I’ve had four digital cameras converted to infrared over the last eight or ten years. This process replaces the filter in front of the image sensor so that the camera is sensitive to visible infrared light instead of plain old visible light. The resulting photos are made up of mostly magenta tones with some blue, and they produce unusual high contrast black and white images.
I’ve had point&shoot cameras converted and even DSLR’s, but my favorite so far is my infrared LUMIX GX7. The GX7 produces high quality 16mp images normally, and it is even sharper with the low pass filter replaced by the IR filter. The body is small but it has an EVF and a great tilting LCD. It fits almost anywhere in my camera bag with a body cap or a small prime lens. The best part is that I can I use any lens in my bag for great IR photos.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about having a camera converted:
IR extends your “good light” for landscapes. The harsh midday sun is terrible for conventional landscape photography, but it is perfect for infrared. The more bright sunlight falls on your subject the more intense the IR effect will be in your images. With an IR camera in your bag you can shoot great landscapes between the golden hours on each end of the day.
Electronic viewfinders (EVF) make shooting IR more fun. When I look through the EVF (or on the LCD) I can see the “finished” black&white IR photo. I can look through the viewfinder to see how a particular subject will look in infrared. Sometimes things you wouldn’t expect look amazing in IR, and sometimes the opposite is true. I shoot my IR GX7 in RAW+jpeg mode, and I have my jpegs dialed in to a high contrast Monochrome. Many times I get a great file out of the camera, but I can also process the RAW file if I need to.
Your lenses may work differently on your IR camera. I found this out through personal experience. The LUMIX 7-14mm f4 lens is usually sharp from corner to corner, even at it’s maximum aperture. When I use it on my IR camera the corners are noticeably soft. Apparently the different wavelength of infrared light doesn’t focus exactly the same as visible light. I never would have thought about that, and that’s the only lens I have noticed the effect on.
Speaking of focus…
There are a few different conversions you can get for your IR camera. There is a basic IR, enhanced color options and usually a black&white only conversion. I read an article about the different filters that helped me make my filter choice for my most recent conversion. The standard filter and black&white filters only allow infrared light to reach the image sensor, so the resulting images are very sharp. The enhanced color options allow IR light plus a small amount of visible light. As I mentioned above, these two wavelengths of light do not necessarily focus at the same point. This can (theoretically) reduce the sharpness from the images with these filters.
I’ve had enhanced color conversions done, and I didn’t see much difference from the standard filter. My GX7 has the standard filter and it is as sharp as a tack, except in the corners of the 7-14mm 🙂
There are several companies who will do the conversion for you. I have used Life Pixel four times now and I’ve been very happy with the results. Converting last year’s model to IR definitely beats trading it in or selling it for $50! You’ll end up with a tool for making unique creative images.