Canon Rumors reports about what could become a new trend in customizing your camera: hardware hacks. In past years, we saw a lot of third-party firmwares that promised to improve image quality and performance of your camera–most notably Magic Lantern, which greatly improved video performance in Canon DSLRs. But Canon compacts weren’t left out, either, and Nikon DSLRs had their own Magic Lantern counterpart. But let’s face it, every trend becomes a fad at some point, and in 2014, software hacks just don’t cut it anymore.
The next big thing coming to a camera near you could be hardware hacks, which, as the name suggests, involve swapping out hardware parts of the camera. It’s not uncommon that photographers tinker with their camera, for example when converting them to infrared or multi-spectrum sensitivity by adding and/or removing filters on top of the sensor. It’s another thing altogether, though to swap the camera’s entire logic bord. Which is exactly what Canon Rumors suggests will soon be offered for Canon DSLRs.
The site has received word that “a certain company” will soon come out with a hardware hack for the EOS 5D Mk III, which will replace the camera’s mainboard with a customized one. The benefit of the operation that will cost around US-$ 1000 will be increased dynamic range as well as better sharpness and performance when recording video. In that regard, the hardware hack promises roughly the same results as Magic Lantern’s custom firmware.
At this point, we have no idea who is doing this, when it’ll be available, how much of an improvement it will yield, and whether other camera models will also receive hardware hacks–though CR is positive the 5D3 won’t stay the only model that can be customized. Firmware hacking is already a risky thing to do, because it can potentially make your camera inoperative, or contain malignant code. But at least it’s free. Would you pay someone a whopping $1000 to tinker with the internals of your DSLR, though?
Magic Lantern has done some incredible things with the 5D MK III. First off, they found a CineDNG RAW video codec in the camera. Then they figured out a way to capture it and record it. Then they added other improvements. But according to the latest from Planet 5D, the team recently figured out how to increase the dynamic range of the sensor. For the moment, we only know that the Mk III is going to get the sensor upgrade–and we’re still not sure about the Mk II or any other cameras. At the moment, preliminary tests are showing 15 stops of dynamic range. Previous reports stated 14 stops.
How is this possible? Well, believe it or not, sometimes the dynamic range of a sensor can be improved via firmware. For what it’s worth, years and years ago Nikon has a camera called the D200: the predecessor to the D300 and D300s. Fujifilm basically created the same camera, but called their version the S5 Pro.
From what my old co-workers at B&H Photo used to tell me, the cameras were the exact same. But the reason why the dynamic range and sensor output of the Fujifilm version was so much better is because of the firmware. EDIT: the S5 Pro also had a Super CCD SR sensor, on top of the firmware.
Now here’s the big reminder: while this is cool, it’s not always practical. You still need to learn to meter correctly in the first place. However, it’s nice that a videographer can nerf the highlights or boost the shadows a tad more. But at the same time, it takes a skilled videographer to figure out the right exposure to begin with.
Essentials is a brand new series where we round up specially curated kits for different photographers in different situations. Other items could surely be substituted, but these are what we personally recommend.
After taking a short break, we’ve decided to head right back into the Essentials for what we think an environmental headshot photographer would use. So what exactly do we mean by this? Well, here in NYC, lots of photographers like using a combination of natural/ambient light and blending it with flash. And due to the fact that they’re on location and sometimes without assistants, they tend to try to pack as lightly as possible.
While we often recommend using monolights, they aren’t as portable as a couple of hot shoe flashes placed in the absolute right positions to give the right amount of kick.
A couple of days ago, we reported that Magic Lantern has released a fully testable version of their hack for the Canon 7D. To recap, the hacking crew found a raw video output for the camera very similar to what they’ve found in the Canon 5D Mk III and 5D Mk II. EOS HD notes that the footage isn’t as good as the Mk III’s though but it is better than the hacked Canon 50D. Apparently, the Canon 7D has faster write speeds than read speeds, and can achieve reach 91Mb/s, where 83Mb/s is required for 1080/24p raw but read speeds hover around the 60Mb/s area. It can also only shoot 1736 x 1156 pixels max.
Granted, you’re still not going to get the 70D’s autofocusing, but it is still nice for cinematographers to know that they can get more out of their investments at this point.
According to a brand new report on Planet5D, the Magic Lantern team has improved the dynamic range of the RAW video functionality from the Canon 5D Mk III and 7D to 14 stops. To catch everyone up to speed, the team originally found a CineDNG raw video output in the Live View functions of the camera. However, their next challenge was to find a way to record it and then record it to the point of capturing something that would make sense for filmmakers. They found a way to do so, and in the process turned Canon’s DSLRs into some of the greatest video capturing devices out there for the money.
Planet 5D is stating that it gives you, “…approximately 3 additional stops of dynamic range by using a new way of taking a photo by using ISO 100 for some of the vertical lines of the shot and ISO 1600 for the rest of it. He’s (the creator of the hack) also sharing his initial thoughts on how to re-combine the lines of 100/1600 to give you the full resolution of your image back!”
In case you’ve missed it before, we’re currently running a contest together with BorrowLenses.com where we’re giving away a Canon 5D Mk III or a Nikon D800 to the lucky winner. The runner-ups will receive BorrowLenses.com gift cards or memberships. All you’ve got to do is head over to our facebook page and sign up for the contest–it’s as easy as that! The contest ends June 22nd at 12 a.m. EST, so hurry up!