Modifying a digital camera for infrared (IR) photography

I modified an older Nikon digital camera that was destined for the trash can to take pictures in infrared. The effect is pretty cool, as the sky shows up really dark, clouds really bright, trees turn out white and alot of colors such as shirt patterns just disappear. It’s rather ethereal, and fun to experiment.

The CCD of a digital camera is usually protected by a piece of glass that is coated to reject IR, because the sensitivity of the CCD is high enough to infrared that it would make your everyday pictures look a little funny. Simply removing this piece of glass isn’t enough though, as by removing the filter, the effective distance between the CCD and lens group changes. This will mess up your focus. So you have to either buy a custom-made piece of replacement glass, or find a way to move the CCD closer to the lens group. Actually, on my camera I found a way to move the lens closer to the CCD and still retain autofocus and zoom capability. There are quite a few different cameras that can be modified to do this, and a quick google search will get you started if you don’t already have one in mind.

The only other piece of the puzzle is an IR-pass filter. This is because you still have to block out the visible light to get pictures in just infrared. IR-pass filters will look totally black. You can get filters which are sensitive to different wavelengths of IR, but those can be a little expensive. The cheap method that I found was to use a piece of exposed film. If you have an old film leader that’s been exposed and developed, it will be transparent to IR and mostly block visible light. It’s not perfect, but it sure is cheap and gets you started.

Here’s a few shots in infrared. They’re a bit fuzzy around the edges because my film filter doesn’t lay completely flat against the lens. Need to work on that someday.


Infrared 003

In this shot the shirt draped across the back of my truck is actually red and black.

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Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 Cameras No Comments