What is the full capability of the 5DMkii/Mkiii, and how to expand upon it?

Started by SkyHigh, February 27, 2014, 10:41:21 AM

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 Hello all. I am a total Newb in Magic Lantern world. I have mostly been a stills photographer so far. My questions are particularly focused to the 5D Mkii/ Mkiii platform. I just helped a friend shoot a short film, and a promotional video with my 5D Mkii.  That was my first introduction to ML. I had heard of ML before this and how it was increasing the capability of DSLR cameras beyond the factory software handcuffs placed on it but had never seen it in action. I was impressed and continue to be (more like astounded) as I read more about the expanded capabilities the ML community is bringing to the DSLR video world.

So a bit on the reason for my starting this post (my question is sure to lead down the tech rabbit hole)

"What is the full capability the 5D Mkii/Mkiii and how to expand upon it?"

The reason I pose this question is because as I have been reading about new improvements attempted to be made by the ML community it seems many of the attempts at improvements are blocked by hardware issues. For example, limitations of the CF card for storage space, buffer limits, limits on improvements beyond 8 bit due to hardware constraints, limits on the ability for 4k capture and recording (even though the camera is capable of capturing full frame high resolution stills at 4K or beyond), limitations on HDMI pulls straight from the sensor etc.

I consider the sensor rightly the heart of the camera. It seems to me that the canon 5D Mkii/Mkiii sensor is capable of much greater things than the rest of the hardware of the camera will allow.

What are the full capabilities of the sensor of this platform? The magic lantern community is doing a terrific job of unhandicapping these DSLR platforms from the software side. It seems that the rest of the camera just gets in the way of the sensor from meeting it's full potential ( The processor, the buffer, the CF storage etc. )

So what needs to be taken out/replaced in the 5D Mkii/Mkiii platform for it to meet it's full potential?

It seems to me that the 5D platform needs the following from a hardware stand point to meet the full potential of it's image sensor.

More buffer memory (or can data just be bypassed straight into long term storage?), but how much to meet the full capability of the sensor?

It needs a more powerful processor, but how powerful and what type?

It needs a better way to pull information from the sensor and to rapidly store it than on tiny expensive CF cards, but what storage system would be optimal?

What I want to do is answer these questions and find solutions to what I perceive as hardware issues holding back the full potential of the 5D platform and it's sensor in capturing the highest quality video possible.

To do this do I need to crack one open, gut the lousy processor, memory buffer and CF storage system and solder more powerful solutions into it?

I won't be considering doing this to a brand new 5D Mkiii, but it would be an interesting project to try on a used 5D Mkii.

The ML community is doing great things, it is just a shame to see their progress slowed or stopped on the 5D platform due to these hardware handcuffs.

Any input anyone has on this topic, that may lead into the gutting and rebuilding of a 5D Mkii to optimize it's sensors capability and open up a wider range of software improvements are greatly appreciated.

Hey look a used 5D Mkii for $839 online... I'd gut that baby real quick, new processor, new high capacity buffer, HDMI capture, improved storage interface and device. Let's turn that baby into a 4K RAW, high bit monster machine!!

So new I have no idea what I can't do. The skys the limit!


Canon EOS 6D, 60D, 50D.
Sigma 70-200 EX OS HSM, Sigma 70-200 Apo EX HSM, Samyang 14 2.8, Samyang 35 1.4, Samyang 85 1.4.
Proud supporter of Magic Lantern.


Yeah well I'm serious, despite the humor at the end.

What is to keep someone from replacing the 5d mkii platform buffer memory with computer RAM etc., a better CPU/FGPA  processor, and replace the CF card with an SSD solution? Slap it all together in a new 3D printer body and you would have the basis for an inexpensive 4k capable, high ISO/low noise, RAW, EF mount, full frame video camera.

And it would cost what, some time, a 3D printed body, a hand full of computer parts and a cheap used 5D Mkii?

At that point you wouldn't be handicapped by hardware constraints and could get down to some serious software modifications. Like shooting in 4K for beyond 28 frames with the most recent ML software. That's great for time lapse photography, but if these components in the camera are the weak link then hack the hardware too. Then maybe we can get the camera with the capability the 5D Mkii should have had to begin with.

Sooner or later with as many used 5D Mkiis on the market and prices for digital cameras always going down someone is going to do this. The sensor is just to capable not to try and eventually the camera will be so cheap people will begin hardware hacking them.


Quote from: SkyHigh on February 27, 2014, 12:49:04 PM
What is to keep someone from replacing the 5d mkii platform buffer memory with computer RAM etc., a better CPU/FGPA  processor, and replace the CF card with an SSD solution?

Thousands or probably millions of hours reverse engineering a closed hardware platform and designing and fabricating custom hardware that is compatible with it. It'd be cheaper to design and build your own camera from scratch. It'd be cheaper to buy a dozen RED Epics.

QuoteSooner or later ... someone is going to do this
No one is ever going to do this


 You may be correct that it would be to expensive or time consuming to do. I am just floating this idea of a hardware hack out there. But if you look at the components in the 5D Mkii and processors that Canon currently manufactures substantial improvements have been made even though the processors are closed hardware platforms. Could these components be used to hardware hack a 5D mkii?

From  http://learn.usa.canon.com

"There are several generations of DIGIC units, distinguished by a generational number. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II has a DIGIC 4 processor. The Canon EOS 7D uses dual DIGIC 4 processors (two separate processors, working in parallel), the brand new PowerShot G1 X has a DIGIC 5, and the flagship Canon EOS-1D X comes with dual DIGIC 5+ processors, along with a separate DIGIC 4 processor that is dedicated exclusively to the new 100,000 pixel RGB metering system and subject recognition. The new EOS-1D X's RGB metering system has the same processing power as many entire EOS bodies!

Now, let's talk about speed. A DIGIC 5 processor is approximately six times faster than DIGIC 4. A DIGIC 5+ is approximately three times faster than DIGIC 5, and 17 times faster than DIGIC 4. In terms of image quality alone, this means the processor can perform more separate calculations, on a pixel-to-pixel basis, immediately after an image is recorded. This translates into more opportunities to evaluate each image and optimize its quality before it's even written to the memory card."

Just an example of Canon improvements of the processor in their cameras. The 7D uses 2 digic 4 processors. Yet they were released at around the same time. I am not an electrical engineer but I can't believe it would be impossible to add another digic 4 processor to a 5D Mkii platform as was done in the 7D.

Can you swap a digic 4 out for a digic 5+ into a 5D Mkii? Would it offer any benefits? Would it be impossible to run the 5D Mkii software/drivers on a Digic 5+ processor? Would it take a colossal amount of time and money to do it? I don't know the answers to that. But if you could add more or better canon processors to a 5D Mkii I think it should improve performance.


If "ands" and "buts" were candy and nuts, it'd be Christmas every day.


I'm running my 5D III off the Zepher battery from the movie Knight & Day. Never needs a charge and I glow in the dark now... should power your modifications when completed... PM me for details...
5D Mark III -- 7D   SOLD -- EOS M 22mm 18-55mm STM -- Fuji X-T1 18-55 F2.8-F4 & 35 F1.4
Canon Glass   100L F2.8 IS -- 70-200L F4 -- 135L F2 -- 85 F1.8 -- 17-40L --  40 F2.8 -- 35 F2 IS  Sigma Glass  120-300 F2.8 OS -- 50 F1.4 -- 85 F1.4  Tamron Glass   24-70 2.8 VC   600EX-RT X3


So the people on the forum that brought you 1080P in RAW at 24 FPS, that was thought impossible at the time, are just happy with crappy buffering hardware, slow processors, and no SSD compatibility? There is no solution? Just stick with software get what you can out of it and pay more money for the next camera? Nothing is over till we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed pearl harbor?


 I am reading this article right now.

It's from may 2013.


It talks about how ML has been used to shoot up to 3.5K 30FPS for a few seconds. They were attempting to get the data to go straight to the card to beat that crappy 512MB buffer from stopping filming. I guess that hasn't been worked out yet. With either a CF card to SSD adapter or an HDMI connection to an SSD that would be one sweet ride. Just need to bump it up to 4K, like the sensor is capable off and find a work around that pesky buffer. With that solved so much for hardware issue limitations. Anyone know what progress has been made on that? I know what you are all thinking. What a newb! Yes... I know.... It's like mad science up in here!!