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I am looking to use our Canon 550D (T2i) more for DSLR filming by using Magic Lantern. However, I'm quite concerned about bricking the 550D, as it is the family camera and I'd be a ton of trouble if I messed it up. What are the risks involved with using Magic Lantern?
(I know this is covered on the Magic Lantern FAQs, but I'd like to hear from people who have actually done this before, and not just from the developer)

Edit: For more clarification, I really want to know what can potentially happen and if something does happen to the camera, how hard is it to reverse the damage?

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possible duplicate of How safe is CHDK? –  dpollitt Aug 29 '12 at 20:45
1  
@dpollitt Not really. I'm talking about Magic Lantern, and unless I'm missing something, CHDK ≠ Magic Lantern. –  daviesgeek Aug 29 '12 at 20:53
    
Yea but the risks are similar if not identical. The biggest difference is just what cameras are supported. Magic Lantern was just created for the 5D MkII initially and now has support for multiple models. CHDK works with a very wide range of cameras. The risks associated with each layer on top of the firmware is very similar though. –  dpollitt Aug 29 '12 at 20:54
3  
The other reason this question should really get closed is not because this is a duplicate but because you are specifically just asking for opinions and multiple peoples experiences(ie a discussion). The facts are already listed in the Magic Lantern FAQs as you noted. If you are looking for anecdotes then this is probably not the place. –  dpollitt Aug 29 '12 at 21:00
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@dpollitt I understand your point, but I think this can be answered in an objective way by someone with experience who can give a good explanation. I'm not asking for a discussion. –  daviesgeek Aug 29 '12 at 21:03

5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The chances of bricking your camera are extremely low (but not zero).

I think something not everybody understands is the Magic Lantern does not install into your camera but to the SD card. My understanding is that the only change that is done to your camera is to enable the "bootdisk" flag, which is a very minor change. This flag tells the camera if it should try to load and execute software stored in the SD card.

Magic Lantern enables the bootdisk flag in your camera and then installs to the SD card. The bootdisk feature is what enables the camera to load Magic Lantern at boot time.

This is important to know, because if you replace the Magic Lantern SD card with a regular SD card (one that does not have Magic Lantern installed) or no SD card at all, the camera will not find any code to load, so it will just load the stock firmware, and there will be absolutely no trace of Magic Lantern. So you always have the choice to run Magic Lantern or not if you keep track of which of your SD cards have Magic Lantern installed and which do not.

My experience with Magic Lantern on my 60D has been very good, I think the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages and risks. Note that the software does crash from time to time, and sometimes it is necessary to remove the battery to reset the camera. I haven't experienced any crashes that didn't clear when removing the battery. The recent 2.3 release has been extremely stable in my experience.

If you want to minimize the risks I recommend the following:

  • Follow the installation instructions to the T. Read all the instructions and understand the entire process before you actually do it.
  • Only work with stable releases. At the time I'm writing this the stable release is 2.3.
  • Don't be an early adopter, wait a bit before you jump on to the new release. Let the more adventurous users (I'm one of them) try the new releases first.
  • Read the Magic Lantern forums to find out of potential problems other users are experiencing.
  • Always have an SD card w/o Magic Lantern installed at hand as a backup plan.

Important information for Eye-Fi card users:

  • An Eye-Fi card cannot be used with Magic Lantern (this is documented)
  • An Eye-Fi card without Magic Lantern cannot be used as a backup card (this is not documented as far as I know). The camera will not boot and appears to be broken if you try.
  • In order to be able to use an Eye-Fi card again: Remove the bootdisk flag using Magic Lantern sw (i.e. full uninstall)

Good luck.

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1  
My understanding is that the only change that is done to your camera is to enable the "bootdisk" flag, which is a very minor change. Yes. I have one memory card with, and one without, magic lantern so I can choose when I want to run it. ML does not install/live on your camera. It's like a gameboy cartridge except on an SD/SDHC card. –  Xeoncross Aug 31 '12 at 17:48
    
Thanks so much. See my comment –  daviesgeek Nov 27 '12 at 7:55
    
Great answer, but it would be better if you explained what causes the chance of briking the camera to be non-zero. –  Lohoris Mar 14 at 23:34

I haven't bricked my 550 by putting Magic Lantern on it... but the plural of "anecdote" is not "data", so I'm not quite sure what you're hoping to get out of this. The biggest risk is probably that if you need to send your camera in to Canon for repair for any reason, they might refuse to service it because you ran Magic Lantern on it.

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Basically I do want to know the risks, but more along the lines of "What can it potentially do to the camera?" and if something does happen, is it reversible? –  daviesgeek Aug 29 '12 at 20:55
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Potentially it can make your camera completely unusable and irreversibly so. As the FAQ states, this hasn't happened to anybody yet. –  Philip Kendall Aug 29 '12 at 22:22

I had tried Magic Lantern 2.3 on my Canon 600D and I must say that I wasn't satisfied.

Yes, it provide some of the cool features like HDR Video, Zebra Strips, Magic Zoom etc but I noticed the following negatives about using it:

  1. The battery life dropped drastically.
  2. Camera was running warmer.
  3. Exposure in LiveView was all messed up.
  4. I was not able to use digital zoom upto 10x in video mode. It was fixed to only 3x.

There might be things that I didn't notice.

It seems to me that Magic Lantern pushes the camera's limit too much. That's why it was draining battery as well as getting warmer than usual. Having experienced that, I immediately removed it and decided that I am not using it again. Now, I am also not sure if I can claim the warranty on my Canon 600D.

Overall, a bad experience for me.

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Why would anyone want to use 10x digital zoom anyway? It makes images worse than broken stock lens... –  Robert Koritnik Nov 26 '12 at 12:11

It is an impossible question to answer.

Point one is to follow all instructions - i.e. if it says "Firmware 1.1.1" then only use it on that Firmware and not another. Other than that... they have tested it on their own camera and it worked, so it should be fine, however it might still brick your camera.

There is always some risk. Put it that way, "they" (the developers) do not want to brick your camera, so it should be fine, however, sometimes things go wrong... Just like a bug in a program on a computer - a program might be stable during testing and then crash on your computer only. There is always some risk. Even updating your Firmware using an update from Canon can go wrong.

What can happen? The absolute worst case is a fried chip which will need a new mainboard. How likely is it to happen? If you follow all instructions and use stable releases this is unlikely but not impossible.

For the record: I briefly risked putting MagicLantern onto my 5D MK II but never made any real use of it because I'm a photographer not a videographer.

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ML is not for videopgraphers alone, it has a lot of photography specific features, like better bracketing, HDR and time lapse intervalometer. –  Miguel Aug 31 '12 at 5:13
    
@Miguel MagicLantern developped as a tool for videographers to get some features they deemed essential in the 5D MK II that Canon did not supply. Maybe it has a photo angle nowadays, I've stopped keeping track of many things, however from a photography point of view I'm not so sure why you'd need it, but maybe I lack imagination. HDR bracketing - well, I hear people complaining all the time, yet I have created 45 to 60 exposure HDRs using a tripod and my 5D MK II without any problems... - and quickly scanning the FAQ I'm not sure what I'd gain in photography from it. –  DetlevCM Aug 31 '12 at 15:49

I use it on EOS 60D. So far faced no issues.

I use mainly for exposure bracketing. I wanted to try Intervelometer. motion detect and other features. Perhaps in near future

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