As a professional digital photographer, I know how expensive camera bodies are. I also know that we update those camera bodies pretty regularly. Technology changes so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up.
So, when I upgraded my DSLR camera body, I decided to go in a different direction—permanent conversion. I’d keep my old camera body this way and still be able to use it justifiably while upgrading to a newer model for my standard photography.
I loved this camera, so this was a little bit scary but, in the end, well worth the risk. Permanent conversion is a physical alteration to the camera that isn’t always reversible, so be sure this is the direction you want to go.
What exactly is Infrared Photography.
A Unique And Artistic Take
Photographers have to work harder than ever to create new and breathtaking pictures since photography has become a part of our everyday lives. Infrared photography is a unique and broader way to look at the world around us, a glimpse into the world that usually goes unseen.
Professional photographers and freelancers are always up against the newest trend wanting to offer their clients something more distinctive and sensational than the competitors. So, it’s not surprising that one of the new ways to stay on top is using different equipment that sees in a diverse range of light.
Infrared Filters: Types, Purpose, and Use
There are multiple options when it comes to the type of IR filter conversion you want.
- First up, we have the best choice for those looking to shoot exclusively in black and white. The black and white IR filter is a dedicated filter. Even with extensive Photoshop skills, it would be more challenging to add the color other filters have.
- For those looking to shoot with little post-production effort, this is the best option. It gives deep blacks and stark whites that require little to no work after shooting. It gives some stunning results with less work.
- Next, you have the average or standard IR filter. The standard IR is the workhorse that you can use for just about any IR needs. Unlike the black and white, you get some significant editing options in post-production with this filter.
- So those looking to learn and start their IR journey may want to start here.
- Up next is the Enhanced IR Filter. It’s equal to a 665nm filter which allows more color to come through; this is for those looking for high saturation and range.
- It’s slightly less contrast when shooting in black and white only, but as we all know, that can be tweaked with a little bit of work in post.
- Super is the next in their lineup of filter choices, and it’s on par with a 590 nm filter. This filter is incredibly surreal and artistic. With just a few channel swaps in Photoshop, you can create outdoor shots where foliage turns into waves of golden leaves with a touch of nostalgia.
- This one gives you great black and white IR, with far more color control in post.
- Hyper Color IR is the next filter in their line of options. It’s one of the newest filters and is like a 470nm filter. It allows in the most visible light in with the IR out of the options they sell. For those interested in shooting portraits in IR, this is probably the top choice.
- It allows for the surreal nature of IR yet maintains the most realistic look for people. The hyper color still allows for gorgeous natural infrared photography that has a solid otherworldly feel.
- Super Blue IR LifePixel is the leader in the IR filter market, and it’s no surprise that one of their filters is a patent-pending choice. This one does something the others cannot do, and you can capture the blue of the sky without the need for photoshopping afterward.
- It works by having two different bands that the light has to pass through. The super blue filter allows for blue light and infrared light. This filter will give you oversaturated blue tones and yet will still capture all those surreal infrared colors.
- One of the bonuses with this filter is that you can photograph UV by adding an external UV-only filter. You can photograph only the infrared like the standard IR filter option by adding a standard blue filter.
- This filter is a good multitasker and fun for those who want something less dependent on Photoshop after the shoot.
- The last filter conversion choice they offer is more a unilateral filter. The clear full spectrum conversion can work perfectly with external filters. However, those external filters go in front of the lens and completely block the viewfinder making composition, metering and focus difficult.
- Most people use this particular filter set up for things like forensic photography, allowing them to capture things undetectable to the human eye. You could also use it for astronomy, where shots are generally long exposures with sturdy setups.
Converting Existing DSLRs For Infrared
Now that you know the different choices and understand the filter options let me explain the conversion process.
- When you send your camera in for a standard IR Conversion, LifePixel sets it up for use with specific lens options. For Canon, it’s the 50mm 1.8, and for Nikon, it’s the 18-70DX. These are great starting points for beginners.
- If you’re looking for something more customizable, you can send in the lens you plan to use as well. First, however, you want to check the lens list associated with your camera body. Doing your research means you don’t end up with a lens with focus issues even after calibration.
- Life view autofocus options offer a versatile setup for calibration and lens use. Because these converted cameras are seeing a live view in IR, you will have the ability to switch to most lenses and still focus. However, it is then best to focus in live mode, and the highest quality usually comes from using autofocus.
- When it comes to IR photography, most professionals will recommend using the live view option. This is because you’re attempting to photograph light in a way your eyes can’t see. Your newly converted camera can translate that for you on screen.
Converting Your Camera At Home
IR Conversion is something you can do at home. Nevertheless, unless you are comfortable deconstructing and reconstructing a camera without damaging anything, I wouldn’t recommend it. LifePixel offers links to DIY tutorials, but they also have a page dedicated to fails they’ve seen over the years.
Even though almost everyone has one, cameras are still technical and take a lot of work to alter. A tiny speck of dust in the wrong spot, and you can ruin the camera completely.
Reasons to Go With LifePixel Conversion
Aside from the fact that doing it yourself is more likely to break the costly camera you want to use for IR, there are significant benefits to choosing LifePixel.
- LifePixel is the leader in infrared photography. They have worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, from Nasa to Disney. So, if the big names trust them, they must be doing something right.
- They also have one of the most informative websites around. Infrared photography as an artform is reasonably new but growing rapidly, and anyone who does professional photography knows it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve. It won’t be long before couples at that bohemian wedding you have booked will want remarkable IR captures of their venue.
- LifePixel goes a step further and offers a one-year warranty for the filter they install, and quick start guides sent back with your converted camera. They also provide 30-minute online training, and for further assistance, they have phone and email support.
- LifePixel offers techniques, tips, and tutorials on the website. In addition, they cover camera settings specific to infrared photography. They also have different photoshop tutorials designed to help you get the most out of your IR experience.
- Not all the educational material they have is free. LifePixel offers paid classes, tutoring, and even workshops unique to infrared photography-making it a significant resource for those wanting to expand their photographic education.
Three Major Ways to Save
#1- Are all Cameras Convertible?
Ans: The simple answer is no. There is a list of the most commonly converted cameras on the website. The company urges you to contact them if you don’t see your model listed.
#2- Is there one Camera that is best for Conversion?
Ans: It really depends on what you’re used to and what you have already invested in for lenses. Often people use a camera they have that’s older but still in good working condition. Utilizing a camera that is otherwise obsolete for professional purposes can breathe new life into something you otherwise would end up selling for much less than it’s worth.
#3- Can this Conversion be used for thermal imaging?
Ans: No, Thermal imaging is done between the 7,000 and 14,000 nm range, while any converted camera is for the near-infrared range only going up to about 1200.
#4- Can I order the kit and do the conversion at home?
Ans: Conversion kits can absolutely be done at home, but don’t try it before you look at the process. There are tutorials available on the website to give you an idea of the entire process. But, trust me, it’s not for everyone.
#5- How permanent is the conversion?
Ans: For some cameras, conversion cannot be undone; for others, you can send it back in for half the original conversion price to have it restored. Unfortunately, point-and-shoot camera conversions are not reversible. If you have questions about changing your DSLR back, it’s best to check in by message.
#6- What if I change my mind about the clear filter?
Ans: Suppose you have already paid to convert it from a standard camera to a clear IR if the filter is scratch-free and in new condition. In that case, they can offer 25% off of changing to another option.
#7- What’s the difference between conversion and over lens filters?
Ans: In cameras, the internal filter blocks the infrared light before it can get to the sensor, which means that you have to set your exposure time too long. With that, you cannot shoot without a tripod. It also makes it hard to do portraits and impossible to shoot anything with movement. You also block the viewfinder and live view when using an over lens filter meaning you’re shooting blind.
#8- Does metering still work?
Ans: Yes, it will work. However, you might need to adjust the exposure and know that infrared light may differ even when the brightness is the same.
#9- How is dust avoided during conversion?
Ans: At LifePixel, they work in class 5 cleanroom for conversion. This ensures that the camera is protected. Though there may be microscopic dust particles that remain behind, they won’t be visible.
#10- Point And shoot vs. DSLR
Ans: DSLRs will likely always produce a higher quality photo over a point-and-shoot camera. This fact doesn’t change when you are looking at infrared over traditional photography.
#11- What is the cleaning process?
Ans: The cleaning process is the same as it was before conversion. The infrared filter is slightly more durable than the original filter.