Using Magic Lantern software on a Canon 5D Mark lll

April 5, 2014

I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark lll and I installed Magic Lantern software (ML) since ML adds a lot of functionality to my camera. ML software is a free software add-on that runs from the SD card slot and adds a host of new features to Canon EOS cameras that weren’t included from the factory by Canon. I have had no problems with this software though you install ML software at your own risk since it is not authorized by Canon.

I have been experimenting with shooting RAW video using ML software. ML RAW records video at 1080p 14bit color without any processing from the camera. My tests show that the RAW video is sharper than the H.264 video recorded by my 5DMlll (5DM3) and there is more dynamic range – meaning, I can get more details out of the shadow areas than with H.264. The 14 bit color information means that more color information is stored compared to the normal H.264 8 bits of color info.

I’ve put together a comparison of RAW vs H.264 in the following video. Make sure you watch it in 1080 for the best comparison:

Canon 5D Mark lll Magic Lantern RAW vs H.264

Notice the amount of detail in the RAW image versus the H.264 video – especially on the seat cushions and on the brick wall. You can see the details of the pattern on the seat cushion and the wall has more texture when recorded with RAW.

Notice the amount of detail in the shadow areas in the RAW image versus the H.264 video.

Notice the colors on the pillow next to my dog Lucas. They are much brighter and more saturated in the RAW image versus the H.264 video.

Technical Details:
The H.264 was converted to ProRes HQ and it was sharpened in FCP 7 using a level of 25. The RAW video was processed using raw2dng and Photoshop CC and no sharpening was applied. I regularly sharpen my 5DM3 video ever since I watched Phillip Blooms video with his recommendation to sharpen 5DM3 video.

If I did not sharpen the H.264 video the difference in sharpness between H.264 and RAW would have been very dramatic. But, since I believe the H.264 is best when sharpened, I did not provide an unsharpened sample for comparison. Canon uses filtering to get rid of moire problems, where distracting lines move around in video when filming some materials, such as when filming a patterned sport coat during an interview. The Canon filtering makes the image softer – which can be restored with sharpening. I have also heard that Canon thought that many HDTVs are over-sharpening video and that the image looks better on an HDTV without sharpening in post. I have done tests where I present on an HDTV without sharpening in post and I agree – 5DM3 video looks great on my HDTV without sharpening since my TV provides its own sharpening. Since my comparison video is being watched on YouTube I have added sharpening to compare the two formats as I normally use them.

I tried to color correct the scenes to be similar but making the color exact is not my purpose. I am mostly impressed with the increased sharpness and details in shadows.

I think the RAW results are fantastic. However, I would not use RAW for all my shoots since the RAW workflow is time consuming and because RAW video requires much more harddrive space to store. RAW video does not record sound – there could be a way around this that I have not found yet. So, I wouldn’t bother using RAW for an interview. Also, because I like the way people look using H.264 5DM3 video. The colors and details look creamy and film-like. I believe I will use RAW for timeless shots such as landscapes and for when I shoot underwater stock footage video clips. I have shot underwater RAW and I will post my results in a future blog entry.

I hope this post helps you try ML software. If you have suggestions for me or if you appreciate this post please feel free to post a comment below.

My gear:
Canon 5D Mark lll with Canon EF 24-105/4L
Transcend Compact Flash 1000x Card 64 GB

Some very helpful links if you want to try using ML software:

You can download Magic Lantern software here:

These websites provided excellent instructions on how to install ML software:

GUIDE (Simplified): RAW on 5D mark III with Magic Lantern (Updated May 12th ’15)

This website provided excellent advice on how to process RAW video:
especially this video: