|This HDR photo was taken with help of Magic Lantern HDR bracketing feature. I took 7 photos which I then merged and tone-mapped in Photomatix Pro 4.2.4. Further editing was done in Lightroom 4.1 and Photoshop CS 5.|
Do you own a Canon DSLR camera? If so, perhaps you have already heard of the Magic Lantern project. It’s a free add-on you put on the memory card which greatly extends capabilities of the camera. It isn’t a real firmware modification as when you take memory card out it will simply “disappear”. Therefore it is safe to use. I’ve been using it for about 1.5 years now and can’t really imagine working without it any more.
Although it offers dozens (hundreds?) of features there are a few which make me love it:
- HDR bracketing – this feature extends bracketing feature of the camera. Both my Canon 50D and Canon 5D MK II can normally take 3 auto-bracketed shots in 2 E.V. spacing. Not impressive. With Magic Lantern I can shoot unlimited number of photos even at 5 E.V. spacing (please note that in order to use more than 9 photos you will need to modify config files). There is even an option to automatically detect number of exposures needed to cover dynamic range of the scene. The only drawback for me is that there seems to be some delay between the shots involved (longer than with auto-bracketing feature) but other than that it’s a really cool addition.
- L.V. display gain – this is yet another cool option if you shoot night photography, use ND400 neutral density filter or infrared filter. In all these cases it’s almost impossible to use viewfinder to compose a shot and to focus as it’s simply way too dark. Live View mode isn’t helpful either as it is almost completely black. L.V. display gain is a feature which allows you to increase ISO of Live View to some crazy values. It’s done digitally meaning there will be a lot of noise. But the best thing is that you can see a lot of things and to compose your photos! I used for example when taking this and this.
- Focus assisting features – there are a lot of focus assisting features in Magic Lantern (like trap focus, magic zoom, focus racking, etc.) but my favourite for now is focus peaking. When in Live View mode it displays a set of red (or green, or blue) dots where the focus is currently set. It makes manual focusing a lot easier and also a lot faster and precise.
- Intervalometer – yes, Magic Lantern has a really powerful intervalometer built-in. You can set a number of photos you want to take and time between them. It has even bulb-ramping built-in (meaning that it will try to set shutter speed in such a way that all photos are exposed in the same way)
- Bulb exposure – although both my cameras can use bulb exposure it has one drawback – I cannot set its length in the camera. Magic Lantern allows me to specify exact exposure time, no matter it’s 15, 30, 90 seconds or a few minutes. Very cool 🙂
Another cool feature is that you can combine these features together. For instance use intervalometer together with HDR bracketing to capture HDR timelapse. Fantastic!
But as I mentioned Magic Lantern offers dozens of features. Take a look at it especially if you’re using your camera for filming as it offers a bunch of useful features (and even HDR video!).