The Ultimate Custom Firmware For Any Camera Roundup

With Magic Lantern recent 24P raw video hack I thought it may be a good idea to go over each of the big manufacturers and review are the options for anyone who is trying to use a custom Firmware on their camera

The Ultimate Custom Firmware For Any Camera Roundup

Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern (ML) is a Canon firmware toolbox specifically aiming for the video segment. It has recently got a huge buzz for enabling a Canon’s 5DmkII to shoot 24P RAW video. And while ML is not the oldest of custom firmware, it is definitely one of the more mature ones, with many movie makers using it on production setups. As with CHDK, it usually run from the memory card and does not require a firmware “flush.

The Ultimate Custom Firmware For Any Camera Roundup

  • Target Cameras: Canon DSLRs (e.g. , 5DmkII, 60D, 600D, and 5DmkIII, 7D, 5D and T3 coming soon)
  • Main features: ML is kinda of master of all trades and have way more features than we can list, here is a list of the most popular ones:
    • Audio: disable AGC, audio meters, manual audio controls
    • Exposure helpers: zebras, false color, histogram, waveform, spotmeter, vectorscope
    • Focus tools: focus peaking, zoom while recording, trap focus, rack focus, follow focus, stack focus
    • Movie helpers: Bitrate control, movie logging (Exif-like metadata),  HDR video, advanced FPS control
    • Bracketing: advanced exposure bracketing, focus stacking
    • Remote release with LCD face sensor and audio trigger, without extra hardware
    • Timelapse & Astro: intervalometer, bulb ramping, silent pictures without shutter actuation, bulb timer for very long exposures (up to 8h)
  • Download link: Download
  • Documentation link: Documentation, faq, user guide


The Ultimate Custom Firmware For Any Camera Roundup

CHDK is another Canon firmware targeting smaller point and shoot cameras. It has been here for a while and it is very easy to operate (see example here). It loads via a dedicated memory card, and once the card is removed, the camera goes back to its Canon default firmware.

  • Target Cameras: Canon’s Point and Shoots (e.g.G10, G15, S100)
  • Main features: Enabling RAW, Timelapse, Intervalometer and Triggering, Scripting, Zebra Mode, Grid OSD, USB/wireless Remote, LCD mirroring (via PTP)
  • Download link: CHDK
  • Documentation link: CHDK Wiki, User Manual
  • Camera Comparability link: FAQ
  • 400plus is a CHDK port for Canon 400D/XTi (thanks takimata)

PTool Firmware Manipulation Tool

The Ultimate Custom Firmware For Any Camera Roundup

Ptool is a firmware altering tool for Panasonic users which mainly enables the changing of video recording parameters. For example increasing the bitrate streaming out of the camera. To use this tool, you have to download a windows utility and “flush” (i.e. burn) the camera firmware with each modification that you apply.

  • Target Cameras: Panasonic cameras (mainly the GHX and GFX cameras)
  • Main features: Enable high bit rate and other video encoding parameters, Increase ISO limit to 12,800, removes 30 minutes video limit,
  • Download link: PTool firmware manipulation tool
  • Documentation link: ptool-faq
  • Camera Compatibility Link: FAQ

Nikon Hacker

The Ultimate Custom Firmware For Any Camera Roundup

Nikon Hacker is the new kid in town hoping to do to Nikon DSLRs what Magic Lantern did to Canon DSLRs. The feature list is a bit limited for now ,but we are hoping to see it grow.

There you have it, you can have some fun even if you are not an 5DmkIII owner. While some of those hacks are at different stages of development (cough.. cough.. Nikon), I hope to see those communities prosper and release more hacks into the world. Or better yet, see camera manufactures go Open Source.

Let’s end up with a short poll about you and camera firmware: