shy RAW video.

I will write directly, as it is, the main thing in this story is that it is cheap and on the old technique. It's an epic like expectations from speedbooster, - I will not pay for a full frame, but I will deceive the system and get a full frame on the crop. The psychology is the same. Pay nothing and get everything. It doesn't happen.

For those who do not know

magic lantern - non-standard software that you install at your own risk in your Canon camera instead of the standard operating system. Basically, it's a camera hack. You can download this joy HERE.

Again, you will do this at your own peril and risk. So there is a chance that your camera will turn into a brick. Arguments like - That Vasya over there is fine and he is shying weddings with Magic Lantern - only self-deception for peace of mind. Vasya may be sharash, and you may have everything flying and you will meet the characteristic green screen of death from Magic Lantern. Or maybe not. Nobody gives guarantees.

magic lantern error

Install Magic Lantern only possible on cameras of previous generations based on DIGIC 4, 5 and 5+ processors. According to rumors, it does not apply to new models, because. the developers were threatened from the official Canon and therefore the fun stopped on cameras from the annals of history.

The following models are supported:

  • Canon 5D Mark II,
  • Canon 5D Mark III,
  • canon 6d,
  • canon 7d,
  • canon 60d,
  • canon 50d,
  • canon 500d,
  • canon 550d,
  • canon 600d,
  • canon 650d,
  • canon 700d,
  • canon 1100d,
  • Canon EOS M.

I personally tested this firmware on Canon 5D Mark III, there is a video about this at the end of the article.

Benefits of Magic Lantern

Alternative Magic Lantern firmware is installed on a memory card and replaces the standard menu interface. It allows you to expand the functionality of the camera and adds features not included by the manufacturer.

Let's list themAnd that is not all):

For photography

  • bracketing by exposure, focus or flash
  • shooting with a delay (for time lapses)
  • timer setting for extra long exposures from 30 seconds to 8 hours
  • electronic shutter (shutter speeds from 15 seconds to 1/10 are available)
  • record audio notes for photos or videos

For video shooting

  • Ability to set custom bitrate
  • Ability to set an arbitrary frame rate (within the capabilities of the camera)
  • HDR video recording
  • Manual adjustment of lens vignetting correction
  • Recording uncompressed 14-bit RAW video
  • Video recording in 2.5K/3K/4K resolutions

Monitoring Tools

  • Zebra
  • Focus peaking
  • Framing grids
  • Focus zoom window
  • Live-view metering
  • Determining exposure False color
  • Waveform monitor
  • histogram
  • Vectorscope
  • Sensor temperature information
  • Shutter counter

Exposure setting

  • Manual white balance at the touch of a button
  • Quick switching between exposure presets
  • Switch exposure simulation on/off
  • Expanding the dynamic range (e.g. double ISO)


  • Analog/Digital Gain Adjustment
  • Selecting a sound source
  • Turning the wind filter on/off
  • Digital filters (Hi, Lo-pass)
  • USB audio monitoring (headphone out)


  • Ability to write your own scripts
  • Ability to customize the menu

The list is simply stunning. For people with a “greedy beginner” complex, this is ideal. The complex consists of the following: I don’t understand this at all, but give me more of everything, pictures / videos will be more beautiful. If you remember that the cameras from the list above today are practically worth nothing on the used market, then it turns out - double damage - a double blow. They gave so much, and even for free.

I will describe the reasons for my skepticism below.

The most notorious feature is the possibility shoot video in RAW format.

Yes, the camera can shoot 14-bit RAW video. You get it in a format that needs to be converted in a special program, which eventually gives you a sequence of DNG files that you process in Lightroom or another program. Then you will need to load this series of hundreds of photos into a video editor and make a video out of them again. The process is long and tedious.

Theoretically, from Magic Lantern you can export video to ProRes. I saw all examples of this magic on a Mac, but at the time of the test this function did not work for me on a PC.

The files pull really well, just like normal RAW files. Modern cameras with RAW video, such as Canon R5, give out only 12-bit raw-video, which stretches noticeably worse. At this place, for sure, someone will triumph and run to roll Magic Lantern for himself. Do not rush to rejoice.

I recorded FullHD raw video on a Transcend CF 1000x card and was limited to about 10 seconds. Further the buffer was hammered and it was necessary to wait. You can buy more expensive CompactFlash cards, but this will not fundamentally improve the situation. You will not see a comfortable recording duration.

The video format is FullHD, but the actual detailing of the files corresponded to HD resolution, that is, lower than stated. This is not surprising, because old Canon cameras write with skipping lines and do not give “honest” detail on video. Magic Lantern does not fix this.

On the Canon 5D mark II, III, with the help of Magic Lantern, you can write high-resolution RAW video in 2.8K and 3.5K formats. No matter how much I danced with a tambourine, it did not work out for me. But there is plenty of evidence on the internet that this is possible.

At that time, I used the camera Canon C100. Compared to her, this whole epic with RAW video was a real torment. What's more, it's pointless. Remove immediately normally, so as not to pull anything and it will be fine. Yes, frames from the video are drawn and then short videos can be made from them. But at what cost does this happen ... If you have a need for a complex flower cutter, buy any blackmagic camera and get RAW or ProRes with much less headache.

If you look at things soberly, then the target audience of this firmware is just the owners of old cameras, and not professional colorists or clip makers. Therefore, the real purpose of this firmware is just to indulge.


Usability is something that suffers a lot after installing this miracle program.

In general, Canon cameras are distinguished by thoughtful menus and high ergonomics. The Magic Lantern menu looks like this:

magic lantern menu

Looking at it all on the small screen of the camera is such a pleasure. There are many functions, of course. The main question is how much they are really needed and what do they change? In modern cameras, time-lapses, various types of bracketing, and many other features are already everywhere. This firmware adds them to ancient devices, but they do not become modern from this.

In their reviews I constantly repeat - the essence camera upgrade from old to new Not that the pictures will be better. New chambers give additional comfort. This firmware takes away comfort, but you can play with a bunch of settings.

Today, Magic Lantern is not a story about real tasks, but about “playing around”.

Watch my video review of this firmware: