How to install Magic Lantern on your Canon DSLR camera: Step by Step Guide

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If you have read my post on How to shoot timelapse videos: A Beginner’s Guide then you already know that I find timelapse videos fascinating. I always thought that you would need fancy expensive cameras and equipment to create beautiful timelapse videos, however, this isn’t true. In this post, I’m going to walk you through some quick and easy steps on how to turn your Canon camera into a timelapse camera using Magic Lantern software.

Magic Lantern adds lots of useful features on top of your standard Canon settings such as the intervalometer. 

Magic-Lantern-Intervalometer-options-canon550d-techlifedy.com
Built in intervalometer settings with video duration estimator

But before we delve any deeper into this post, here’s a handy list of contents incase you wanted to jump into any specific sections

What features can Magic Lantern add to your Canon camera

Here’s a quick list of features that Magic Lantern can add to your Canon camera which most beginner to intermediate photography enthusiasts will find extremely useful.

Intervalometer – One of my favourite features! This will make sure that you no longer need an external intervalometer. Magic Lantern will add this option in your camera settings so you can shoot a timelapse sequence instantly. The clever built in estimator (in green in the image above) will show you exactly how long your final timelapse video will be based on intervals and number of shots you want to take too.

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Magic Lantern movie restart function – for long video shoots

Movie Restart – You may have noticed that most DSLR cameras have a maximum video recording duration limit of 12-15 minutes. This is in place partly because camera manufacturers do not want you to use a DSLR as a replacement for a purpose built video camera they may also sell. There are also tax and legal product classification issues in play.

So if you want to record longer clips with your DSLR camera, you will notice that your camera will automatically stop after 12-15 minutes of continuous recording. To tackle this, you can use Magic Lantern’s movie restart function. This feature works by automatically restarting a new recording each time the limit kicks in ensuring you do not miss out on valuable footage.

All other magic lantern settings options screenshot from my canon550d techlifediy.com
All other settings on Magic Lantern that were instantly made available on my Canon 550D after installation

Audio levels – You can see audio levels on the screen and also listen to the live audio feed via headphones (check the compatibility with your camera on the Magic Lantern website first).

Video focus options – There are a wide range of focus options geared towards intermediate and advanced photography including trap focus, follow focus and rack focus. 

Overlays and display option enhancements – From reading shutter speed to enhanced SD card storage display, you will be spoilt for choice! 

Disclaimer before you install Magic Lantern on your Canon DSLR

Magic Lantern is not officially approved by Canon. Therefore, you will install it at your own risk. There is also no guarantee that it will work for everyone. So please visit Magic Lantern here and read thoroughly before deciding to install it on your Canon camera: https://magiclantern.fm/about.html

At the time of writing this post, Magic Lantern supports the following Canon cameras:-

5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 6D, 7D, 50D, 60D, 500D/T1i, 550D/T2i, 600D/T3i, 650D/T4i, 700D/T5i, 1100D/T3, EOS M.

Cameras in progress:-

70D, 100D/SL1, 1200D/T5, 450D/XSi, EOS M2, EOS M50.

5D3 1.3.4, 7D 2.0.6, 550D 1.1.0, EOS M 2.0.3.

How to install Magic Lantern on on your Canon DSLR camera

I installed Magic Lantern on my Canon 550D mainly because of the intervalometer option. I was also interested in the Movie Restart option as it allowed me to capture longer video clips without having to use a camcorder or Gopro for example.

The installation process was quite straight forward. Magic Lantern have a wiki section on their website outlining the process in detail here: https://wiki.magiclantern.fm/install

Here’s a brief walk through:

Step 1 – Download Magic Lantern software from Magic Lantern website

Magic-Lantern-website-download-screenshot-make-sure-right-firmware

You can visit this link to get the latest version suitable for your Canon camera: https://wiki.magiclantern.fm/install

Step 2 – Ensure you have the right Canon firmware version installed on your Canon DSLR camera

Magic Lantern software only works for certain Canon firmware versions so please check what firmware version you need first on the Magic Lantern website download page. If your current firmware version does not match the firmware specified on Magic Lantern, then you can visit this official Canon link:

https://www.canon.co.uk/support/consumer_products/product_ranges/cameras/eos/

The product support page on the official Canon website has all the key information and step by step guide you need to update your firmware. Please follow the instructions carefully as firmware update can be a risky process if not followed correctly.

Step 3: Ensure your camera battery is fully charged

Make sure that your battery is fully charged before beginning the installation process. If your camera runs out of charge during installation, then you run the risk of damaging your camera permanently. And please note that installing Magic Lantern on your Canon Camera may void any warranties.

Step 4: Ensure you have the right memory card

Magic Lantern runs directly from your SD card working in conjunction with your Canon camera’s preset software. Therefore, you will need to ensure that your memory card has enough space for Magic Lantern software as well as your timelapse photo captures. Magic Lantern took up 35.1 MB of space in my Canon 550D camera.

Step 5: Change your camera to manual mode and restore to default settings

Before you proceed any further, you will need to switch your camera dial to M (manual). You should also restore all your camera settings to default settings as below:

Press Menu > Scroll to Settings > Clear Settings > Clear all Camera Settings

How-to-clear-reset-your-canon-camera-settings-techlifediy.com
Please note that clearing your camera settings will reset your camera and you will loose all of your custom settings, backgrounds, colours etc.


Step 6.1: Format your memory card to prepare for Magic Lantern installation

Once you have ensured you have the right memory card, you will need to format the memory card and prepare it for installation. You will have to format the memory card using your Canon camera’s inbuilt format function as formatting it on a computer will not work. 

Here’s the memory card I use – Sandisk Extreme 32GB V30

My Sandisk Extreme 32GB V30 SD Card for timeplapse shoots techlifediy

You can get these from Amazon at very reasonable prices.

Step 6.2: How to format your SD memory card in a Canon 550D Camera

Back up all the images first before formatting. Then,

Click Menu > Scroll to the Settings Icon > Click Format > Choose “Low Level Format” > Click Ok

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Format your SD card in your Canon camera as shown above

Step 7: Copying Magic Lantern files to your SD card

Locate the Magic Lantern .zip file you downloaded on your computer in step 1 and unzip it. After unzipping, you will end up with the following:

1 x folder called ML
1 x autoexec.bin file
1 x ML-setup.FIR file

Copy all three and paste them into the root of your newly formatted SD card. 

how-to-extract-magic-lantern-and-copy-to-sd-card-techlifediy

Step 8: Installing Magic Lantern for the first time on your Canon camera

Once you have extracted and copied the appropriate Magic Lantern files on your SD card, you’re only a few steps away from using ML now.

Insert the memory card into your Canon camera and then go to the firmware version option in your camera settings.

Menu > Scroll through the Settings Tabs > Firmware Version > Update Firmware

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Magic Lantern installation – final steps

After a short while, you will see an ‘installation complete’ message followed by a prompt “please restart your camera” in green.

At this point, you simply switch your camera off and then on again after a few seconds.

And you’re done! 

To access the Magic Lantern control centre on your camera, you simply press the delete button on your camera. 

I hope you found this easy step-by-step guide useful. Please feel free to ask any questions or make suggestions.

And don’t forget to checkout my post on How to Shoot Timelapse Videos while we are on the topic. Thanks and speak soon!

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