What The Latest Magic Lantern Hack Can Do For Your Canon Camera

The Canon 70D

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

These days, we only hear from @1ex and his team at Magic Lantern when there’s an unexpected breakthrough. This is due to their partnership with Apertus to develop the color science for the AXIOM 4K camera. But mostly, the firmware hack has matured to the point that some Canon DSLRs can shoot RAW, and sometimes 4K. For most of us, that’s good enough. But with Canon officially introducing 4K on their DSLRs, will Magic Lantern provide a new update soon? Maybe. But in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of what the latest hack can do on your favorite camera.

The breakdown comes from EOSHD, which has managed to test how well the Magic Lantern hack works on each support Canon DSLR. The deep dive into the hack shows that there are three separate classes of cameras that Magic Lantern supports, including fast cameras like the 5D MK. III and 7D, mid-range cameras like the full-frame 6D, all the way down to the 650D (T4i) and Digital Rebel Line, and even M-1 Mirrorless camera.

As you would expect, what separates the classes is sheer speed, with the Class 1 5D MK. III getting up to 85MB/s write times, thanks to its 1000x compact flash cards. Then about half that for the Class 2 cameras including the 70D (relying on SDHC cards), and then half that again for the low-end Class 3 cameras (the 60D and more). What excites me is that the Class 1 Canon 7D can image at 80MB/s, almost approaching 5D3 speeds, and faster than the MK. II.

I’ve been thinking about picking up a 7D just so I can play with Magic Lantern on it. I could also get a max color at 14-bit RAW, but at 1.6x crop, it’s similar to a Super 35 sensor, and if you’re shooting in 2K video, that jumps up to 3.8x crop, ultra wide screen. But enough to definitely experiment with.

The benefit is the Class 1 cameras can not only write more data, but that means it can record at higher resolution with fewer crop factors. Simply put, the higher the cost of the camera, the larger the image buffer the camera can write through. The Canon 5D MK. III has an image buffer of 275 MB, while the low end M-1 has nearly a third at 100 MB.

Here’s a breakdown of what the top camera clasess can do, according to the math (via EOSHD):


  1. 1920 x 1280 – full frame (10-bit, aspect ratio 3:2)
  2. 1920 x 1080 – full frame (14-bit, use 12-bit or 10-bit for more bullet proof reliability)
  3. 2560 x 1090 – 2.25x crop mode (10-bit, 2.35:1 aspect ratio)

The 5D MK. III is capable of 4K at 3584 x 1320 (10-bit), at 5 second bursts of video. Dropping the resolution down to 2.5K, then you have continuous 10-bit EQ, with a severe 2.25x crop factor. That may be okay for widescreen, but still you lose a lot from that full-frame sensor.

With the 6D MK. II rumored to be out by the end of summer, you can how the original 6D performs. Although it has a full-frame sensor much like the 5D MK. II, it has a more limited image buffer (also from EOSHD):


  1. 1792 x 762 – full frame (10-bit 2.35:1)
  2. 1600 x 864 – nearly full frame 1.14x crop (10-bit 1.85:1)
  3. 1536 x 864 – nearly full frame 1.19x crop (10-bit 16:9)
  4. 1536 x 642 – nearly full frame 1.19x crop (14-bit 2.39:1)
  5. 1920 x 720 – 2.85x crop mode (10-bit 2.67:1)

But it does have 10-bit color and can even push that to 14-bit with some more serious cropping. But you can also enjoy some nice widescreen, even it if tops out at 2K.

What’s over the horizon with the 5D MK. IV? Well, only time will tell, and it’s been over six months since we last talked about it. It’s not like Magic Lantern are getting financial support from Canon with free camera rigs to test out hacks. If anything, Canon makes it harder. So if they want to mine the capabilities of a new platform, someone has to risk their own personal camera to do it. With the 5D MK. IV costing nearly $4,000, that’s one heck of an investment to risk.

So for now, the once and future king is still the Canon 5D MK. III with the ability to do 4K in very short bursts via Magic Lantern. Not bad considering it’s a five year old camera. But with the MK. IV out, you can pick up a 5D3 at a pretty good price on eBay, and that makes it ideal for a main DSLR camera to shoot high def and even up to 3K.

To see a complete list of what a Canon DSLR can do with Magic Lantern, head over to EOSHD for the details. You can also use the Magic Lantern Raw Calculator here to break down what each camera can do.

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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