Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Favorite Infrared Camera Kit


I’ve been shooting infrared now for several years.  I’ve had the opportunity to shoot various cameras converted into infrared over that time, and have come away with varying degrees of success, both due to my increasing (I would hope) skills and also due to the gear I’ve used.

The Camera - Panasonic Lumix GX1

There are a ton of options for camera conversions, from unused “point and shoots” to DSLRs that have fallen by the wayside, dropped in value, and considered not worth selling because they would get very little money. Most IR converted cameras fall into that camp, and to a large degree, it’s not such a bad thing. It’s always best to target a specific camera model for conversion because of its specific benefits for use in infrared. I believe the Panasonic Lumix GX1 is such a camera. Feature-wise, the Lumix GX1 has what I believe are the essentials for great infrared photography, such as;
  • Compact size
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Full photographic features (eg. manual controls)
  • Relatively large sensor
  • A ton of available accessories

The Len(s)

Your lens choices will be mostly influenced by your creative style rather than anythings else, notwithstanding image quality of course.  For me, it will be towards the wider angle lenses.

Those of you who are familiar with the micro four thirds format will know that the Panasonic Leica (also known as PanaLeica) 15mm f/1.7 wide angle prime lens, is one of the most highly regarded lenses in the Lumix lineup, and with good reason.
  • Bright, and fast!
  • Very sharp across the frame.
  • External lens aperture ring!
  • Lightweight, all metal construction.

Other Accessories

You can see in the above image that there are a few other items that I consider essentials in my kit. One is the Panasonic electronic viewfinder DMW-LVF2;

Although it’s not absolutely necessary, I highly recommend it, as it allows better visibility when shooting in bright daylight (one of my favorite conditions to shoot IR in).
Another is the ExpoDisc EXPOD2–77 2.0 Professional White Balance Filter;

While not a cheap accessory, and admittedly a controversial one in terms of actual need, I consider it essential. If you are at all serious about infrared, you’ll know that capturing with the correct white balance is extremely important (assuming you’re shooting in IR bands other than 820nm (B/W). Yes, there are alternatives, such as adjusting white balance in post, however I’ve found that my best results have been when I measure and set a manual white balance.
Lastly, I have on my camera a Really Right Stuff “L” Plate;.

Really Right Stuff L Plate
Really Right Stuff “L” Plate

Pretty steep at $120, but I was fortunate to buy this one used from a friend. If your lucky, you can also find a used one for SIGNIFICANTLY less.

As much as in any other type of photography, success will depend more on the photographer’s skills than on the gear used.  Infrared does not change this.  In fact, it exacerbates it.  You must still know the craft, still know and recognize the relevant techniques, and still pay your dues with lots of skunked trips and significant head scratching when you review your images, only to find many are soft, downright out of focus, or just so damn poor that it hurts you just to look at them.

But by far, the gear you use for infrared will invariably make a significant difference in your success. And I must say that this little set-up has definitely helped in increasing my success rate when I go out for some IR work.