Behold the majestic Canon t2i sporting the Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens, basking itself in the late afternoon sunshine. But seriously as of right now the Canon t2i combined with Magic Lantern is the best bang for your buck out of any DSLR video option on the market. A used t2i body sells for well under $500, add a few modest price lenses to that and you’ll have a video camera that easily outperforms most prosumer camcorder. But honestly the t2i is useless without all of the features added by Magic lantern.

I know there are a number of you that are nervous about installing Magic lantern on your camera. Older versions of the firmware were a little bit sketchy and would sometimes lock up the camera or cause hdmi output problems. But the firmware has come a long way since the early releases. I would almost call the current release (December 22 2011) user friendly.

I’ll spend some time going over the basic features and providing links and videos to help get you started. As you can see this post is labeled “part 1”, it will take a number of posts to cover this subject. When I’ve finished I’ll combine all of these posts into a new tab at the top of the site.

Installation Guide:

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to upgrade your camera to the latest Canon firmware, so head over to Canon’s SLR page (Click here), find your camera in the list, click on it and you’ll be redirected to your cameras info page. Just below the picture of your camera you’ll see “Drivers & Software”. Click on that, select your operating system from the drop down menu, then scroll down to the bottom of the page. There you’ll see firmware, select “1.0.9 download” and follow the Canon installation guide that pops up.

Once you have the latest firmware on your camera, you’re ready to start with the magic lantern fun. On a side note Magic lantern supports most of Canon’s DSLR cameras, but if you’re a 7d owner then you’re out of luck.

Youtube member   has the easiest to follow magic lantern installation guide that I’ve seen. Here is the link you’ll need to download the files he mentions in the video.  If you get lost here is the written installation instructions.

Basic Screens:

The key to accessing all of the magic lantern menu options is the trashcan button at the bottom right hand side of the camera. Press this button once to bring up the Magic Lantern menu and again to return to your normal screen.

Audio Screen:

When you first access the Magic Lantern screen you’ll see the easy mode. This mode displays all of the basic features most users will really need to get things started. There are seven menus total in easy mode, but the first five contain all of the important stuff. To navigate simply use the 4 arrow keys. To change a setting press the set button until the value you want is reached.

The new Magic lantern firmware has a short description of what each item does at the bottom of the screen, but if you need more information simply push the “DISP.” at the top left hand corner of the camera to bring up the help menu. The help menu contains a longer description of the selected item (indicated in blue). Press the “DISP.” again to return to the previous menu.

The audio Screen above is one of the more important menus so lets go over the settings.

  • Analog Gain – is the amount of volume boost applied to the audio entering the mic input on the camera
  • Input Source – allows you to select between the built in mic, external mic input or a combination of both
  • Mic power – Reduced the input impedance from 30k ohm (off) to 2k ohm (on), check your Mic’s manual for more info
  • Monitoring-USB – This allows you to monitor audio through the USB port on the camera by using either AVC-DC400ST cable with RCA outs, or the Sescom DSLR-550D-HOCF A/V  cable with 3.5mm female out (Dave over at learningdslrvideo has a video on this). Note that if this function is on you will not be able to use the USB port for video.
  • Audio Meters – On gives you audio meter displayed on screen, Off removes them from the screen.

Note: AGC is disabled by default in Magic Lantern firmware so that option isn’t displayed in easy mode.

With the wireless system I normally use 17db gain works about right, but when I’m using something like the Juicedlink DS214 I usually set it at 10db. I like to leave the camera in Auto internal/external that way if they accidentally unplug a mic cable from the camera at least some audio is recorded. The audio meter is a very handy tool for me so I always leave that on.

If you would like to find out more about audio interfaces that work well with DSLR cameras, here’s a good place to start.

Let me know if you spot anything that needs to be corrected.

UPDATE: Part 2 of the Noob Magic lantern Guide is now posted here and Part 3 of the Noob Magic Lantern guide can be found here.


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