Magic Lantern played a phenomenal role in using DSLRs to shoot video content. However, while it's benefits are obvious for Canon photographers, how does it stack up against the cameras of today?
Magic Lantern (ML) is a software add-on for Canon cameras. It allows for a host of extra features, ranging from a built-in intervalometer to HDR bracketing and beyond. The project is open source, and it encourages users to create elements of the package themselves. A consequence of this is that it isn't available for newer Canon cameras and may take a long time to become available. Not only is the 80D not officially supported, but the 70D is still a work in process. Is the next generation of cameras missing out on ML?
The software is open source, and there's no guarantee that it will work. Installing ML is done at the user's own risk, and this risk increases with the installation of nightly builds (untested versions). This doesn't mean that your camera will be bricked, but it comes with its limitations. For example, if you pull out the SD card too quickly after turning off your 600D, you run the risk of bricking it — avoidable, but certainly not reassuring.
If you remove the card too early, the camera will freeze and will drain the battery or even cause permanent damage." - Magic Lantern Wiki.
The ML Forums are filled with similar troubleshooting issues. Would you want buggy software to affect an important shoot?
For most ML users, the benefits outweigh the risk. As an ML user, I myself would rather take the small risk in order to gain the extra features. Being able to manually change the white balance on the fly saves me so much time. This alone makes it worth it for me. Maybe you want to take a photo without triggering the shutter? ML allows the camera to take silent photos. Record voice tags for your images? Or triggering the shutter based on motion detection? It's all included.
Do we even need it anymore?
Kraig Adams from Wedding Film School mentioned that he had issues with Magic Lantern corrupting his footage and has since found the Sony a7S to be the perfect replacement. This is a great example of Canon being left behind and ML along with it. This is only one case, though, and in fact, it may not spell the end of ML at all.
Magic Lantern isn't the must-have that it was before, sure. However, it still shines brightly in the more niche sections of photography. Astrophotographers can expose their photos for hours. Wildlife photographers can have the camera triggered by movement in the shot.
Another vouch of support for ML comes from users of Canon's lower end range. ML allows a cheaper Canon DSLR to reach new heights by adding audio levels and more specific ISO settings like we'd find on the 5D series. Canon is withholding this in their cropped sensor camera lines. These are two examples out of many more.
While it may not be the most reliable and it may not be getting as much use with the arrival of great competition, Magic Lantern is here to stay and push the envelope further. It's likely, though that the project will never have the same impact that it once did, with Canon's competitors offering the similar features like never before.
What do you think? Have you ditched the software in return for reliability or embraced it?