Magic Lantern for Rebel T2i/550D — Yes!
Canon should clue in – people want functions on their DSLRs that make it more of a professional camera. My school where I teach (the School of Communication at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff) purchased 18 Canon Rebel T2i. We have limited funds and the price point was perfect, especially when combined with the kit kens, spare battery, Rode VideoMic, Rycote windscreen, 8GB memory card, a 70-300mm lens, UV filters, a Manfrotto 190XB tripod with the 700RC2 head, and a Portabrace bag–which puts the kit at around $1600. (Here’s the B&H list with an audio recorder: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/wl/330BB308FF.)
Yes, we would have loved to purchased the Canon 60D–with its manual control of audio and swivel LCD screen–but $600 is $600.
Why pay an additional $600 when you can get the firmware hack, Magic Lantern, for free? (You should donate to help the cause.) It includes disabling of the automatic gain control (AGC) for audio–which is absolutely key when you want to even attempt to get usable audio in your footage. Furthermore, it puts the audio bars on top of the LCD so you can see what the audio is doing (something that even the Canon 5D2 and 60D don’t do). In addition, it has a spot meter, zebra patterns, histogram, and crop marks for safety zones (for broadcast purposes). You can even dial in color temperature!
I have installed it on one of my school’s Rebels and it works great! Be sure to go to the config menu and save any changes.
I love the fact that the LCD brings up the percentage figure of exposure on the spot meter and it provides the focal length on my zoom lens and it gives me the focal distance of what is in focus (in cm)! This means you can mark focus with tape. Most excellent!
Ok, the pic is a bit blurry because I used a Droid to take this image:
Image by Kurt Lancaster. The audio meters change color (green for within the zone, yellow getting hot, red for clipping). The focus distance is in cm/meters. The exposure percentage occurs within the area of the rectangle, center (which indicates a 6% exposure in the dark are of the Christmas tree). While the histogram hovers above center to the right.
Here’s my short guide (I take no responsibility for failed installs and damage to your camera. Proceed at your own risk):
1) Be sure the Rebel has the latest firmware release (1.0.9). If not, then go to Scroll to the bottom of this page and hit “I agree”: http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/firm-e/eosdigital7/firmware.html You’ll be taken to another page where you can download the firmware. Place the file on your memory card or plug in the USB cable and use the EOS Utility. Put the camera in manual mode on the top dial and dial over to the third toolbar menu. Go to firmware and click on it to update. Let it do it’s thing.
2) Download the firmware: (22 Dec. 2010), scroll to the bottom of the page for the attachment: http://groups.google.com/group/ml-devel/msg/c7b3f6483fa622de and unzip it.
3) Plug in your camera’s memory card and copy the magiclantern.fir file to it (don’t place it in any folders).
4) Put the memory card back into the camera.
5) Update the firmware as if you’re doing step 1.
6) Pull out the battery for about 5 seconds and turn the camera off.
7) Put the memory card back into the computer.
8. Make the card bootable. The Magic Lantern Firmware Wiki shows steps for doing this for the Mac and PC. MacBoot did not make the card bootable. I went to a PC and downloaded EOScard (which is on the Magic Lantern wiki page). Just right click on the hyperlink on the wiki and you can download it. As stated on the page, “Select your SD card drive, check EOS_DEVELOP and BOOTDISK and hit Save.”
9) Delete magiclantern.fir from the memory card.
10) Go to your Magic Lantern folder and copy over the autoexec.bin, all the *.bmp files, and the magic.cfg file to the memory card.
11) Plug it back into the camera and put the camera in video mode. Turn on the camera and hit the delete button to bring up the menu.
12) The camera will use Magic Lantern with this card. If you want to use it on other cards, then you will need to install the same files listed on step 10.
13) Read the Users Guide to see what each function does. My settings:
Default settings for audio, including AudioMeter: ON
Global Draw: ON (turn it OFF and ON again by using the SET button)–this will clear the Magic Lantern text on the LCD screen
Zebras: OFF (I prefer to see my shot without all the red and blue graphics getting in the way)
CropM: OFF (I only need it if I want the “safety” zones, which I really don’t worry about)
Trap Focus: OFF
ISO: Here you can dial in ISO settings beyond what Canon provides.
Shutter: You can choose shutter increments beyond what Canon provides.
White Bal: Hit the SET button to dial in your color temperature [the Display will still shot the
Brack [Test bracket]–I don’t use it.
Focus–I don’t use this since I focus manually.
Debug–CAREFUL here. The only I do here is hit “Save config” after I’ve made changes, so when I turn off the camera and turn it back on again, it’ll keep the settings I chose.
Kurt Lancaster, PhD, is the author of “DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video, Focal Press, 2011.” He teaches digital filmmaking and multimedia journalism at Northern Arizona University’s School of Communication.