Do you like infrared photography? Me too. So much, in fact, that I got a dedicated camera for it. What I mean by this is that I got the “hot mirror” (the piece of plastic in front of the sensor that reflects infrared light, preventing it from ruining your normal pictures) replaced by a piece of plastic that blocks anything that isn’t infrared light (anything below 720nm). This makes the camera unable to take pictures that are not infrared, but it eliminates the need for a tripod or long exposures. In fact, some exposures are normally faster in certain regards. In broad daylight, for example, I feel like I get more light and faster shutter speeds with higher f/values than with my normal wavelength cameras (inside, away from the sun, however, the exact opposite is the case). Also, composing an image is as easy as with a normal camera now. Instead of having to look through a dark, dark filter that prevents one from making out any detail in a scene you look through a clear viewfinder out of a normal lens. However, all of these benefits don’t come cheap…
I had to get a new camera and then I had to get it converted, which is a specialty service that costs just too, too much. Let’s itemize everything…
1. A camera to get converted – I spent $250 on a “lightly” used D70, you could spend less or more so I’ll leave this open
I would definitely recommend getting an SLR to convert because then you get the benefit of every single lens that can fit on the camera (or rather that you own) instead of a fixed lens. Because filter threading no longer matters as the filter is internal, lenses are as changeable as ever. I’d count this as a huge plus, and something to spend some extra money on.
2. DIY conversion kit / Conversion service with kit – ~$50 for a kit depending on filter type (see false color filters, or high contrast B&W 830nm filters versus the normal 720nm filter) or $500/$250 for a conversion service and kit
A DIY conversion is risky because you literally have to take your camera apart piece by piece and then successfully put it back together. This involves soldering, avoiding the electrifying flash trigger, and knowing your way around the inner workings of a camera. You void all warranties and any dust you let accumulate in the camera can wreck the camera or ruin the sensor, so be careful if you do this route. It’s cheap and quicker for sure, but it was too scary for me.
Using a conversion service is a somewhat safer bet (I’d recommend using Life Pixel because they did a great job of converting my camera). The warranty is still voided on the camera, and the company/man or woman in their shed does not claim responsibility for the camera because they “did not know if the camera was broken before you sent it to them.” But you have to assume that they will really know what they’re doing a little more and will be working in more cleanly conditions than your house (think white factories and gloves; the whole nine yards). Even with the conversion service, you must still pay based on the filter you wish to install into your camera so the price will still vary. Also, for Life Pixel at least, there is an off season discount of 50%! Off season for infrared is in winter because there are no leaves to look awesome in infrared, so wait for the cooler months for a great deal on this (and by that I mean the $250 that I paid).
3. Shipping – $$$ I hate it. It always takes way too long. You understand.
Well, that’s a shorter list than I though. Anyway, you’re still looking at anywhere from $200 to $800 dollars – quite a pretty penny. Maybe if I itemize the pro’s and con’s you’ll see why I did this.
No filter, all lenses will work
Hand-held exposure times
Accurate autofocus (with conversion service, your camera’s AF system can be made to adjust for the IR spectrum)
Easier work flow and white balance presetting
Specialized equipment – there’s no going back from this one ( at least not without another $250!)
Bag space – do you really want to carry around another camera body? It’s more than you’d think
You look pompous
I am glad that I invested in this camera because I really love the look of infrared and could no longer handle working with the filter. Note that I still have to deal with channel mixing and all the other photoshop rigmarole, but the actual shooting is so much easier and better. Good luck deciding for yourself. I hope that this helps you!