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Magic Lantern - beyond 2.3... what's new?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This photo shows a small port in the town of El Cotillo on Fuerteventura Island.
If you're a user of Magic Lantern (and if you're a Canon shooter like me I really recommend that) you might wonder when there will be new version as last stable version (that is 2.3) was released quite some time ago. In fact new version is here... everyday. You can get it here. These are so called "nightly builds" meaning that they are built everyday. Of course one of the drawbacks is that they aren't tested very well so they might have stability issues as well as other bugs.

However, list of new features added since 2.3 should really make you consider installing it (and new features are added daily). Also many users install it and bugs are fixed quite fast after they are discovered.

If you're into recording videos you probably already heard that guys at Magic Lantern managed to enable 14-bit RAW video recording at Full HD resolution (even for 50D which didn't support video recording at all!). This is huge for sure but as I'm not really interested in movie making I find other features more important and useful for my type of work.

Here are my favourite features added after 2.3 release:
  • RAW histogram and RAW zebras - did you know that Canon firmware shows histograms based on JPG preview of a photo? The problem is that although JPG histogram might show clipping, there might still be some room when shooting RAW. Magic Lantern now overcomes this limitation by enabling RAW histograms and zebras (which shows clipping).
  • Auto ETTR (Expose To The Right) - Expose To The Right is a well-known technique which in short is about making sure the histogram is right aligned (that is the image is slightly overexposed). Due to various reasons I won't describe here (like signal to noise ratio) this results in a higher quality image with lower noise than by "properly" exposing photos. Auto ETTR feature finds right exposure automatically. You just press a button and you get optimal exposure parameters.
  • Automatic AF micro adjustment using DotTune method - when lens and camera bodies are manufactured there is always a margin for AF to be slightly "off". This means that lens might produce back- or front-focused images. To make it easy to get rid of this issue, Canon added a microadjustment feature to their cameras allowing user to correct for this. However, fixing this is still tedious and rather difficult task. Fortunately this feature make it much easier to set AF micro adjustments. You mount your camera on a tripod, focus manually on a high contrast subject and start DotTune command from Magic Lantern menu. After about 2 minutes micro adjustment is found.
  • New GUI - Magic Lantern also got a new look & feel. I find it clearer and more intuitive. You might think GUI is not that important but it makes working with ML much easier and effective.
  • Audio notes - does it often happen to you that you forget some details about the shoot when you're back at home? Your thoughts, impressions, feelings, names of places or people in the photos? Now you can record them. Take a picture, hold a SET button and add your Audio Note. Unfortunately this feature doesn't seem to be supported by 5D MK III :(
There are tons of other improvements and fixes like eg. Warnings when you shoot JPEGs instead of RAWs, DOF and Flash bracketing, and much much more.

If you're brave enough to try nightly build, head to Magic Lantern website and discover all other features yourself.

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