The EOS 7D is Canon's top-shelf crop-frame digital SLR - and since its release, it's been a favourite among SLR filmmakers. Like its big brother the 5D, the 7D can be wrangled into an outstanding piece of cinema equipment, but that's not really what it has been designed for – and the onboard software reflects that fact. Enter the firmware hackers at Magic Lantern, who have tacked on a bunch of extra functionality from focus peaking and focus stacking to zebra striping, expanded audio controls, time-lapse intervalometers and expanded exposure bracketing. For years, this functionality was available on more or less every Canon HDSLR except the 7D, due to the fact that it runs two DIGIC processors, not one. But yesterday, after what they've described as an "Aha! moment" the ML team announced they've figured out how to port the Magic Lantern software to the 7D. 7D owners, your new Magic Lantern firmware is on its way!

For the longest time, owners have been resigned to the fact that the Magic Lantern firmware upgrade would never be available for the EOS 7D. This has been particularly annoying for those who have had to downgrade to the cheaper, less durably built 550D (Rebel T2i) and other models in order to access the expanded firmware.

But in a surprise announcement yesterday, the Magic Lantern team revealed that a young team member has found a way to run the upgraded firmware despite the 7D's twin DIGIC processors.

This fairly dry video shows an early version of the hack in action:

Here's a quick shopping list of key features that the free Magic Lantern software can open up on compatible EOS cameras:

  • Focus peaking (areas that are in focus are highlighted on the live view screen)
  • Expanded exposure bracketing (from three shots in the stock firmware to up to 9 with magic lantern)
  • Intervalometer (Take a photo every x seconds - very useful for creating time-lapse video)
  • Magic Zoom (gives you a small in-picture zoom window to check critical focus while recording)
  • Motion or audio-detect photo triggering
  • Trap focus (when an object comes into focus, take a shot)
  • On-screen audio meters in Live View mode
  • Audio gain and source controls
  • Zebra striping (highlights overexposed areas where you're losing detail in Live View mode)
  • Expanded video bit rate choices (record extra information or a lower bit rate for extended recording times)
  • Remaining time indicator (shows how much time you've got before your 4GB file size limit kicks in)
  • Follow Focus (lets you use buttons on the back of the camera to switch between focus points)
  • HDR video

It's a non-destructive piece of firmware that runs alongside the standard Canon firmware and can easily be removed it it causes any problems. While most of its features are aimed at filmmakers, stills photographers will also find it useful, particularly for bracketing, expanded bulb exposure control and intervalometer features. And heck, the price is right!

Congratulations to the Magic Lantern team for finally cracking open the EOS 7D - I look forward to installing it on mine. And here's an idea for Canon – why not release an API to encourage these clever hackers to really unleash their creativity?