Mirrorless Infrared Photography

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

There are two ways to capture digital infrared images with mirrorless camera: The first is by using an infrared filter such as the Hoya R72 to the camera’s lens. Other filters, such as Singh Ray’s I-Ray or Cokin’s A007 filter, are available. The second option is having the camera converted to IR-only operation from companies, such as LifePixel, that offer IR conversions for some mirrorless cameras.

The advantage of using a filter is that it is relatively inexpensive but because the filter is so dense, it will produce long exposure times. IR-conversion is more expensive and from that point on you can only use the camera for IR-capture, which may or may not be a problem. The upside is that it can then be used like any other camera producing typically hand holdable shutter speeds—no tripod necessary.

mirrorless infrared photography

For the below pair of shots above, I attached a 52mm Hoya R72 filter to a Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens mounted on a Panasonic Lumix G5 and immediately saw positive results on the camera’s LCD. The camera responded well in Manual exposure mode and when I shifted into Program mode it produced acceptable exposures through the dense filter. The G5’s autofocus system also blasted right through the filter and quickly focused on the subject matter.

The image at left is a perfect infrared test subject: A deciduous tree bracketed by two evergreens that don’t reflect as much IR radiation along with blue sky and white clouds. Exposure for the first shot was of 1/400 sec at f/10 and ISO 400. The image at right, with the R2 filter in place, produced an exposure of 2.5 sec at f/4.8 and ISO 400. If you shoot in Monochrome mode you’ll bet a black and white image as shown here. If you shoot in RAW, you’ll need to do some processing as shown here.

Caveat: This was the case for the Panasonic Lumix G5, other mirrorless cameras may behave differently so the only way to find out what works for your camera is to try it with an infrared filter that you borrow or purchase with the understanding that if it doesn’t work you can return it. Next week, we’ll take a Olympus camera that has been converted to IR-only capture and see what happens.

IR.book My book,The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography,is out-of-print but used copies are available from Amazon at $8.95, as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new copies at a giveaway—less than $3— price.