Infrared Camera Conversion - Rad A. Drew Photography

Rad A. Drew Photography Rad A. Drew Photography

Infrared Camera Conversion

Years ago in college, I fell in love with the surreal look of infrared photography. Infrared was a way to transform a common scene into a magical and fantastical alternate reality where blue skies turned black, green leaves and grass turned white, and clouds appeared to float in a sea of black; scenes took on an ethereal glow and otherworldly appearance. 

When I first encountered infrared photography, digital photography was still years away so infrared film was the ticket. Creating infrared with film was a tedious and unforgiving process and I always felt lucky if

(a) I got the film loaded without ruining it, and
(b) if I got one or two keepers out of a 36 exposure roll of film.

Today, creating infrared is much simpler and it's safe to say that the success rate is much better!

What is IR Photography

You can google the subject and learn more, but in a nutshell, infrared lets us see into a world beyond what the human eye can see. Humans see wavelengths from purple to red or about 400nm - 700nm, while infrared photography lets us "see" into the 700nm - 1200nm range. What happens to a scene photographed at 720nm or 830nm produces that esthetically pleasing result that I fell in love with years ago. Green foliage reflects infrared light turning that green into a soft, glowing white that makes a summer scene look like a winter landscape.

What is Involved in Converting a Camera

When a camera is converted an infrared filter is placed inside the camera (instead of on the lens) so it lets only infrared light reach the sensor. When the camera is converted, you can choose the filter with the desired wavelength to produce color or black and white. The type of filter you choose is based on the kind of IR result you prefer. I have experimented only with 720nm and 830nm, which both produce a b&w result. Moving into the lower nanometer ranges (e.g., 590nm or 665nm will produce various color IR results. When a camera is converted in this way it becomes dedicated to that type of photography only. 

There is something called a full spectrum conversion which allows more flexibility to photograph in regular color as well as a variety of different IR wavelengths. With a full spectrum conversion, a clear glass filter is used making the camera sensitive to UV, visible, and infrared light. This means you can make regular color photos or a variety of IR from color to black and white simply by using different external filters.

Where to Have a Camera Converted

Over the years, I've had a number of cameras converted to either 720nm or 830nm. My first IR camera was a Lumix DMC LX7 point-and-shoot. This small camera photographs in RAW and has a wonder Leica lens. It's a great small, lightweight alternative to a larger dslr or even mirrorless camera. The other cameras I've had converted were all Fuji mirrorless models. Today, I use a Fuji X-T2 converted to 720nm.

There are three companies I can recommend for having a camera converted. I've personally used Spencer's Camera for my conversions and have trusted colleagues who have had success with Kolarvision and Life Pixel.

Spencer’s Camera. 
This is where I’ve had all my cameras converted (and where I purchase the IR filters I use with my iPhone). Clarence is a friend and I enjoy doing business with his team. If you make a purchase (product or camera conversion) from Spencer’s, use my code RADDREW25 for a discount on all but a few items.
 Spencer's will convert a camera you already have or they have new cameras that you can purchase from them and have them converted before shipping. When I had my first camera converted, I purchased a new Lumix from them and had it converted.

While I’ve not had a camera converted by them, I know many photographers who have and they are trustworthy, capable and reliable. 

Again, I have no personal experience with LifePixel, but have many colleagues who have and speak very highly of them.

Each of these sites provide different levels of information about IR photography, camera and lens compatibility, and what happens when they convert a camera to IR or Full Spectrum. 

Regardless of which company you choose, I recommend asking them if your camera is a good candidate for IR conversion as not all are. You’ll also want to check to make sure the lenses you intend to use with your IR-converted camera are compatible with IR. Some lenses always will create a hot spot an any focal length, while others may create a hot spot at specific focal lengths. For example, with my Fuji cameras, I use an 18-135mm telephoto, a 100-400mm telephoto, and a 10-24mm wide angle lens. The 18-135mm and the 100-400mm work fine at all focal lengths, while the 10-24mm will produce a hot spot below about 14mm. 

I wish you luck if you decide to have a camera converted to infrared. You'll be opening an entirely new and exciting facet of your photography that will allow you to explore the world in ways we don't usually see. 

Thanks for being here. Until next time, be safe, have fun, and keep on creating!

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