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False color infrared photography with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Last week I went on a road trip to outback Australia to play with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera and primarily used it with the lovely but moderately expensive Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2.0 lens.

In my last post, I showed how the E-M5 makes B&W infrared photography easy.

This post is to demonstrate a limited false color tehnique if all you have is Lightroom.

Normally to get a false colour infrared image from infrared RAW file, one would swap the red and blue channels, but unfortunately, Adobe Lightroom does not have this functionality.

In this image I have used Lightroom to adjust White Balance to the far left (blue) and then adjust the tint then correct the exposure as we are no longer relying only on the red channel as I did in the B&W IR shots.

Silverton, near Broken Hill in outback NSW, Australia:

False color IR Silverton

ISO 200, 12mm lens at f/2.0, 1/13th sec hand held.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 makes hand held infrared photography easier

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Last week I went on a road trip to outback Australia to play with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera and primarily used it with the lovely but moderately expensive Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2.0 lens.

I love infrared photography and use a Hoya R72 infrared filter as my main IR filter.

This article is NOT about using a modified camera with IR blocking filter removed but an E-M5 straight from the retailer.

Unfortunately, using an optical viewfinder as on dSLRs makes hand held use almost impossible as the filter is so dark there is little that can be seen through it unless pointed at the brightest of scenes.

Furthermore, the reduction in light requires either long exposures or high ISO, even with wide aperture f/2.0 lenses.

I was just able to achieve reasonable hand held IR shots with my Panasonic GH-1 combined with the Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.4 in bright sunlight, but the amazing E-M5 takes IR even further thanks to its built-in image stabilisation system, and much better image quality at high ISO.

Hand held infrared with the E-M5 becomes a fun enjoyable experience as long as you have a relatively bright scene, a Hoya R72 filter and a f/2.8 or wider aperture lens.

So let’s see what can be done in the bright sun in outback Australia with its blue skies (although unfortunately, few trees to show off the Wood’s effects):

IR Silverton Hotel
This is essentially straight from the camera (although cropped in Lightroom a touch).

Shot details: Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/2.8 with ISO 400 and shutter 1/8th sec hand held.

Broken Hill sculptures at sunset:

IR Broken Hill sculptures at sunset

The above shot was with Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/2.8 with ISO 400 and shutter 1/6th sec hand held and was processed in Lightoom with split toning to provide the sunset tones instead of B&W.

Shearing shed on shores of the fossilised 18,000 year dry Lake Mungo:

IR shearing shed on shores of the fossilised 18,000 year dry Lake Mungo

The above shot is my favorite, and one of the few times during the week that there was actually some clouds in the sky.

It was shot with Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/4 with ISO 400 and shutter 1/5th sec hand held and was processed in Lightoom with split toning to provide the sepia-like toning instead of B&W.

Setting up the Olympus E-M5 for B&W IR shots straight from the camera:

  • set Picture Mode to Monotone with Contrast +2 (I like contrasty IR shots), and B&W filter to Red. Of course you can play with these further and add Pict. Tone of Sepia instead of Neutral.
  • set ISO to 200-400 for sunny scenes
  • set exposure mode to aperture priority and choose a wide aperture to give a fast enough shutter speed (remember the 12mm lens on the E-M5 you could use even down to half a second with care hand held!) but sufficient depth of field (eg. f/2.8)
  • ensure IS is set to IS1
  • adjust exposure compensation so that you minimise blown out highlights as these tend to create hot spots from IR flare within the lens (I often use minus 0.5 to minus 0.7)
  • place the IR filter on the lens
  • you can easily compose and autofocus even with the IR filter in place – just awesome!

The Victorian goldfields of the 1850′s gold rush in infrared – Canon 1D Mark III with Olympus OM 21mm

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

IR goldfields

Click image for larger view.

Hoya R72 filter. ISO 200, 8sec exposure and I think it was about f/8.

No modification to image other than convert to B&W and minor levels adjustment.

Note that this OM 21mm f/3.5, unlike the other less wide angle OM lenses, creates a radial CA-like effect visible at high contrast edges such as at the tops of the trees. This OM lens is a beautiful compact ultra wide but alas is not so suitable for IR work.

A day trip to the Victorian countryside – digital infrared landscape – Canon 1D Mark III with OM 100mm f/2.8 lens

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

IR landcsape

Click image for larger view.

Hoya R72 filter. ISO 800, 1.6sec exposure and I think it was about f/8.

No modification to image other than convert to B&W and minor levels adjustment.

I even left in the stuck hot pixels of my Canon 1D Mark III to remind Canon that perhaps they could take the lead of Olympus and add a pixel mapping functionality to their cameras to eradicate this issue.

Interestingly, other IR images with this 100mm f/2.8 lens showed a rectangular central hotspot which presumably arises from light bouncing off the rear lens element and a shadow being cast by the camera’s mirror box as I can’t explain it any other way. This central rectangular hot spot is subtly visible to the right of this image as a lightening of the sky.

Infrared filter modification for Micro Four Thirds cameras – Panasonic G1 and GH1

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

You can now order a modified Panasonic G1 or GH1 so that the IR blocking filter has been replaced by a clear filter which will allow better hand held infrared photography and much better nebula astrophotography.

The momentum for Micro Four Thirds is escalating, although it would be nice if Panasonic or Olympus added live video output feed and improved remote camera control in future models to make them even more useful for astrophotography.

Hutech will modify your camera for $US500 or you can purchase a modified camera from them.

See here.

To shoot IR, you can just purchase an IR filter for the lens.

To shoot daylight, you will need the daylight filter and do a custom white balance.

If you do not want to use IR filters on the lens, and you wish to shoot IR, then replace the IR blocking filter with a 715nm filter – but you may also need to remove the dust-shaker glass (thus disabling dust protection) as it seems this also blocks IR, at least on the Panasonic cameras.

ps.. another conversion service in the USA (Precision) is discussed here

Here is an example of a hand held photo by Carl Schofield from a Precision IR-converted G1 using a 715nm conversion filter with 14-45mm kit lens at f/8, 1/320th sec (click for larger size):


At long last, I have picked up a Mamiya 55mm lens for my C330 medium format film camera

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

I have been watching Ebay for a couple of years for a good quality 55mm lens for my Mamiya C330 6×6 medium format TLR film camera, and at last I have bought one.

Why buy one of these??

One of my loves is film infrared photography.

Unfortunately Kodak stopped making their HIE 35mm film which is really the only film that gives good IR results with a see through red filter.

So now I am forced to use an opaque Hoya R72 infrared filter which on a SLR such as my Olympus OM or my Bronica SQAi 6×6 camera, I have to continuously remove the filter so I can compose and focus.

The Mamiya C330 is different as it has a separate viewing lens, thus you can leave the IR filter on the taking lens all the time and the only issue then is to guess how much to adjust the focus for IR, and guess the exposure.

The 55mm lens at last gives me a wide angle lens – approximately the view of a 35mm lens on a 35mm full frame camera.

Not only that, but I might also use it for street photography as a curiosity!

Can’t wait to get it and try it out :)

Some of my film infrared photos can be seen here, such as this HIE one taken with an Olympus OM2n and OM 21mm f/3.5 lens:


Micro Four Thirds does infrared photography and video hand held – what a wonderful surprise!

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

I love infrared photography. In the middle of the day when the light is not conducive to good landscape shots, you can always resort to infrared photography.

The problem with modern digital cameras is that with each new generation, the infrared blocking filter has been becoming stronger making IR exposures with an infrared filter such as a Hoya R72, longer and longer such that exposures of 10-25 secs in bright sunlight are not uncommon.

Up until now, I tend to use my Canon 1D Mark III with Olympus OM wide angle lenses on a tripod. You have to take the filter off, compose, manually focus the lens, then adjust the focus to the red marker on the lens to account for infrared wavelengths, reapply the IR filter (now you can’t see anything in the viewfinder or in live view), then guess the exposure manually.

OK, so that was not so much fun, especially carrying around your tripod, setting it up then deciding you didn’t like it anyway.

BUT, now there is Micro Four Thirds to the rescue, the EVF on the Panasonic GH-1 displays the IR image beautifully so, not only can you compose with the Hoya R72 filter on a Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens, but it will accurately autofocus it quickly (except in darker shadow areas), and in bright sunlight, you can do a carefully hand held shot at ISO 800, f/1.4, 1/15sec, and, not only this but you can bump up the ISO to 1600 and use 1/30th sec for HD video hand held – now that is cool!!

Of course, if you have your tripod, or you use an Olympus Micro Four Thirds with in-built image stabiliser, you can get away with lower ISO for still shots.

Here are a few quick ones I shot today with the GH-1 with Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 (with a 58mm Hoya R72 filter via a 62-58mm step down) – not the most exciting, but shows what is possible even on cloudy days (it was cold, windy and very cloudy today, so sorry I don’t have much full sunlight shots to show):

First, an optimistic hand held shot in cloudy lighting at ISO 800, 1/10th sec – a bit of camera blur, but you get the idea, and it shows a nice Wood’s effect (B&W film mode jpeg):

cloudy hand held 1/10th sec

Next, another cloudy day shot, this time the camera was partly supported on a wire fence at ISO 1600, f/1.4, 1/10th sec (Custom WB jpeg converted to monochrome in PS):

cloudy on a wire fence

Lastly, the sun came out briefly for a part sun shot, camera rested on a fence post, ISO 100, f/1.4, 1sec exposure (Custom WB jpeg converted to monochrome in PS):

ISO 100, sun

More information on infrared photography here.

More of my digital infrared photos here.

Now, if Olympus can bring out an image stabilised MFT camera with a nice EVF, then hand held infrared photography will be even easier.

I have just checked and the exposure for IR is practically the same on the Olympus E510 as on the Panasonic GH-1, so what I am really seeing is the benefit of the superb f/1.4 aperture of the Leica-D 25mm lens. The advantage of the E510 is that it is image stabilised but the advantage of the GH-1 is not only its video capability but the EVF allows full time composition and ability to quickly AF rather than rely on the cumbersome MF assist live view of the E510.

Canon 5D MII has even stronger IR blocking filter than Canon 1DMIII

Friday, March 27th, 2009

ADDENDUM: OOPS – well all may not be lost, re-tested today with Hoya R72 filter instead of Lee 730nm IR technical filter (which starts transmission at 730nm) and IR is possible with similar settings as for the Canon 1DMIII so I surmise that the Canon 5DMII has a stronger IR blocking filter than the Canon 1DMIII which prevents use of the Lee filter but still allows use of the Hoya R72 filter which starts transmission at 700nm, is 50% by 720nm and 85% transmission by 750nm.

Those who read my blogs and my web pages on IR will know that I love infrared photography – both film and digital (my digital IR photos here).

For digital I use the Olympus E510 (as you can even compose in bright sunlight with f/2 lens and live view BOOST), and the Canon 1DMIII.

Yesterday, my friend who has a Canon 5DMII asked me to help him do IR with it, but I found it was impossible using the Lee 730nm IR filter (marginally higher cut-off than a Hoya R72).

Using a Lee 730nm technical filter with Canon EF 24-105mm IS L lens, these are the results in bright sunlight in late afternoon to get adequate histogram on red channel:

Canon 1DMIII: ISO 400, f/5.6, 25sec – my usual exposure (similar to what I use with Hoya R72 on this camera).

Canon 5DMII: ISO 3200, f/4, 30sec – BUT the image was just a normal colour image with little if any Woods IR effect.

Thus I surmise that the IR blocking filter in the Canon 5DMII is so strong that almost NO IR light gets through it, and that using the Lee 730nm filter acts as a 26 stop neutral density filter.

This makes infrared photography impossible with this camera and the Lee filter without removing the IR blocking filter but fortunately the Hoya R72 filter does work.

Presumably the Canon 50D and 500D will have the same IR blocking filter.

Surprisingly, there are very few reliable reports on the internet via Google search to give examples of IR use.

If you feel like wasting your time reading through this thread on a forum which specifically asks if the 5DMII can do infrared, every response was it should, look what I can do with a Canon 10D or 40D – BUT NO ONE until my friend (sbolch) posted our experiments yesterday. I can see why I can’t be bothered wasting my time reading those forum threads anymore – if people don’t know the answer or can offer helpful advice then why do they bother posting?

The big question then becomes, will the Panasonic DSC-GH1 Micro Four Thirds digital camera with its much better video capability allow IR video and still photography – if anyone has the answers to that I would love to know!

While discussing the Canon 5DMII, another review of it has been published here.

Another example of digital infrared – cloudy vs sunny

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Just before leaving the farmhouse in the previous post, I decided to go back to the car and get my digital infrared setup – in this case, the Canon 1DMIII, Olympus OM 21mm lens, tripod & Hoya R72 filter.

First an initial shot without the IR filter:

normal colour photo

Yep, it’s a nice old farmhouse, but the lighting had changed and it was now overcast and so as a color image it is a nice documentary image but not much more of merit.

Let’s see how it looks in IR, firstly under cloud cover and I guessed an exposure of 30secs, f/5.6 at ISO 100 which on checking the RGB histogram was pretty much spot on.

Image white balance using Lightroom, levels adjusted in PS and cropped.

cloudy IR

As you can see we have a nice Wood’s IR effect with grass and leaves becoming almost white while the blue sky is almost black. The long exposure resulted in motion effects of the clouds.

Just before I packed up, the sun came out and so I quickly guessed this one at f/8, 20secs which resulted in a fairly accurate exposure on RGB histogram. Processed as for previous image.

sunlit IR

Personally, I like the sunlit image as the sunlight has created more local contrasts which adds to the image.

more digital infrared here

Digital infrared – Olympus E510 + ZD 50mm macro

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Just to prove you don’t need an expensive camera like the Canon 1DMIII in my last post, or a IR-modified camera to do digital infrared photography, this post is to show you that the Olympus dSLRs have some advantages over other un-modified dSLRs.

IR beach

As with the Canon 1DMIII and other current un-modified dSLRs, the strong IR blocking filter means you will need to use a tripod and long exposure times which can be an advantage as mentioned in the previous post.

I chose the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens for this IR beach shot as it has a 52mm filter thread and thus I can use an inexpensive 52mm Hoya R72 filter on this lens and via a 49-52mm step up ring, on the Olympus OM wide angle lenses (On the Canon and the Olympus, I can use the 21mm, 24mm and 28mm lenses all with 49mm threads).

Another reason I used this lens is that its wide aperture combined with Olympus’ unique Live Boost live preview means I can compose and autofocus in bright sunlight, and indeed, you can actually see enough in the optical viewfinder to compose in bright sunlight.

It also has the advantage I don’t have to manually close down the aperture as with the OM lenses.

Otherwise, the technique is similar to that I posted for the Canon 1DMIII.

Here is another shot with sepia toning:

sepia IR

To get this shot, I used a very compact cheap tripod in the water so it is not as steady as the previous one, and to top it off just after the shot was completed, a wave splashed over my E510, but incredibly, after a bit of a rushed shake and clean down, it kept working and has done so ever since (fingers crossed).