Is Your Mirrorless Camera IR Sensitive?

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Most of the sensors used in digital camera are sensitive to more than just visible light, which can cause color balance problems. That’s why some manufacturers often place a filter in front of the imaging chip blocking excessive infrared light. This filter rejects infrared light while protecting your images from color errors and desaturation without loss of ISO speed. An anti-aliasing filter performs these functions and reduces scene aliasing and moiré. Sometimes when a digital photograph is displayed on a monitor, you’ll see jagged edges around objects. These rough edges are caused by aliasing, which results from signal errors produced by the interaction of two other signals. Techniques that smooth out these jaggies are called anti-aliasing.

A camera’s infrared capability is often overlooked when cameras are reviewed in photographic magazines and a lots of other blogs. While the chips in most digital cameras are fitted with that internal infrared cut-off filer designed to reduce IR contamination, some cameras let enough IR through to allow at least some, what techies call, near infrared photography.

One of Farace’s Laws is that most Leica, Olympus and Panasonic cameras can be used with the appropriate filters to capture infrared images. I can’t speak for Fuji and Sony digital cameras because I haven’t been allowed to test their infrared capabilities. Like everything in digital imaging this is subject to change. So you’ll need to test your own camera to find out. How do you do it?

Whenever I get a new camera, I run down to the family room and give it the “remote control test” that’s one of the easiest ways to check to see if your digicam is infrared capable: Point a TV remote control at the lens and take a picture or look at the image on the LCD screen. If you see a point of light, you’re ready to make IR digital images with the appropriate filters. What happens if your camera fails the test and you want to shoot some IR images? The best course of action is convert your camera—or any camera—to IR-only capture as was done on the Panasonic Lumix G5 and G6 that were used to make today’s photographs.

IR.bookMy book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon for under $6. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new copies under $6 and used copies for less than three bucks. You can buy’em both for less than $1o.