Magic Lantern Comes to the Canon 7D: Focus Peaking and a Slew of Features

After months of dedicated hacking, Magic Lantern has finally been released for the Canon 7D. The new alpha version of the firmware add-on introduces a slew of new features to the camera, including focus peaking, zebra stripes, magic zoom, spotmeter, liveview customization, image review tweaks, and much more.

Here’s a short video showing the installation process and the firmware in action:

So why did the hack take so long? Apparently the developers involved with the project had problems with the fact that the Canon 7D is a Dual DIGIC 4 camera, meaning it has two image processors instead of just one (as is found in the Canon 650D and 5D Mark II).

Here’s the team’s technical explanation:

One DIGiC is called “Master” and the other “Slave.” All ML related stuff like GUI, LV etc is running in Slave. The Master cares about focusing, lens communication and some other related technical stuff. So there are two processors that both load the (forged) firmware update program which contains Magic Lantern. But we could not simply reboot the Slave into normal firmware while the firmware update loader is executed. With some tricks like patching the original firmware updater, it was possible to enable the bootflag for autoexec.bin. But even running Magic Lantern in autoexec.bin failed silently. This was the point where our first investigation started stuttering.

A few recent breakthroughs allowed the team to understand the cameras inner workings better, leading to this new early version of Magic Lantern for the 7D.

While the firmware addon should work decently on your 7D, use it at your own risk, as it’s still a very early testing version. Prior to release, the team tested it on just four copies of camera. Through snapping a thousand photos and gigs of footage, the cameras didn’t exhibit any problems or unusual behavior.

If you’d like to be an early adopter (i.e. guinea pig), you can download the firmware here. Installation is quick and easy, and can be done by following the 5 simple steps on that page.

First 7D alpha released! [Magic Lantern via CanonWatch]

  • Kim

    My husband will never see me again. With this release and my new Samsung GS3, he’s the luckiest married dude on the planet.

  • Adi Ulici

    How safe is it to install this on your camera? If something goes bad, can you reset it to the original firmware from Canon?
    I would really really like to give it a try, but frankly, I’m a bit scared.

  • Benicio Murray

    I never understand why a company doesnt make it easier for the community to do things like this mod. It’s the community who find ways to really push the envelope and innovate in unique and interesting ways.

  • vsup

    First off…congratulations to the ML team. Great job!

    I think this doesn’t replace your existing firmware…it runs alongside it, in your CF card. You never really “save” ML in the camera’s memory. The ML peeps have been quite good at this ever since their first foray into this with the 5Dmk2. ML’s have been installed on numerous Canons on differing models without any reported issues but they would always put out a disclaimer that installing it is at your own risk, for good reason…because it’s not an official modification to your camera.

    That being said, 7D, in a way, is more complicated than the other models that they’ve dealt with because of the Dual Digic 4. So, for me (and this is just my opinion), it’s reasonable to be a bit scared. If you want to be one of the first to empower your 7D with added features, then go for it. But if you don’t mind waiting until more people have tried it and vouched for its stability, then you’re better off sitting on it first.

    Remember, you can still help them by donating.

  • Adi Ulici

    Thanks for your reply. I think I’ll wait for now :)
    I’m really interested in ML, especially in the timelapse feature.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    They don’t make it easy because Canon doesn’t get any money from it.

  • Coyote

    Just slapped it on my 7D. No problems at all. Testing for tomorrow.

  • Benicio Murray

    Sadly true.
    Anyone remember when the Xbox 1 was hacked and the amazing things the community did with that box? The next generation of consoles were all based off those hacked features.

  • Mansgame

    I wish they had something like this for Nikon. I wonder if the android based cameras would be easier to “hack”.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    I’m guessing that if all those features were made available by default in entry-level cameras (i.e. the 3-digit series), the perceived differences between entry-level and prosumer/enthusiast models would appear less significant. Basically, why buy a 60D or 7D if a 550D/600D would satisfy most users?

    From a developer’s perspective, fewer features also mean fewer things that could go wrong. As much as I love using Magic Lantern, there have been instances in the past when I deliberately disabled ML because I couldn’t afford to have it suddenly freeze my camera (which it still does occasionally to this day).

  • Zak Henry

    This isn’t entirely true. I would switch camera brands for the one that gave me total control of the hardware with the ability to write my own software for it. It would bring in a whole new class of customers, and poach some from the competition.

  • grothausgs

    Do you find that you need to reinstall it every time you powe up the 7d.

  • Gip Gippie

    Installed it on my 7d. Going to test the new features with time :)

  • Reggie Smiley Vmseven

    This is the best thing I’ve come across in while. Wow, I love it