Sunday, June 20, 2021

Magic Lantern

One of my pet peeves is the inferior image quality of trailcams. Most manufacturers take 3mp or 5mp images, interpolate them up to 30mp or beyond, apply heavy-handed sharpening, and call the result "high resolution." (Even the cheapest cell phones have 12mp sensors now, but trailcams seem to be stuck at 5mp. C'mon man!) But converting a "real" camera to a trailcam replacement is hideously expensive and difficult. Recently I came across a partial solution that enables motion detection on many Canon DSLRs, including my 5D Mark III, a program called Magic Lantern. The program is primarily aimed at the specialized needs of videographers, but there are some features for still photographers, including motion detection. Canon could provide this capability if they chose to, but they don't because... no one knows why.

Magic Lantern is not perfect:

  1. It seems the developer stopped updating the program in 2018.
  2. On my camera, the firmware needed to be downgraded, not a straightforward process.
  3. The program is a huge battery drain. It would be impossible to deploy the camera on battery power alone for more than half a day.
  4. The program doesn't work on my 1D Mark II, which I haven't used in many years. It has an AC power adapter so I could avoid the battery problem and get some use out of that camera body IF the program worked.

I don't have any actual images to prove it yet, but I was able to get the 5D firmware downgraded, install the program, and run some tests. Now, weather permitting, I will use it to get some candids of the bluebird box in my yard. But today it is raining. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday: Perhaps the bluebirds are too small to set off the motion detector. I also have the 5D connected to a wireless remote and have been able to get some shots, but I don't think I've gotten any Magic Lantern-triggered images except for test shots with my giant white hand waving around in front of the lens. Below is one of the better wireless-triggered 5D shots, followed by Browning trailcam images, the first from the non-melted one and the second (proving it still works) from the melted one.

Saturday: Although tests indicate Magic Lantern motion detection might work under some specific circumstances, it hasn't worked for me with the bluebird box. Everything I've gotten has been triggered by me using wireless, not by the program. The camera was acting sort of sluggish with the program running, so I removed it and re-installed the latest firmware, which seemed to fix that problem. The next option seems to be shelling out a few dollars (or pounds sterling) for an external trigger.

No comments:

Post a Comment