Recently there has been a lot of cool news and excitement about Magic Lantern hacking Canon's DSLRs to shoot RAW. But there are also a lot of really awesome features their custom firmware offers that has never really created any hype. And now Canonrumors is telling us that installing third party firmware doesn't void our warranty like it does with other brands. So we are free to unleash the true power of our cameras.
There are several features I've found already extremely useful since I've installed the firmware in my Canon 5Dmkii. (note I installed only the stable firmware v2.3)
Several Amazing Improvements of the Magic Lantern v2.3 Firmware
First and foremost the main reason I installed the firmware was for improved HDR photography. Since I started shooting HDR photography I have always wanted the ability to expand my brackets to more than just +-2EV and I always wanted the ability to easily take more than three shots per sequence. Now we can do this.
Since I've been paying around with this firmware I've noticed the programmable HDR features are almost limitless. Here are a few quick features of what we can now do with HDR Bracketing.
You can take up to 9 bracketed photos and there is a feature to auto detect.
EV increments can be set to 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Sequence options 0 - + -- ++, 0 + ++, 0 - --.
Program a 2 second delay.
ISO Shifting, to half of full.
(Now if we set up to shoot 5 shots at EV increments of 1.5, or 3 shots at 3 EV. we can match the dynamic range of that Nikon D800 shooting 3 shots at EV increments of 2. Pretty cool)
What I also really like about this firmware is I can simply turn it on and my ML settings automatically take priority of all my camera settings. I'll still shoot in AV mode or on my camera's custom modes c1, c2, c2 for HDR photography. But I now no longer have my custom modes set with bracketing or the countdown timer because the firmware does this for me. All I do is set my custom mode, which has the ISO and fstop I like (based on AV), go into the Magic Lantern settings and turn on HDR. It takes 2 clicks! It will also remember your last setting.
Here is a quick sample of an Extreme HDR taken in my neighborhood. Shot with a 5 shot sequence at 2EV increments. ISO 640, f5.6 handheld.
I'm so glad I don't have to carry around my Intervalometer anymore. I've always hated those things and the one made by Canon is so expensive. What's really cool about Magic Lanterns Intervalometer, besides all its programmable features, is that it shows you how much time in a 24fps sequence your programmable sequence will give you. For example if I set one picture ever 2s for 400 shots It tells me this will give me 16 seconds of video in a 24p sequence. This is so useful and eliminates any guess work. I love it. Except I don't shoot time-lapse on my 5Dmkii because I don't want to add extra wear to my shutter. But if I did I would really like this. Iately I really only do time-lapse on my GoPro, and if I were to get serious into time-lapse photography I'd probably get a mirrorless camera so that I wouldn't wear out my shutter on my expensive 5D.
There is also the ability to do Bulb Ramping for those sunrise and sunset time-lapses.
Raw Video + Intervalometer?
Something really cool will happen for time-lapse photography with RAW capability (when this firmware is stable and trusted). There is an option to shoot time-lapse in movie mode when in liveview. Since the firmware build allows you to manipulate your framerate, you could tell the camera to shoot video at as low as 1 or 2 frames per second. (You can currently do this, it just won't be RAW)
This means, that if your camera was set up to shoot RAW, you could potentially keep your shutter open and take continues raw stills. You'll probably get a little aliasing and moire since Canon cameras don't use the entire sensor, but you would be sparing your shutter the beating given by time-lapse photography.
This is a feature that I actually do use a lot since I started using my ND500. It's the Bulb Timer. I can set the timer on my shutter to basically whatever I want. Before, when doing extremely long exposures at night, or with my ND filter, I would have to have a shutter remote and watch the countdown timer. Usually anything over 2 minutes is overkill, but now I can shoot for up to 8 hours on a single exposure. I wouldn't recommend this since it would probably not be good for your sensor. It would creating a lot of heat.
There are also several other really cool features to this firmware that I haven't used yet. Like focus stacking, motion detection, silent pictures and mirror lockup. I haven't really gotten into this much. Looks cool though.
There is also a ton of new overlay options for when in Liveview. This I do use. There is focus peaking, Zebras, Histograms, Vectorscopes, Waveforms etc.
If you have a Canon camera and want to expand it's capabilities and you feel confident you can handle the installation the management of the firmware, then I recommend trying out the Magic Lantern stable builds. I wouldn't mess with any of their Alpha builds yet since you don't want to brick your camera or risk any other type of damage. Who really needs Raw Video anyway? After all, better cameras and technology don't make us better photographers, right? :)