After a lot of thought and reading up on the internet I finally took the plunge and decided to give Magic Lantern Firmware (ML) a go on my Canon 5D mk ii. The deciding factor for me was ML's ability to increase the 5D ii Std AEB from 3 shot ± 2 EV upto a maximum 9 shot AEB with an EV range of upto ±5 plus an auto detect mode where you take the first shot and the software works out how many more shots are required to cover the full EV range of the photo.
My first step was to bring the official Canon firmware upto version 2.1.2, this was downloaded from Canon UK, unzipped and the firmware file copied onto the CF card using a card reader (full instructions come in the zipped file as a PDF help file). Before updating the camera make sure your battery is fully charged. The CF card was then place in the CF card slot in the camera and then the update page found in the menu. By selecting update the camera software checks the CF card for new firmware and reports back with the new firmware version number (2.1.2) select update and the new firmware will load onto the camera.
The next stage was to download Magic Lantern version 2.3 from ML's website unzip and read the installation instructions which are in the unzipped folder along with a user guide both as PDF's.
The first thing to mention is that ML comes with no guarantees, it is reverse engineering so if it bricks your camera you will have a nice heavy doorstop.
Having said this the research I did seemed to indicate that heat build-up might be a problem when shooting raw video possibly in the CF Card. ML says it is not a problem the rest appears to be lots of speculation. Most of my work is shooting stills so I don't see heat build-up being a problem What is confirmed is that ML 2.3 is the most stable version yet and a lot of people are starting to use it for their HDR work. The firmware runs from the CF card so it results in a slight delay in waking the camera from sleep mode and starting the HDR sequence. It also means you need to load ML onto any CF cards you want to run with the firmware. At the moment I have one 32gb card with the ML firmware and one without. If changing cards you must wait for the LED to stop blinking before removing the inserted card or you will have problems. This is no different to most computers let it finish what it is doing and power down then remove the card
I followed the ML installation instruction to the letter and in less than 5 minutes it was time to test. To bring up the ML menu you press the delete/bin key navigation is the same as canons menu except to open sub menus you use the picture style button and the set button to change the values. The menu is vast and will take time to learn but the page for HDR is pretty straightforward choose the HDR mode, auto detect or 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 or 9 shots then choose the EV between shots 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5.
So setting the camera to manual I set the shutter speed and aperture and I tried the HDR AEB in auto detect mode which I have to admit I hated because you do not know how many shots the camera will take sometimes it was 2 or 3 or 5 depending on the EV range in the photo you were taking and I found myself waiting for it to continue when it had finished or lowering the camera only to have it fire off another 2 shots not a good start. Also you only have to press the shutter once the rest of the sequence of shots fire off automatically, if you do forget to lift your shutter finger the camera will continue taking shots at the speed and aperture you have set untl you lift your finger off the shutter, then it will resume taking the rest of the HDR sequence.
A revisit to the menu and I changed the number of shots from auto to 5 and the EV range to 1 and switched off the 2 sec delay. The next batch of shots were fine, press the shutter once and the other 4 fire off automatically. The photo at the top of the blog is a 5 shot HDR blend with the camera on a wall with 1 EV spacing at 0.5, 1, 2, 4 and 8 seconds ISO 100 and F22 the shutter was fired using a wired remote.
Are you using Magic Lantern?
Thought about it but worried it may brick your camera?
Let me know your thoughts I would love to hear them and compare experiences!
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Part two of My Magic Lantern trial will follow soon.
A travelling photographer from the South of England who is on a journey of discovery around Europe in his sailboat Trelawney.