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Converting an old camera to shoot infrared photos

I’ve always loved those false colour infrared photos, filled with blues and pinks. I learned a while ago that IR is filtered by most cameras automatically, but that you can have this capability removed for a hefty sum.

More recently, I looked in to the practicalities of doing the conversion myself. I have a couple of old cameras which sit around unused, and managed to find a helpful guide for converting my old Canon 350D. Turns out all you have to do is take out the physical filter. Doesn’t sound so hard, right? I never use this camera and so even if it breaks, no real loss. I enlisted the help of a couple of friends, and off we went!

The guide above was fairly comprehensive for the tear down, and so this went fairly well. The soldering within the camera was a bit suspect, but we got it all apart.

I’d read that one can purchase glass filters to take up the space within the camera, or ones that simply just didn’t filter out IR. I elected to go without a filter, reading that setting focus on the lens to infinity countered for it fairly well.

Reassembly was a bit of a nightmare at times. The guide wasn’t always the best, and we ended up with a few screws leftover. Whoops! Getting all of the ribbon cables back in place was also a nightmare, lord knows how the guy writing the guide did it because at some points it took all 3 of us being hands on to get pieces together.

We finally got all the bits together, and decided to try and power the camera on before putting the final bits of plastic back in place. Nothing happened. Uh oh. After locating a colleague that’s good with hardware debugging, we discovered that there was a simple failsafe switch which prevented the camera from switching on when it was opened up. Depressing this switch fixed everything. Whoops!

So, camera assembled, it was time to have a play. I screwed on a cheap IR (or rather, all but IR) filter on the front of the lens, and away we went. The viewfinder was largely useless due to the light filtering, and I seem to have misplaced my gorillapod during my recent move. Because of this I was limited to balancing the camera on things to take pictures around the office. Still, initial results are promising!

The above photo has had the light/dark balance manually adjusted as it was a bit of a mess. For later photos I adjusted the auto balance, and the photos came out looking like this (bar cropping):

One of the characteristics of IR photography I love is that foliage looks brilliantly bright. These initial tests on a dying christmas tree show promise, and I’m excited to take it outside in the future.

The office lights also looked quite interesting, creating the bright yellow seen above.

I’ll be experimenting more with this camera once I locate a stand, so watch this space!

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