The Simple Magic Lantern RAW Guide (Part One): Shooting RAW

This guide will try to simplify the process of installing, running and working with Magic Lantern raw files from your Canon DSLR camera. It is written for the absolute beginner who wants to get Magic Lantern RAW functionality on his or her Canon DSLR.

Please read the entire guide (both parts) completely, and first decide if Magic Lantern RAW is for you. If it is, read the entire guide again before you start doing anything.In this part we’ll cover the basics, and how you can install Magic Lantern on your camera to get it to shoot RAW footage.

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What is Magic Lantern?

Your Canon DSLR runs on software that is called ‘Firmware’ (because it’s only meant to work on one piece of hardware, and is usually found in the hardware/camera). It gives you menus, and choices for stills and video. When Canon releases new features, it releases a newer firmware version, which is made available on its website for download.If you download and install this new firmware, it will replace the original firmware (just as upgrading your operating system or software on your computer replaces the older version). These features and software are provided by Canon. For the purposes of simplicity, when I write ‘Firmware’ I mean the software/firmware that Canon provides, without which your camera will not work.

What is Magic Lantern?

In simple terms, it’s a software that gives your Canon camera additional functionality. It’s like having both FCP and Resolve on the same machine. Just two pieces of software that work side by side, offering different functionality. It does not completely replace your firmware, but it does make certain changes. The Magic Lantern software always runs from an SD or CF card. It must be installed on every SD/CF card used in the camera (or just one if the camera has two media card options). To learn what implications this has, you absolutely must read the Magic Lantern FAQ.So, what functionality can you expect from Magic Lantern? Well, there are two:

  • The ‘original’ Magic Lantern, stable release v2.3 – which gives your camera added functionality like zebras, focus peaking, cropmarks, spotmeter, histogram, waveform, vectorscope, audio meters, and lots more. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to call this the ‘Stable’ version.
  • The new ‘pre-alpha’ or alpha RAW version that is totally not supported but is what you’ll need to install for RAW capability. I’m going to call this the ‘RAW’ version.

If you don’t want the RAW functionality, please install the stable version, which, as of this writing, is v2.3. Instructions on how to install the stable version can be found here.But, you’re not reading this for the stable version, are you? You want RAW, so here goes.
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Which cameras are supported?

The following table lists some Canon DSLRs along with the necessary firmware version to run Magic Lantern, the maximum resolution for 24p continuous recording in full sensor mode, the maximum resolution in crop mode*, and the crop factor:

Important: The information might be inaccurate or just plain wrong, and is liable to change without notice even if right. Don’t use it without verifying everything with Magic Lantern.*In full sensor mode, the video uses the full sensor to record RAW, just like it would do with H.264. Some also call this the 1:1 mode. The crop mode, on the other hand, only uses a portion of the sensor to get greater resolution. They are able to do this because the DSLR still sensor originally has greater resolution, of which only a small portion is used for high-res video. Ultimately, the deciding factor is the speed of the camera system and the memory card (CF or SD).As you can see, currently only the 5D Mark III supports full 1080p24 (and also 25 fps) in full-frame mode, and almost 4K in ‘Super35mm’ mode (1.6 crop factor). However, not all higher resolution video is available for continuous recording (mostly only in burst mode).

For a more comprehensive and possibly updated table, click here (Google docs file).

What you’ll need to get started

Having a camera and computer is just the first step. Here are a few things you’ll need:

  • The right firmware.
  • SD/CF card – to install Magic Lantern.
  • Really fast SD/CF card – the data rates for RAW are in the 85 MB/s territory (CF). Check the above-mentioned Google doc sheet for card speeds for each camera type. For a list of acceptable CF cards, click here.
  • A fully charged battery.
  • Camera turned to Manual (M) mode.
  • Time and an internet connection to download software.

You’ll need to make sure you have everything in place before you begin. First, let’s find the right firmware.Canon 5D Mark III
[BestPostBanner468]Installing the necessary firmwareFirst, you’ll need the correct firmware version for your camera. Check the firmware currently installed in your camera. You’ll find it easily in the camera menu.Now, check the table above, or the updated list from Magic Lantern, and figure out which firmware version you should be having. If it’s not the same as what’s in your camera, you’ll need to find and replace it.

Finding the right firmware

There are three ways to do this:

  • Go to Canon’s EOS page and look at the bottom right.
  • Go to Canon’s website and locate your camera. Look under Firmware.
  • Go to http://pel.hu/eoscard/ for the windows version, or http://hdslr.com.br/2012/06/20/atualizacao-de-firmware-para-5d-mark-iii-versao-1-1-3/ for the mac version (this is for the 5D Mark III only).

If you can’t find the firmware version for your camera model, ask around in the Magic Lantern forums, and they should be able to help you. Firmware files end with the extension *.fir.

Updating the firmware

The Canon manual will tell you how to update your firmware. Here’s a quick video on how it’s done:
https://vimeo.com/17339662
Confirm you have the correct firmware version before proceeding.How to find the right Magic Lantern version for your cameraProceed at your own risk! I accept no liability for the use or application of the instructions given here.

Each camera model has its own version of Magic Lantern RAW, and there are versions of that too (called ‘builds’)! E.g., here are Magic Lantern’s notes on features of version Alpha 3 compared to Alpha 2 and 1 for the Canon 5D Mark III:

Alpha 3
– Card test at startup
– Histogram and waveform moved to bottom
– New experimental display for focus peaking (extreme sharpness)
– 16:9 bars for anamorphic preview
– Focus box moves faster (not yet customizable)
– After taking a picture and pressing Zoom In right away, you can scroll through pictures
– Saturation boost when adjusting white balance
– Warnings for bad settings (e.g. if you set picture quality to JPEG instead of RAW by mistake)
– Dim the red LED while recording (make it less distracting)

From alpha 2:
– Magic Zoom (zoom while recording), experimental focus peaking modes, ghost image, display presets
– Movie indicators, movie logging, rec/standby notification, force LiveView for manual lenses
– Gradual exposure in movie mode
– HDR video
– Brightness, contrast, saturation, display gain, color schemes, UniWB correction, upside-down mode
– Clean HDMI with pillarboxes
– Anamorphic and fisheye correction
– Image review tweaks (exposure adjust, remember zoom position…)
– Task and CPU usage info

From alpha 1:
– zebras, focus peaking, cropmarks, spotmeter, histogram, waveform, vectorscope, audio meters.
– card benchmark, debug info, stability tests.

Every time the source code is compiled, the resulting files are grouped into a ‘build’. There are many developers working on Magic Lantern, and unfortunately any of them (even you can if you wanted to) can compile a build. These developers upload their respective builds to various places. To get the latest builds for Magic Lantern RAW, click here.

In Magic Lantern terms, these are called Nightly builds – and they are not supported officially by the Magic Lantern development team. To make matters confusing, there are also nightly builds without raw functionality (they are working on other stuff, too, you know). Use the link above to find the nightly build for your camera, and download it.You’ll most likely be downloading a ZIP file. Double click the ZIP file to view the contents in Finder or Windows Explorer. Here are the files/folders it should contain:

  • 5D3-113-bootflag.fir (or another similar name for your camera)
  • autoexec.bin
  • ML folder, which will contain ‘data’, ‘doc’, ‘Modules’ and ‘Scripts’ folders, along with a ‘Readme’ file.
  • In addition, you might have other folders for more functionality, like ‘cropmks’, etc.

So, you have the files on your computer. Before you move on, try to understand the process, and what you’re in for. To do this, go to the respective forum threads for each camera and see what other users have had issues with:

Confident? Let’s move on to the next step.Preparing your camera and mediaPut a fully charged battery into your camera. Magic Lantern recommends an original Canon battery, and not a cheap knock-off.Turn the camera dial into Manual (M) mode.Format your CF card with the exFAT file system. Here’s a great link on how to do it. This allows you to record files that are greater than 4 GB in size (you’ll need it!). Some older cameras like the 5D Mark II don’t support exFAT, but most of the newer ones do (refer to the Google Docs link given earlier). If you don’t do this step, you can only record about a minute of RAW at one time.Put an SD/CF card into your camera and format it. Always format your card in-camera, and not from your computer.If you’re using a dual-card camera like the Canon 5D Mark III, then Magic Lantern recommends you install RAW on the SD card, and use the CF card for recording. Don’t put RAW on both cards!If you’re using a single-card camera, then you don’t have a choice. The cheapest CF card that works is the Komputerbay brand, which is about $130 for 64 GB. You’re typically looking for a CF card that has a ‘1000x’ or UDMA 7 on it. These cards can up to 150 MB/s. For SD cards, I suggest the Sandisk Extreme Pro series, which can go up to 95 MB/s.There’s one more software you’ll need to download for installation:

  • Macboot, for Macs. For OS X 10.8 users, you’ll need to download this zip file. In their own words: “Put it in the same folder as Macboot and unzip it. You’ll get a macboot.command script. Double-clicking the script will bring up a terminal window and sudo will ask you to type your logon password so MacBoot can get root access. MacBoot will run when you press return.”
  • EOSCard, for Windows.

This software will make your SD or CF card bootable. It’s only if you have this that Magic Lantern RAW will run whenever you switch on the camera.
[BestPostBanner468]How to install Magic LanternNow you have everything you need to get Magic Lantern RAW installed. Let’s get to it:

  • Copy the Magic Lantern files and folders on to the SD or CF card.
  • Insert the card into your camera and go to firmware update (check manual). It will show the *.fir file. Select it and update.
  • When you’re done, switch your camera off.
  • Take out the card and put it back into the card reader on your computer.
  • Open Macboot or EOSCard, and ensure this card is now Bootable. Eject your card.
  • Insert the card back into the camera. If you’re using an SD+CF card combination, insert both cards. Switch on the camera.
  • Press the Delete/Trash button and Magic Lantern will be ready. You will see the Magic Lantern menu system.
  • Scroll to the “M” menu option (which is at the end, far right) and select that.
  • Select ‘Load Modules’ and you’ll see a few okays at the bottom. This might be unnecessary in the future once Raw recording is stable and incorporated as part of the stable release.
  • Go the camera menu and select ‘Raw Video’. You will have the choice of width and height of your video. Use the Google Docs table for your camera type (only if you have the right SD/CF type installed!) and find the resolution for continuous 24p recording. On the Canon 5D Mark III, it’s 1920×1280.
  • Exit the menu by clicking the Delete/Trash button and access the regular menu. Select the frame rate (24p is fine for now).
  • Exit the menu. Press record to record some Raw video! You should be able to record continuously without dropping any frames.

The installation instructions for the 5D Mark III can be found here.Here’s a thread that lists instructions on which settings to choose and how to record RAW video on the Canon 5D Mark III.Here are some important notes from Magic Lantern:

IMPORTANT NOTES

* If you have a bootable CF/SD card and have the DISKBOOT flag
set in the camera (which the installer does), and you do not
have an AUTOEXEC.BIN file on the card the camera WILL NOT BOOT.
It will hang and not wake up until the battery is removed.

* If you encounter a “locked up” camera, quickly remove the battery.
Otherwise the ARM might be in a tight-loop and get very hot, very quickly.
Your battery will run down and your LCD might show some discoloration.

* When in doubt, remove the battery and reboot.

* And, remember that this software can damage or destroy your camera.

How exactly do you go about doing all this? Here are two videos that’ll make this clearer:

Perform tests to see if your CF card speed is as advertised, and ensure your camera can record RAW ‘as known.’ That’s all there is, really.In Part Two we’ll look at how RAW is written, and the available post production workflows for Magic Lantern RAW.

Very Important Disclaimer

I have received quite a few requests for a simplified Magic Lantern RAW guide, and this article is in response to these requests. I don’t use Magic Lantern personally, simply because I don’t shoot professional video with DSLRs.

It is critical that you understand and listen to the advice given by Magic Lantern:

Magic Lantern is not approved nor endorsed by Canon in any way, and using it will probably void your warranty. Use this software at your own risk.

I, too, am just simplifying instructions others have written and linked to, and in no way endorse the use of Magic Lantern on your camera. This is a risk you must take on your own. Proceed if and only if you understand the risk and can live with the consequences.

If you’re having problems following this guide, don’t ask me additional questions. If you brick your camera or get into trouble, I am not responsible.

I do not endorse Magic Lantern or use its software or firmware. These instructions might become redundant when a newer version is released or whatever. It’s your responsibility to stay updated. If these terms are unacceptable, stop reading, and don’t follow this guide.

Camera Required firmware Supported stable version Continuous 24p, Full Sensor Crop Mode Crop Factor
5D Mark III 1.1.3 None exists 1920 x 1280 3584 x 1320 1.61
5D Mark II 2.1.2 v2.3 1584 x 1058 2144 x 1076 2.62
6D 1.1.2 None exists ? 2560 x 944 2.14
50D 1.0.9 v2.3 1584 x 1058 2000 x 1080 2.38
650D, 700D, 100D n/a None exists 1280 x 720 ? ?
60D 1.1.1 v2.3 960 x 540 2512 x 1080 2.06
600D 1.0.2 v2.3 960 x 540 2512 x 1080 2.06
550D 1.0.9 v2.3 960 x 540 2512 x 1080 2.06
500D 1.1.1 v2.3 960 x 540 2000 x 838 2.38
7D n/a None exists unknown,
not working
unknown,
not working
n/a

Exclusive Bonus: Download my cheatsheet (with examples) of tried and tested ways to cover a scene or action that will save your skin when your mind goes blank (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

6 replies on “The Simple Magic Lantern RAW Guide (Part One): Shooting RAW”

  1. A build exists for the original 70D. Having 14 bit color space with this dual pixel autofocus camera is worth the post processing. Especially as Canon crippled the Hdmi out.

  2. I live in Rio Rancho, NM…moved from California in 2012. LOVE IT!! A photographer’s paradise.
    I’ll look into Magic Latern. At the moment, I’ve been using Linux a coupl years, “Ubuntu Studio 12.0.4.4 LTS”
    My camera rt now is a Canon SX40 HS. From the factory, Canon didn’t offer RAW, etc with it.
    I changed that with CHDK (a free, open source program, which I loaded onto a faster, w/more memory card)….now I can shoot raw, time lapse, motion and light trigger sensitive, ….etc.. and much more.
    For 5 bucks I made an electronic remote shutter release…the list goes on. ~Leo

  3. MikeLangford1 Mike, I haven’t used the Canon 50D at all. Anyway, the crop mode should be within the Magic Lantern menu. Maybe the videos might help you find it.
    Also, visit the forum thread for the 50D. You’re more likely to find answers there.

  4. Please can you let me know how to select crop mode for RAW video on the Canon 50D – can’t find the option anywhere…Also, I seem to have no bulb ramping option underneath intervalometer on the list – have installed ML 2.3 and unified 27Jul2013.what am I doing wrong?

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