New Magic Lantern Improvement Adds 3 Stops of Dynamic Range to 5DIII and 7D


All of the updates coming out of Magic Lantern’s camp recently have been RAW video related. And while there has been news enough on that front to keep us excited, we were happy to see something new coming from the ML team today.

Dubbed Dual ISO, Magic Lantern’s Alex (a1ex) has unlocked three full stops of dynamic range that the Canon 5D Mark III and 7D sensors couldn’t previously take advantage of. That brings total dynamic range to about 14 stops.

The details are technical — if you want to get into the nitty gritty, a1ex has prepared an in-depth PDF for you here — but the gist is that your sensor can, in fact, sample half of the lines at ISO 100 and the other half at ISO 1600 (or higher) at the same time.

The photo above shows the difference this makes. On the bottom left you see the photo taken at ISO 100, while the top right shows same shot taken using the ISO 100/1600 combination method (high-res version here).

Here’s another sample shot, this one taken entirely with the ISO 100/1600 configuration (pixel peepers can check out a high-res version here):


The reason this is only possible on the two cameras mentioned is hardware related. The 5D Mark III and 7D both have two ISO amplifiers. The chip that samples the image from the sensor is set via firmware to sample the same ISO from all the lines. The hack allows it to sample half of them at one ISO and the other half at another.

For the 7D, this function only extends to taking photos. The 5D Mark III, on the other hand, can also take advantage of Dual ISO in video mode, assuming you have yours equipped with the ML ability to take RAW video.

Of course, the improvement doesn’t come without pitfalls. You’ll get half-resolution in highlights and shadows in addition to some aliasing and moire in the same areas. You also lose the ability to critical focus when zooming in.

But if none of that seems like too big a price to pay, you can learn more about the tech by checking out the aforementioned PDF or visiting the original forum post where a1ex has kindly provided the code.

(via planet5D)

Image credits: Photographs by Luke Neumann.

  • mlieberman85

    No they can’t. Courts have ruled time and again that you are allowed to modify devices you own. Magic Lantern isn’t using Canon code. Even the recent Oracle v. Google case once again solidified that you can’t control what software is run on a system. The only way it could be shut down is if Magic Lantern stole the firmware from Canon and started distributing it. They just reverse engineered how the firmware worked and wrote new firmware that is compatible with Canon cameras.

  • Chris

    I’ve not used ML, at all. I assume they don’t use any of Canons API then?

  • mlieberman85

    They can make the company miserable but the law is on the side of Magic Lantern. For example Apple wants to lock down the iPhone so that no one can jailbreak it but the courts have ruled jailbreaking is legal. The same thing with modifications of firmware. Now Canon moving forward can make their camera ridiculously hard to modify but suing ML is just bad press and they know they would lose if ML decided to fight it.

  • mlieberman85

    Well. There is probably an API but it’s private. By making it private it is harder to make something like ML. However not impossible. There are tools that you can use to reverse engineer how Canon did it and that’s legal as long as they’re doing it to modify Canon’s camera. They would have issues if they tried to create cameras that are now compatible with Canon’s firmware as it would probably get into copyright infringement and patent infringement. However by just modifying existing Canon cameras they should be fine.

  • Banan Tarr

    lol @ detail smearing comment. I have used a D800 for a long time and I can tell you with 100% certainty that if you have good glass and are technically capable you will not get detail smearing at all. And so what if you can only shoot 1,600+ shots before swapping cards… please tell me that’s not a real concern?!

  • Adam Cross

    I wouldn’t say looking at a 100% image is pixel peeping

  • Mike

    Well, you already know which lines are at which ISO, and you know how many stops apart they are.
    I guess it’s a question of choosing the data that’s properly exposed (we know which values are not clipped/too noisy at given ISO).

  • Mike

    Did you ever think that this area is PUSHED ISO 100!?

    Operate your brain:
    -Must be able to shoot a single exposure
    -Must have shadow detail and highlights detail

    -Can’t shoot ISO 100 exposed for the highlights and then push the shadows, because the shadows will be noisy just like in the image that demonstrates it, which you failed to understand.

  • A.J.

    I sure would. How often do you look at nice photo, maybe hanging on somebody’s wall, then move your eyeball one inch away to check for noise & grain?

  • install

    Actually read, followed and in the forum post there is a link for a files for MK version, not 7D. It is not said, that we should use the same for 7D as well. I want to be certain. But thank you for your kind words!

  • Adam Cross

    an image hanging on someone’s wall isn’t the same as images being presenting in a post like this where new dynamic range abilities are being showcased/tested etc.

  • Jared Monkman

    I’m looking, and I’m barely seeing any noise.

  • AndrewHD3

    I call BS that the bottom left of the top picture is at ISO 100. Maybe you meant to say 1600 or 2500 but no way is that 100. Not even my old Nikon D70s from years ago has that bad of grain and no way any of my 7D or 5D look like that unless i’m shooting at 3200 or above.

  • Chris

    If it was shot at f/11, indoors, at ISO 100, and adjusted to the ‘correct’ exposure in LR, would it still be bulls**t?

    I thought not.

  • angarhurta

    Noise?? where the hell is the noise you see? to me it looks great!
    anyway, this is not a low noise feature, it allows you to take photos
    and record full umcompressed 14 bit raw video with 14 stops of dynamic
    range, the least you can expect is a little bit of noise in the shadows,
    and to me the noise I see is minimal…