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Astrophotography - Canon Cameras and Magic Lantern Software

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posted on Feb, 16 2017 @ 10:59 AM
So while you can go on out and start trying to take astrophotography shots with your camera, some times the problems that can crop up are limitations placed upon your camera by the software (or firmware) that runs it.

All digital cameras have some sort of software that makes the camera work. You may or may not see it operating depending upon the camera type that you have.

Some of the limitations for my camera were things like maximum exposure time being 30 seconds, and the lack of timelaps imaging (aka intervalometer, which is the camera taking pictures for you).

Well, if you have one of the following Canon camera types, there's a solution for you:

5D2, 5D3, 6D, 7D, 50D, 60D, 500D/T1i, 550D/T2i, 600D/T3i, 650D/T4i, 700D/T5i, 1100D/T3, EOS M

And that solutioin is: Magic Lantern.

Magic Lantern is a software supplument for your camera's firmware. It's not a hack, and does not override your cameras firmware unless you tell it to. That means you can use your camera just like you always have, but when the need arises, you can access Magic Lantern to override something with a different setting, giving you much more control over your camera. It's completely free, and an on going project with updates.

Normal view of a camera's firmware:

If you do not see your model of Canon listed, don't fret, they do have versions that are works in progress for the following camera models:

70D, 100D/SL1, 1200D, 450D

Installation of it to your camera is quite easy. Simply download and unzip the file, you will find a folder named "ML" and two files. You only need to copy these over to the SD card you use with your camera. For most this will mean popping out the SD card and inserting it into a SD card reader port. Most laptops have this. For my desktop computer, my printer has a SD port that I use and can access with my computer. Most cameras will not allow you to access the root directly on the SD card via the USB port.

Once you have copied the folder and two files, pop the SD card back into your camera and turn it on. Navigate your menu settings to where it says "Firmware"

It should have some version number next to this. Select that and Magic Lantern will install itself onto your camera's SD card.

How you access the Magic Lantern software varies, but the website has all the documentation you need, and even has a forum where you can ask questions and get help. There are even tutorial videos out there on how to use certain features.

The key features for me is the BULB timer, which allows me to extend the camera's exposure time past 30 seconds, which is important for astrophotography imaging.

It also has a intervalometer function which is invaluble to me. This allows you to tell the camera to go ahead and take pictures without you having to touch the camera. When doing astrophotography shots with digital cameras, we normally take many shots of the same thing, and then stack those images with computer software.

Well, you can either stand there and keep pressing your shutter over and over again, running the risk of moving the camera or bumping it out of focus, not to mention you're having to stand there and press that button over and over.

What if instead, you could tell your camera to take 100 images, each exposed for say 25 seconds with a 18mm focal length, all by itself? Once you start it doing that, you can sit down in your lawn chair with a hot cup of chocolate (or cold beer, etc), and enjoy the night sky while your camera is doing all the work for you.

Well, you can do it, either by going out and buying a intervalometer:

Or by installing the free Magic Lantern software. Guess which one I went with?

So any of you out there have experience with Magic Lantern, or do any of you have different cameras that have their own software solutions? If so, post here and let us know!

posted on Feb, 16 2017 @ 11:46 AM
As a film maker I have ML installed on my 60D, But technology has pretty much made 4k the standard so I have switched to a Panasonic GH5. I'm not aware of any software update for that camera. Even if there were I would hesitate to void the warranty. The video is beautiful as is....

posted on Feb, 16 2017 @ 09:13 PM
So I'm going to take my star trails tonight, which is a great night. Crystal clear skies, chilly temps, no moon for a while.

Only to remember I forgot to charge my battery! Arrrrrrhhhhg!

So I got it charged up, and have finally gotten everything set up. I did some test frames and a 1 minute exposure at ISO 200, f3.5 looks great.

The camera right now is taking the shots for me, and in about an hour I'll have 60 frames I can stack for a 1 hour star trail shot.

Hopefully it will come out great and I can post it in the morning.

posted on Feb, 17 2017 @ 08:50 AM
a reply to: eriktheawful

Great thread. I have only recently got into Astrophotography, and the info you are posting is extremely helpful, especially the Magic Lantern Software. I am putting my camera onto an 8" telescope and using remote cable shutter. Just need all the grey skies to clear up where I live .

posted on Feb, 17 2017 @ 09:52 AM
I posted this shot in our official Astrophotography thread, but here it is again:

This is a stack of 46 frames out of 58, each were 1 minute long at ISO 200, 1 second between shots.

Not the best in the world because of the security light that's about a football field away, the light is being reflected off the trees.

Anyways, what's special about this is: using the Intervalometer setting with Magic Lantern, I told the camera to do this for me: Take 60 pictures. Each at 1 minute exposures, a second apart.

Once it started, I went inside to have a beer....instead of standing out in the cold and spending an hour pressing a button 60 times.

Of course, for shots where you are tracking or deep space objects, you'll still need to be out there with your camera. But for something like this, it tickled me I could set it up in my yard, and go inside while it did the work of taking the pictures for me!

Of course later I had to sit down here at the computer and use stacking software and photoshoping software to get the end result.

posted on Feb, 17 2017 @ 03:03 PM
There is also a magic lantern variant for Canon PowerShot point and shoot cameras. It is CHDK makes most Canon PowerShots act more like a DSLR.

posted on Feb, 17 2017 @ 03:06 PM
a reply to: hillbilly4rent


Thanks for posting the link.

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