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Hardware Hacking Media Build

Canon DSLR Hack Allows It To Shoot RAW Video 171

Posted by Soulskill
from the features-added-by-users dept.
When the Canon 50D DSLR camera was released back in 2008, it could take nice pictures, but it had no support for video recording. Now, through an enterprising hack by members of the Magic Lantern forums, the 50D can capture RAW video. From the article: "The tech inside the 50D looks like it borrows a lot more from its higher-end siblings, like the 5D Mark II, and it’s possible we may actually get better RAW video quality out of the 50D than we do out of any of the non-CF Canon cameras. ... The camera doesn’t have playback or audio recording as it was never designed to shoot video, but this isn’t too different from the RAW recording on the other Canon DSLRs at the moment."
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Canon DSLR Hack Allows It To Shoot RAW Video

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  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @02:19AM (#43847763)

    Now that is a kickass hack! Seriously, taking hardware with limited functionality and actually adding (not just restoring) functionality to it that was not planned for it is pretty cool.

    This is not like the "triple core" or "double core" CPUs being "hacked" into quad-cores when the crippling was just the setting low of a line or setting of a jumper on the chip. That was back when they were making all the chips quad cores and then crippling them as needed to meet market need: more dual cores were being purchased because of the lower price point, so the manufacturer just intentionally "disavowed" the extra cores on those chips, just to make a sale at that price point.

    Of course, due to some hardware limitations, it can just record bursts of 59 frames at a time (probably RAM buffer limits since the RAW video takes up hella lot of data):

    DNG Burst and raw video

    The 50d can already shoot DNG silent bursts with maximum resolutions of 1592x1062 (buffer is full at 59 frames) in 1x mode and 1992x1080 (buffer is full at 53 frames) in crop mode thanks to @smeangol http://www.magiclantern.fm/forum/index.php?topic=5481.msg37526#msg37526 [magiclantern.fm]

    @coutts has found the stubs for the 40d which means it is 'likely' that the 40d can do raw video and DNG bursts however it will need porting and developing.

    @Smeangol is having some success in porting the raw recording feature however some other developer assistance may be required to iron out bugs.

    • Exactly, and Magic Lantern has been doing that amazing work since the 5D II [wikipedia.org]. Tried it on my 5D2, it's a really good piece of open source software [magiclantern.fm].
    • by macraig (621737) <[mark.a.craig] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @03:19AM (#43847993)

      This is not like the "triple core" or "double core" CPUs being "hacked" into quad-cores when the crippling was just the setting low of a line or setting of a jumper on the chip.

      I beg to differ. That is precisely what this hack resembles. Quoth the article:

      The tech inside the 50D looks like it borrows a lot more from its higher-end siblings....

      Translated, that means the camera already has the hardware required for the task; it simply lacked the firmware/software to implement it. The camera wasn't "crippled" per se, but the "extra core" was already there waiting to be utilized.

      • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @03:24AM (#43848023)

        Ah, indeed you are correct. The hardware was there, but my opinion or reading of it is that it was not "crippled" but never intended to have this functionality. It does not have enough RAM to buffer frames continuously at uncompressed DNG format rates for continuous video recording to SD card, whereas other cameras that were designed specifically for video recording have enough memory to be capable of doing this.

        Thus my interpretation is that this camera model's hardware specs were deemed insufficient by the manufacturer for this specific capability, and considering that it can only do burst mode up to $X$ frames before capping out its memory buffer, the manufacturer may have been correct. So my interpretation is not that they "re-enabled a purposely disabled core" but rather that they added functionality which the manufacturer had decided that this hardware was not capable of performing well.

        • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @04:13AM (#43848189) Homepage

          It does not have enough RAM to buffer frames continuously at uncompressed DNG format rates for continuous video recording to SD card, whereas other cameras that were designed specifically for video recording have enough memory to be capable of doing this.

          The buffer is important, but it's more about being able to stream a metric shitload of data to a unwholesomely speedy memory card - once you can do the latter, the buffer helps smooth over hiccups but won't let you record indefinitely. The 50D's CompactFlash interface probably shares a design with a higher-end camera, Canon not wanting to waste effort in building a second, deliberately crippled version.

          Thus my interpretation is that this camera model's hardware specs were deemed insufficient by the manufacturer for this specific capability, and considering that it can only do burst mode up to $X$ frames before capping out its memory buffer, the manufacturer may have been correct.

          Being able to record RAW video is a pretty new feature on any vaguely consumer-oriented camera [wikipedia.org] - it's more sheer luck that Canon's dSLRs have features which make it possible, albeit in a hacky manner. I get the impression that on the 50D, it's grabbing data from the sensor in a manner intended for the rear display or for feeding into the (non-existent) H.264 encoder, and then streaming it out to a big file on the memory card before the memory runs out.

          When you've captured the data, it's in a big, opaque file that needs post-processing on a PC to do anything with it - in this case, it gets split into sane DNG files for further processing in software like Lightroom or similar. You can record the video on the camera, but you can't (unless I'm horribly mistaken) play the video on the camera - you need to do plenty of subsequent processing to get it into video form.

          Don't get me wrong, it's an incredibly cool hack - partly because it gives access to a feature which few high-end cameras have even today. It's not the manufacturer deliberately locking users out of an easily-implemented feature, it's the manufacturer not even realising that such a feature was possible - albeit in a restricted, but still usable, form.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            I think this is mostly going to work on the newer 5D3. It is already doing more long, continuous RAW video shots at 1080p.

            I think this is where the prime use of this is going to land. On the lower end cameras, if you're happy with 720p, likely as not you will be able to use those for that at outstanding quality for post, but in the lower resolution.

            Limitations seem to be cameras with SD cards only...you need really fast CF cards, and I think they're looking into some sort of CF to cable out adapter, so y

        • by dj245 (732906)

          Thus my interpretation is that this camera model's hardware specs were deemed insufficient by the manufacturer for this specific capability, and considering that it can only do burst mode up to $X$ frames before capping out its memory buffer, the manufacturer may have been correct. So my interpretation is not that they "re-enabled a purposely disabled core" but rather that they added functionality which the manufacturer had decided that this hardware was not capable of performing well.

          The Canon 50D was announced on 26 August 2008. The very first DSLR to have video recording was the Nikon D90, which was announced 27 August 2008. Maybe Canon suspected (or knew) that Nikon would announce their video-capable DSLR the next day after their announcement. Maybe Canon should have had the foresight to introduce the first video-recording DSLR. DSLRs with video recording were not a common thing back then. In fact, they didn't even really exist. Designing a DSLR that doesn't record video, at a

          • dude ??? Why are you arguing with me? My original position was that this is really a great hack ("kickass hack!" ) adding on new capabilities.

            Someone replied to me and said it was like enablibg capabilities that were "hidden".

              I replied to them and said "nyah. nyet. no. this is truly adding on new capabilities that were not originally designed for."

              So I'm thinking we're on the same side. Am i right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by terjeber (856226)

        Translated, that means the camera already has the hardware required for the task

        No, it doesn't. The video captured with a hacked 50D is not usable as is. You can't even watch it on a computer. Also, back then, it would not have been possible to make this hack work since there were no memory cards that would be able to store more than a few seconds (just over two in fact, at 24fps) of video. What do you think Canon customers would have said if the Canon 50D commercial had said:

        Buy the 50D and make video with your DSLR. You can record almost three seconds of video before it stops for a w

        • by Khyber (864651)

          "The video captured with a hacked 50D is not usable as is. You can't even watch it on a computer."

          That's total bullshit. VirtualDub works just fine for me with my magic lantern output from my 50D.

          • by terjeber (856226)
            Sigh. Yeah, 'cause Virtual Dub is what the average user installs first when he gets a computer. Please take context into consideration. "You can't even" doesn't mean "You as a person can't even", think "One can't...". Again. Context.
            • by Khyber (864651)

              Such failure in human comprehension. Most people can tell what virtualdub does, plus they can make it do other things not implied by design due to the community.

              Go shit yourself when you realize.

              Adios.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        A better quote would be "the 50d did have the feature, disabled in the Canon firmware. ML unlocked this to enable 1080p at 30fps with the ability to use FPS override for 24/25p". However that's not to say that this is a video DSLR with the feature disabled; consumer DSLRs typically have specialist video encoding hardware to turn it into a conventional, compressed format because RAW files demand very high-end CF cards and are hard to work with.

        This camera could never have shipped with usable video recording.

      • by havana9 (101033)
        Seems to me that the camera has only part of the hardware useful to do the task: some hardware is shared with some models capable natively to shoot video, but some other hardware is missing. To make a car analogy is to have a turbocharged 155 HP engine and changing the ECU software getting 180 HP. Unfortunately making this witout changing brakes, air filters, clutch, exaust, tyres and so on will make the car dangerous to drive and with less than optimal performances anyway. IF they're selling the complete
    • by telchine (719345)

      Now that is a kickass hack!

      Is different to the Canon Hack Development Kit [wikia.com] that I remember using quite a few years back to add extra features (manual focus, RAW mode, etc) to my point and click Digital Ixus?

  • Is the Nikkor 50mm f//1.4 that much better than the Canon equivalent?

    • by Zocalo (252965)
      While some of the Nikkors are undeniably better than the Canon equivalents, or don't even have Canon equivalents - like the 14-24mm, the 50mm f/1.4 isn't generally one you'd go out of your way to use via one of the readily available adapters that let you mount Nikkors on Canon bodies. More likely that they just wanted a small lens for the picture so they could show off the fact it was a 50D rather than flaunt the attached lens, and the Nikkor+adapter combination was the best option available.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        the canon 50mm 1.4 is far superior to the Nikkor equiliviant at least until they release a new version. The older Canon lens actually has L series glass in it, it's one of the most sought after Canon lesnes..

          I am thinking they are poor as hell and are simply borrowing lenses from ramdom places and have adapter rings.

        • Some have opined that the Nikon 1.8 and 2.0 are sharper at the f/2.8 the video was shot at.

        • by femtobyte (710429)

          The older Canon lens actually has L series glass in it

          There's no such thing. The "L" designation is just a marketing/branding designation by which Canon identifies their higher-end products; it's not a particular type of material or manufacturing process. The only thing that makes one lens "L series glass" and another not is whether Canon decides to call it so, and puts a red ring on the lens.

    • by ssam (2723487)

      Old, manual-focus, non-zoom lens are in many ways better than modern lenses for filming, and cheaper and lighter than modern equivilents.
      * Good manual focus rings, you dont usually want AF for film (technically because not many DSLRs can do autofocus in video, and also because autofocus does not always do what you want it to do in video, eg rack between to faces as they talk). AF lens tend to be poor for manual focus, the whole focus range may only take a small rotation, so it is hard to be preciese.
      * Large

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "Not as sharp as a modern lens. But this does not matter, HD is only 2 megapixels where as modern lens need to be sharp at 20 megapixels"

        This is utterly false. Most older lenses are far FAR higher quality and clarity than the new ones. Older Canon lenses are built better and are clearer than the plastic junk they sell today.

        • From my experience it varies but I do wonder if what you are seeing is some automatic selection bias. All the cheap crappy lenses bought by consumers have long since broken and been trashed while the good well taken care of high end ones used by pros are mostly what are left. Thus when you look at older lenses you are only seeing the best. Almost all of the lenses I have for my 35mm M42 screw mount camera are Ashi-Pentax or Ziess (I also have some Russian ones that were smuggled out by my wife's grandfather
      • You can't put an old canon lens on a new canon camera (without an adaptor containing an extra lens element).

        I don't know what you mean by "old", but my father's old Canon (film) SLR's EF-mount lenses pop right onto my relatively new Canon EOS Rebel T2i (EOS 550D for you non-Americans) which takes EF-S-mount lenses. It seems that you've got it backwards; you can't put a new Canon lens on an old Canon camera.

        • The EF mount was introduced in 1987. The EF-S mount was introduced in 2003 source [wikipedia.org]

          Nikon has been using the F mount since 1959. However, only certain lowend Nikon DLSRs (D40,D3100, etc) can actually use the oldest lenses. More expensive models are limited to using AI lenses (made after 1977).

          However, this expanded lens compatibility comes at a price-- no metering on non CPU lenses, and no autofocus on non-AFS/AFD lenses.

          So, if you have a Nikon D3100, as I do, you can use the Nikkor-S Auto f/1.4 50mm (1962) [mir.com.my], w

        • I don't know what you mean by "old", but my father's old Canon (film) SLR's EF-mount lenses pop right onto my relatively new Canon EOS Rebel T2i (EOS 550D for you non-Americans) which takes EF-S-mount lenses.

          EF-S is a subset of the redesigned-from-scratch EF lens mount from 1987 - still considered terribly modern 'cause it's fully electronic with no mechanical linkages between the camera and lens. New EF lenses are definitely still being designed, but yes - EF-S lenses won't fit on an EF-only camera, be it

        • by femtobyte (710429)

          GP post is correct when referring to Canon FD-series lenses, the manual-focus predecessor to the autofocus EF mount. The FD lens mount was closer to the film plane than the EF mount, so you can't fit old Canon FD lenses onto EF (or EF-S, same physical dimensions) mounts without either additional compensating optics, or physically modifying the lens mount to shorten the optical path. Some FD telephotos have enough extra adjustment range for the focus that they can be used with thin, optics-free adapters.

          • Learn something new every day!
            I've never heard of or seen FD mounts until this very day.
            Also, I didn't know the EF series only goes back to 1987.
            On the bright side, this conversation has me feeling much younger :)
      • by Khyber (864651)

        "Not as sharp as a modern lens."

        I will bet you solid money my Minolta lenses from the 70s and 80s are far higher quality than today's stuff. There's a reason for the $500+ (back then) price tag.

  • Excellent software that is easy to install and uses and provides additional functionality besides video. Highly recommended! Just hanging out for further development of ML for the 5d mk3.
  • Canon must not mind people hacking on their firmware. There is another project, the CHDK project, that allows you to replace the firmware on most Canon point and shoot cameras, again coming up with great features not originally on the camera. Things like:
    RAW, bracketing, full manual control over exposure, zebra mode, live histogram, grids, motion detection and Scripting using ubasic and Lua scripts.

    http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK [wikia.com]

    It is the reason I will only buy canon cameras.

    • just some minor corrections.
      CHDK and ML dont replace the Canon firmware. They are actuall firmware addons that run alongside and require the Canon firmware (hence why you can still use the camera with an sd card that doesnt have CHDK or ML on it).
      CHDK actually came first and ML used their work and methods to get similar stuff done to DSLRS.

      both are amazing software and i actually used CHDK back in the day while i was saving up for my first DSLR and recently put ML on my t3i for a few of the focus f
  • Awesome, but an SLR is simply inadequate for video. What you really want is a mirrorless system, preferrably one optimised for digital sensors. The only one nowadays is Micro Four Thirds, with Olympus, Panasonic &, soon, Kodak cameras. Of these, Panasonic is the more video oriented, and its flagship hybrid GH line cameras have already been hacked, so I would be interested if someone replicated this hack there (or at the nearly equivalent Olympus OMD EM line).

    • by ledow (319597)

      You won't be shooting much video on it, it's an unofficial hack and has a lot of problems.

      But in certain areas, this is useful. Think astrophotography, where it's common to "video" the telescope image (with suitable equatorial mount) to form image stacks that can then be processed to form a single, high-quality, composite image. You can get photos of Saturn's rings, say, that are at magnifications impossible to see in the telescope itself or to get a steady shot of through the atmosphere.

      Sure, you could j

      • by leandrod (17766)

        So, a mirrorless system camera is even easier to hack, besides being more adequate for video (not blacking out the visor while shooting). Four Thirds all the way for me

    • I havent checked the 50D hack specifically but you do know that DSLRS dont use their mirrors for LiveView or video so they are effectively mirrorless cameras in video mode.
      • by leandrod (17766)

        Yes, but then the visor is blocked, because it is an optical viewfinder. One has to use the screen, which calls for some kind of sunlight protection. Mirrorless cameras are simply more practical.

        • by Rinikusu (28164)

          It doesn't matter. If you're doing any serious work with a Canon (or any DSLR (and I'm lumping mirrorless in here, too)), chances are you're also using an external LCD to monitor your video and not through the tiny-assed viewfinder, or through a diopter viewfinder over the built-in LCD. I would argue that if you're interested in the RAW features this hack provides, you're in this particular market. Don't get me wrong, I shoot through a hacked Panasonic GH2 and mirrorless is the way of the future, but dis

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