The Hidden Potential of 5D Mark II


  • Update
  • Introduction
  • Magic Lantern: Video Interview
  • Conclusion


March 2nd, 2010: Canon announced the new firmware update 2.0.3 with the standard frame rates (23.976,25,29.97fps) and some few additional “extras”.

That is a great update, long awaited and deserved for such a best seller camera.

Unfortunately Canon didn’t implement some additional features, that ARE possible. Just to mention few: AutoISO limits in M mode (for stills and video), Audio meters on real time while on LiveView (so easy), Focus programming (Focus Rack, etc.), Full HD output through HDMI, etc. (check our link to the list below).

There are LOT of possible fixes and improvements still possible to this camera, that was a real unexpected success to Canon. Let’s hope Canon take advantage of that success in a smart way, that contemplate all 5D Mark II customers, ensuring their loyalty that will reflect in more sales on full frame lenses too.


After the release in Q4 of 2008 of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and its unexpected and huge success in the world of cinematography, thousands of users started to request “Full Manual Control” in video mode, to  “fix” the most obvious limitation that Canon put on this camera: it was released without manual control in video.

After many months of requests, in May of 2009 Canon announced the release “By Popular Demand” of firmware 1.1.0 which gave that basic function to customers.

The requests didn’t stop there, because there were (and still are) evident limitations: the camera only records video in one and non-standard frame rate (30.00 fps).

That means every single video clip has to be converted to the standard 29.97fps (NTSC) or 25fps (for PAL users) or 23.976fps (for real filmmaking purposes) with all the big time consuming tasks, technical problems and many times bad results (footage degradation) that implies.

So, thousands of customers kept requesting for all the “standard frame rates” that were even introduced on the EOS 7D but still not in the 5D Mark II.

Then after a big campaign (“Calling Canon“) and all the previous requests from all around the world (by amateurs, professionals and even companies) Canon USA launched an on-line survey specifically aimed to video on the 5D Mark II. A couple of weeks later, in October of 2009 Canon made the official announcement (.PDF version) they will release a new firmware update.


Since Q1/Q2 of 2009 one person, “tired” of requesting to Canon for full manual control and 24/25p modes, started the process of analyzing the firmware of the 5D Mark II with the hope of fixing it. His name: Trammell Hudson. The project: “Magic Lantern“.

That process had many stages and is still in continuous development. The first step was to fix the easiest automatic function: Auto Gain Control (audio gain/level is automatically controlled when recording, not allowing manual override). It’s a remarkable fact that Manual gain control is even available on many P&S cameras like the G line, but still not provided by Canon on the 5D Mark II (a $2,700 body-only DSLR).

After that, many features and “fixes” were introduced in this project. Lot of them were never seen on a DSLR before, and probably not even dreamed by Canon (check the List of Fixes & Improvements).

Below there is a link to a recent video interview with Trammell Hudson, a pioneer who Canon still seems to underrate.


If only one person with the help of a tiny group of people, without knowing a piece of the firmware source code has achieved so amazing results, how much more could Canon do if they wanted?

What could be concluded in a scenario like this?

A: Canon is not really “listening to customers”, but only willing to give to customers what “it’s enough to sell”.

B: Canon’s high level executives and managers still didn’t understand what they have achieved with the introduction of 5D Mark II. Do they forget thousands of customers who already invested so much?

C: Canon is not treating customers correctly and professionally. Thousands (really thousands) of customers from all around the world have requested by any possible way all these fixes and improvements to Canon. But Canon declines to tell anything else than the last brief announcement about a firmware with 24/25p modes.

Maybe Canon is forgetting that people who invest in a $2,700 body-only camera and full frame lenses (and in most cases several thousands dollars in Canon gear) are not entry-level users nor hobbyists. They are mostly serious amateurs, professionals or even companies. So as a serious company, Canon should give clearer answers and better attention to what thousands of customers are asking for.

– The most interesting fact about all of this:  Magic Lantern has proven lot of those features requests are possible via Firmware Update. No redesign of the camera is needed, only an enhanced firmware to let this camera take advantage of its huge inner capabilities, and give improved functionalities (for stills-only shooters & filmmakers).

– The “funniest” fact (if we can call it that way):  Even many Canon representatives are using Magic Lantern, because they do know the extraordinary features and functionalities it provides to the 5D Mark II.

Our last conclusion still are questions:

  • WHY Canon seem not willing to implement these fixes and features when they really CAN?
  • Is Canon not interested to make this camera more competitive, more featured with an insignificant investment cost on firmware enhancement, then getting more profit of an already in-production camera?

They could perfectly apply this concept to the 7D and 1D Mark IV as well, and then have a full line of full featured DSLRs capable of Full HD video, something that no other company on the world still have.

Please take a look at the List of Fixes & Improvements that has been elaborated with thousands of customers’ feedbacks and requests.

Some years ago Canon (like many companies) would have paid a lot to know what customers needed and requested. Now Canon can get it for free.

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