DIY Permanent Infrared DSLR Camera





Introduction: DIY Permanent Infrared DSLR Camera

This instructable is based on another DIY tutorial, what I found on the web, of course changed here and there a bit to suit my possibilities.

I will not talk about infrared photography more than this DIY tutorial needs. There are plenty of informations on the net, even here on or in books.

There are a few ways to take infrared photos.
The simple way is to use a plugin, or play in Photoshop curves and colors, but that always just some fake copy of an original infrared picture.
Most common is to buy an infrared filter, put to your lens and use it. There are several disadvantages with this. First the camera has a built in IR filter to block the IR rays. Second, you can not see and focus too much when the filter is on, so need a tripod, frame the shoot without the filter, fix the tripod, attach the filter, set the shutter (which will be long regarding the dark IR glass) and take your shoot. The IR filter will allow only IR rays to go through but the IR blocker at the sensor is filtering out, so those bright whites will fade out a bit and still need a lot of Photoshop to have that stunning effect! If you have many lenses with different size, then more filter needed or conversion rings. 
The best way to use an IR camera, dedicated for IR shooting, but those are rare and expensive...

And you all know what is left! Do It Yourself :)

Obviously nobody wants to ruin an expensive camera, especially if it won't take normal pictures anymore, therefore the best thing is to buy some good older camera which is easy to modify. To use any of my Nikon lenses on the infrared camera I picked  an older, but not too old D80.
The requirements were to have a big enough LCD, handle lenses with no focus motor built in, and have some advanced options to set up the camera for IR pictures.

The used D80 was 130 euro. A used but perfect small IR filter was 18 euro.

The price of a good (HOYA) IR lens filter in 77mm size what I can use on my lenses and some additional converter rings cost 130+30  euro. See disadvantages above.

Step 1: Tools, Materials

- used Nikon D80 camera
- any 50+mm IR filter

To open the camera only one tool needed, a Philips 00 screwdriver. Just in case I had a small precise tweezer with me.
To cut the filter to the desired size I used a water-jet machine, but it can be cut by hand.

Step 2: Step by Step

The D80 camera is very easy to open. See the pictures to follow.

- Loose the 4 screws on the bottom.
- Remove the 2-2 screws from the sides.
- Open the battery door and gently pull the bottom plate, meanwhile open the CF card door and gently pull the back panel.  With a  screwdriver you can help a bit to unclip that little notch on the back panel from the bottom plate.
- Flip the back panel up.
- Open that little black plastic lock to disconnect the flat-wires between the back panel and the camera.
- Remove the marked screws on the picture and remove the metal panel. 
- Open that two black plastic locks to disconnect the flat-wires between the PCB and the body.
- One more screw to go!
- Flip the panel upright. Fix it with some tape in this position.
- Next, the sensor panel! Remove those three screws, gently pull up the bottom side and pull downward the panel. 
- Flip the big PCB panel down followed by the sensor panel. 
- The greenish protector glass is the IR blocking filter. That is what we need to replace.
- Unscrew the 4 screws around and remove that holder frame followed by the glass frame.
- Remove the filter glass.

The replacement IR filter  needs to be cut to a certain size. I followed the recessed grooves on the rubber surface around the sensor. According to it, the new filter glass size is 29,5 mm x 25 mm. The glass goes under the glass frame but only on the top and bottom.

The new filter is thicker than the original, but the holder frame still have enough tension to hold it down. Before installing, it need to be cleaned very well! 

After the new filter has been replaced I assembled the camera. Just do it in reversed order.

Step 3: Cutting the Filter

I can access a water-jet cutting machine, you can say its easy like that. Yeah indeed there some advantages. :) However it can be cut by hand or find a water-jet company to cut it for you. 

First, I removed the glass from the frame by pulling that ring out which holds the glass in place. Then I taped the glass from both side with masking tape to avoid any scratch on it, than with duct tape I fixed it to a piece of wood to avoid it to slip during the cutting process.

All I needed is square piece in 29.5 x 25 mm. 

Step 4: Test Images

The next day I took the camera to do some test shots. 

The plane shots from the IR camera looks monochrome red. Some setup required to achieve a nice results.

I set the white balance manually to the minimum to offset the red color more to the blue. The images are saved to RAW to have more control during the post process, and set the ISO to 100 to have less noise.

I am pretty satisfied with the pictures what I took. Interesting to see, that even if it's not sunny, the foliage reflect a lot of IR rays. As I see, darker the foliage, more IR rays it reflects. The human eye is weirdly dark, same as a car or any window, since the glass is blocking the IR rays. However the sunglasses are a bit see through! The blue sky is black, the clouds are just popping out.  

The purplish camera pictures need some more white balance tweak during the post process. I pull it more down as much I can, and offset it to the blue color. Or just switch the hole thing to black & white. From this point this is matter of personal taste. As long I have RAW file I can always revert to the original and start it over.



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    Please be positive and constructive.




    Best regards
    Good job. When changing the optical filter did you have to adjust the focus of the camera in manual and automatic?
    Thank you

    Yes, a lot! There is that imbus(hex) slot screw behind the mirror where I had to adjust the focus. Actually I had to add a thin tape over the screw to have the correct setting.

    I'm just about to do this myself too, ordered a diamond dremel 20mm disc for cutting though, had trouble finding a water jet cutting machine. One question from me, what is the best frequency pass filter to use, while researching I found there were many that differ slightly in the frequency, from 700nm, 720nm, and so on. I ordered the 720nm half bandwidth, with max scope from 800 to 1200nm. how do these vary ?

    hi, I am trying to do this witj a small camera DV150f from samsungs, but I can not find the IR filter, I already opened and looked between the sensor and lenses and there is no filter as the one I am accostume to see, becasues thi is my third camera conversion. Thanks for the help

    Well, it may not have IR filter. Same as mobile phones, they dont have. If you fotograph a tv or any IR remote LED, while you pressing any button and you can see some light on the camera's screen, then it does not have. Or maybe it is not at the sensor but somewhere in the lens element. Whitout that filter holder would be very difficult to fix it.

    So maybe that camera wont work.


    Hi Zorwick I did the thing with the remote LED and there was no sign of light on the camera´s screen.

    So it is weird, I am lost with this camera.


    is there any body know where can sell used infrared camera lens

    ebay has the filters

    Hi! I tried to convert my Nikon D70 into an IR-camera myself. I followed carefully step by step the tutorials on the internet (youtube and others), but the only thing I didn't do is to exchange the original filter with an IR-filter (because, according to one tutorial it wasn't necessary...). When I tried my camera it didn't quite work. I can view the previous pictures stored in the memory card but it doesn't seem to be able to register any new photographs. I tried to reformat the memory card and try again a message on the LCD-screen appeared: "THIS CARD CANNOT BE USED". I don't think is the card though... I tried the same card on another camera and it works just fine. So I'm afraid I happened to damage my camera.

    What could have possibly gone wrong? Do you have any idea of what the problem can be? Is it possible to fix?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    Well, check if you plugged back all of the little connectors...

    You wrote, that you did not replace the filter with an IR filter...than how would you have IR camera? If you did not put any protection glass front of the sensor, it will be damaged by even a piece of dirt.