Installing Magic Lantern: A walkthrough guide

on October 9, 2014

OK- I got myself a great second-hand camera that is DEFINITELY compatible with Magic Lantern. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE walk me through it.
OK. Just this once.

Once you read this passage, these words will disappear, so pay attention:

In order to install Magic Lantern, you do not need to know any code, however, you WILL need some basic knowledge of how a computer works. You will be downloading files, extracting files and copying to a card. If this is more than you are comfortable with, then you should not proceed. I can also get you in touch with my parents and you all can discuss how impossible this new “email” thing is and how smartphones are “not intuitive at all” because they have no buttons.

The Right Firmware
Before you start, the first thing you will need to do is make sure you have the right version of the firmware that goes along with your Magic Lantern Install. For example: the Canon 60D install requires that you are ALREADY running CANON’S firmware v 1.1.1. If you do not know what version you currently have installed in your camera, set your camera to Manual and check in the MENU under the third WRENCH. It should have it listed clearly there.

If you need to update your CANON FIRMWARE, you can do so by going to Canon and downloading the correct version the correct version.

Canon 500D firmware 1.1.1
Canon 550D firmware 1.0.9
Canon 600D firmware 1.0.1
Canon 50D firmware 1.0.9
Canon 60D firmware 1.1.1
Canon 5DmkII firmware 2.1.2

If you do NOT have the correct firmware in your camera, you need to download the correct firmware onto your computer from the Canon site.

You then need to USE A CARD READER – and not connect your camera directly.

Copy and paste the firmware onto your card, then eject the card. (This should go without saying0 but don’t just yank out the card. Properly “Eject” it from your computer first.)

Install your stock firmware
Insert the card into your camera and turn it to Manual Mode.
Go to Update firmware.
You camera will see that there is a firmware version on your card and ask you if you want to update.
You do.
So click the button and wait for the refresh.
This will take a second.

Once it’s done, you will now have a STOCK CANON CAMERA that is running compatible firmware.

Turn your camera off and back on. (This is just a good habit to get into. It might not always be necessary, but I find it is always best with installing anything. At the very worst, it costs you five seconds and doesn’t hurt anything.)
Now you are ready to install.

Install Magic Lantern
Now let’s get to it:
The first thing you want is a fully charged CANON battery. Magic Lantern can be a little wonky with third-party batteries. There are some out there that work, but it can be hit or miss. (You want one that has been decoded properly). For your first install, you want to remove as many variables as possible, so just use your original Canon battery.

Remove any other accessories that are currently installed on the camera. These can interfere wit the information that is running into the camera’s computer, so if you have any flashes or battery grips, remove them for now. You can still use them once you have everything up and running, but we want to create a clean install environment.

Use a simple SD/SDHC/CF card that is 32 gigs or less for your first install. (You can use larger ones later, just not for the installation)
Have your Card Reader at the ready.

Put your camera in Manual Mode
(Magic Lantern also recommends that you “Clear Settings” in the third wrench of your Menu. This erases any camera presets and picture styles you have installed on the camera and gets you back to the Canon out-of-box state that your camera originally shipped with.)

Do a low level format of your card IN CAMERA.

Remove your card and insert it in the card reader of your computer.

Unzip all the files from The Magic Lantern version you downloaded and put them onto the ROOT of your folder. DO NOT just drag and drop the MAGIC LANTERN FOLDER onto your card. You need to copy all of the items INSIDE the Magic Lantern folder, and place them DIRECTLY onto your card at the lowest level (not inside a subfolder).

You want THIS

That “autoexec.bin” at the root level is what tells your camera to start looking for Magic Lantern. If it’s not at the very base layer, it won’t work.

Now go to the Firmware update section of your camera and update the firmware to the Magic Lantern Version (the one that says ML)
If your camera’s Card LED is blinking for more than a few seconds- you should upgrade your camera’s BASIC firmware- even if you already have the correct version, and start again.
Remember, this is the tricky part. If things go wrong, just start over from the basics and go from there.
If everything has gone according to plan, you should get a green confirmation screen that says “SUCCESS!”
Reboot your camera and you are good to go.
Remember- you must have Magic Lantern INSTALLED ON EVERY CARD that you want to use it with.
If you insert a regular card with nothing on it, your camera will just function in its plain vanilla state.

Go easy- it’s your first time:
Go into the Canon menu and put everything back the way you like it. Your picture profiles may be erased, so reinstall those if you need to.
If you are shooting the a Canon 550D, 60D, or 600D, make sure you enable MANUAL video exposure so that you can use 180 degree shutter.
On the Canon 5D mkII and 50d you want to enable Live View shooting

Once you are in Live View mode, press the info/disp button until you see the Magic Lantern overlay (it’s the one with the audio levels and other info at the bottom)
Press the trash can button to get to the Magic Lantern Menu.

You’re now officially badass.

Wait- why did I do this again?
You are hacking your camera to the most of its ability. The goal here is to use the camera for production work and get feature normally only found on higher end cameras.
Manual focus can be a pain without Focus peaking, and this will enable you to use the gorgeous glass on vintage lenses to get great, tack sharp footage.

Oh, NO! I think I broke it.
I warned you that you might!

But chances are you didn’t.

Turn your camera off.
Remove the battery. ( Turning the camera off isn’t always enough. You could overheat your camera and cause serious damage. If you have troubles booting up- REMOVE THE BATTERY)
Remove the card.
Reinsert the battery and turn the camera on.
Now reinsert the card.

This has solved 99% of all the problems I have encountered with Magic Lantern.
I have noticed that if I leave my battery grip turned on and it drains all the way down, the camera locks up.
Putting in a fresh battery with the card removed solves this problem very easily.

Again, these are unsupported changes to your cameras system, and has an inherent risk associated with it. The payoff is that you can get far more out of your camera than you ever dreamed possible.

Is it worth it?
I think so and so do many thousands of other Magic Lantern Users, but ultimately the decision is up to you.

And if I haven’t mentioned this before- if something hoes wrong-

Wait- where did my Magic Lantern go?
You probably just installed a new card.
You must have Magic Lantern installed on every card that you want to shoot Magic Lantern on. Follow the same install instructions as outlined previously, but you won’t have to “reupdate the firmware”.

Your camera looks for the “bootflag” file on your card to activate Magic Lantern. If it doesn’t see that, it just boots up like normal and you have your regular Canon Camera back.

NB. When removing your card, don’t just open up the door and remove the card.
WAIT 5 SECONDS for your LED light to confirm it is ok to remove the card.

Remember your shoot and all the images are on this card. Waiting just a moment ensure tat the reading/writing process is completely finished an that you won’t be removing a card that may be writing something in progress.

Now you are ready to go out there and shoot some great things- hills like white elephants and that kind of stuff.