5 Reasons why I love Magic Lantern

5 reasons why Magic Lantern is great
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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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)
    5. 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 🙂
    6. 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!).

2017-01-17T19:43:00+00:00 October 5th, 2012|Posted in: Canary Islands, fuerteventura, hdr, landscape, long-exposure, magic lantern|
  • This looks like the answer to almost everything.
    Thank you for posting.

  • I love magic lantern too! I installed it onto my 5D2 and it works a treat. My favourite is the auto-focus-stacking program. It will shoot a sequence of images with pre-programmed focal points to later merge in a stacking software.


    I am just not brave enough to put it in my 5D3 yet.

  • Yes, focus-stacking is also nice although not that useful for me because I take macro only from time to time. If I had 5D3 I probably would install it 🙂 but probably that’s because I’m software developer myself and am always curious about betas 😉

  • I want to give it a shot but I’m afraid it will void my warranty … What do you say ? Should I install it on my camera ?

  • I want to use it but I’m afraid that it will void the warranty.. I own a Canon 550d/T2i .. Should I flash my camera with this ML firmware ?

  • Magic Lantern is quite safe in my opinion (unless you want to install it on 7D or 5D MK III as for these DSLRs there are only alpha versions available), I never ran into any serious problem and with the latest version I didn’t experience any problem at all (with previous camera hanged once or twice but restarting it solved the issue). There are even photographers using it for their jobs. But of course it’s up to you.

  • Hi Master, very much thanks for your valuable HDR tutorials, they helps alot! 🙂
    Some questions regarding how to take bracketing photo is I always wondering about.
    I have ML firmware in my camera, and I’m usually using Av mode to shoot for bracketing, I never try M mode before.
    So, actually which mode is recommended for taking bracketing photo?

    Thank you 🙂

  • It doesn’t really matter most of the time. In Av mode camera just guesses the right shutter speed and in M you have to specify it yourself. I often prefer to have greater control over it (because sometimes camera is wrong) and then I use M mode. But I also use Av quite a lot 🙂

  • Thanks for your reply! 🙂
    So, if let say I’m using M and wish to shoot for 5 exposure photos now, the shutter speed is the same on what we set on 0ev photo, or it will also keep changing on the other 4ev’s photos?

  • It will change on other 4 photos. Basically you set your exposure only for “medium” photo (or normal exposure). The rest of exposures is calculated via bracketing

  • Oh I see! Then what is the different between Av and M, as I know when shoot in Av, the shuttle speed will also keep on changing, right?

  • Right. The difference is that you can control exposure for your “normal exposure” shot (in Av mode you will get what camera gives you). This might be useful under some conditions like shooting in the beach or snow. Also it can help controlling mood in the night photos.

  • I just tried with M mode in my camera, but why I can’t set the exposure that I want when using M mode. The pointer in exposure unable to fix in a point like Av mode did when I change the position of the camera.

  • Sorry, but I don’t understand 🙂

  • Sorry for that. In other words, how to set the exposure value that we want instead of let the camera guessing in M mode?

  • I think I already figure it out. Haha. I change the shuttle speed value to get a normal exposure photo. Hopefully I’m correct with this. 😉

  • Well. If you set ISO to something else than Auto, fixed Aperture, fixed Shutter then it won’t guess anymore. Of course we’re talking about 0 EV photo (the first in the sequence). For other photos your EV space will be added (or subtracted).

  • Yea, your explanations are always clear and easy to understand 🙂
    BTW, which condition that you have came across so far, which recommended to use M and Av mode? (Sunrise, Sunset, Blue hour, Night time & etc)

  • I usually shoot with M mode in the forest, on the beach, in winter and also blue hour/night HDR photos. They are all tricky lighting conditions (even without HDR 🙂 ). In the rest of cases I usually use Av mode.

  • Oic, okay! Thank you very much for your teaching! 🙂
    Honestly, I learn a lot in this short conversation.
    I’m looking forward to see more great photographs and tutorials from you 🙂

  • That’s great 🙂 I’m glad to hear that what I write is actually helpful 🙂

  • have you tried using the Automatic HDR bracketing on ML? how accurate was it? thanks…

  • @geraldceasar – honestly speaking I haven’t tried it yet because I don’t need it as with some experience it’s easy to tell how many brackets you need for a given scene.

  • Excellent work!!!!!!!!!

  • Thank you Jean Loper