Introduction: DIY Permanent Infrared DSLR Camera

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.


AlexN69 (author)2017-05-09

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

zorwick (author)AlexN692017-05-09

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.

OwenB12 (author)2015-12-08

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 ?

Cesarini (author)2015-09-17

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

zorwick (author)Cesarini 2015-09-17

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.


Cesarini (author)zorwick2015-09-18

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.


Hughleal (author)2015-05-18

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

snelson43 (author)Hughleal2015-06-01

ebay has the filters

di.mongar (author)2014-09-28

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.

zorwick (author)di.mongar2014-09-28

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.

di.mongar (author)zorwick2014-09-29

Thank you very much for your response!

I have checked twice all those small connectors and they appear to be properly reconnected... I'll check it once again.

About the IR-filter... I thought that there was a filter blocking the IR "light" and that it was enough just to take away the original filter. Maybe I'm wrong hahaha. I'll buy a proper IR-filter.

LamarC1 (author)di.mongar2015-05-02

The error "THIS CARD CANNOT BE USED".is 99.999% of the time, the ribbon cable not being inserted deep enough into the board connector. I had the same problem with two Nikon D70 I converted for myself. Checked many times, and it all looked correctly connected. WRONG!!! If you keep getting this error is because STILL NOT PROPERLY CONNECTED.

ruppaw (author)2015-04-25

Hey, I have converted a few point and shoots for problem. Recently I got a d3000 to try and convert to full spectrum but the screws were all locked in to tight and I stripped the ones the held in the hot mirror, so I re-soldered it and sold it. trying to figure out where to go from here. Does anyone have an experience with d3000’s, could it have just been a problem with mine? are there other cheap nikons that are easier to dismantle?

Byte_M3 (author)2014-10-24

Nevermind, I get it, it doesnt filter out IR, but visible light

Byte_M3 (author)2014-10-24

Why do you put a new IR filter inside the camera? Isn't it better to use just a piece of glass?

JOSUESTEIN (author)2014-03-08

hello. I'm doing the process with the Nikon D70s.

What the new IR filter is thicker does not cause problems in the rest of the camera?

hola. estoy haciendo el proceso con la Nikon D70s.

¿que el nuevo filtro IR sea más grueso no causa problemas en el resto de la camara?

saludos desde Venezuela

zorwick (author)JOSUESTEIN2014-03-09


The D70 is almost the same as D80, so it should not be a problem to convert it. The IR filter what I use is 2mm thick, but still fit. The most important is to open your camera and see what size you need exactly. Because the original IR block filter is carved to a special shape, I could not do that, that is why I had to check what size could fit. I dont know if there is any difference with the sensor between the D70 and D80, so check it first. That flexible frame what holds the original filter can take thick pieces. Changing the filter is not effecting any other parts or the function of the camera. It can be turned back to normal if you want later.

Before the final assembly make sure the edge of the new filter is sanded, all little particles cleaned carefully. And never touch the sensor itself!

After assembling the camera, I experienced some back focus issues, but it can be fixed following this website:

Some lens, mainly the wide angle types, could have IR hotspot, what is an unwanted light spot on the middle of the picture. Its because the inside paint/coating of the lens barrel is reflecting the IR light. It happens with my Tokina 11-16 lens, and its visible on my photos.

My test photos:

Good luck!


JOSUESTEIN (author)2014-03-08

para hacer el mejor Balance de Blanco, usa una kodak Carta Gris de 18%.

to make the best White Balance, using a Kodak Gray Card 18%.

saludos desde Venezuela


zmashiah (author)2013-09-22

Great stuff. I played around with IR photography and like it very much. You didn't mention swapping the Red and Blue channels on the photo. Basically after downloading the picture to PC, use some tool (Photoshop for example, or RawTherapy) to make all Reds into Blue and all Blues into Red. If you don't own Photoshop or just Photoshop Elements, you can use this tool I wrote that swaps the channels:

If you want to use Photoshop, here is a text explaining how to use the color mixer:

zorwick (author)zmashiah2013-09-22

It is not necesseary to swap the blue and the red channel. In this article I did not want to write about post processing, only about one of a way of IR conversions. To edit the pictures on computer is a different thing and I leave it for everyone's personal taste.

trophygeek (author)2013-09-19

Great post! Love the effect. Another super easy camera to convert is the Sony NEX-5 which are pretty cheap on ebay. I followed this video: and had one that could take video, etc.

I'm curious why you put an internal IR filter into the camera? It's kind of nice to use different filters on the lens.

In fact, one can return the camera to near normal photography by adding a "UV / IR Cut" lens filter. These can be found on ebay for various lens sizes and ship from China for < $35. They should have kind of red and blue hue to them.

I've played with a lot of cheap filters from ebay and LOVE the 850mn IR and CC90M (which produces exaggerated colors). IR in black and white mode produces some super clear photos because the lens is focusing on a narrow bandwidth of light.

Tattoos are also interesting in IR for some reason. And then you'll get random surprises like this: 

zorwick (author)trophygeek2013-09-20

The advantage to have the filter at the sensor is, that you see through on the viewfinder and have auto focus. A filter on the lens would be dark, hardly see anything to frame the picture, and the focus wont work.
If the filter is on the lens, you need a tripod, frame the picture fix the tripod, fix the focus, put on the filter and take the shot. Its much easier to do it with a built-in IR filter and handheld camera. For normal picture of course you need another camera.

trophygeek (author)zorwick2013-09-20

Ah right. It depends on the camera type. Great point!

The NEX-5 series is a mirrorless camera, so you see what the sensor sees, which is just fine in the IR range. Focus works the same way.

BTW, focusing might be incorrect using the sensor-filter approach vs the lens approach.

Different wavelengths have different focal points. (The common example is how a prism functions. The index of refraction that varies with frequency.) This is also why putting a UV filter on a camera produces cleaner images. If the focus mechanism is using a full light spectrum, then it will be averaging across all of white light, but the camera is only using the low end light.

It would be an interesting experiment to add another IR filter to the lens and see how that impacts focus. You might use a 650mn filter which should let more visible light through, but it might be enough to fix focus. The sensor filter will still give you great images.

zorwick (author)trophygeek2013-09-21

On my D80, the focusing is happening before the sensor, through the mirrors and the lens. In this case that has nothing to do with the IR filter. However I had a huge back focus problem, but it might be because the camera is old. As I mentioned in one of my other comment, it has been solved.

Indeed , different filter would give different result. Well, if I bump into some other wavelength filter I shall see.

wow cool photo

dwosullivan (author)2013-09-19

Very nice work! Is there an advantage of adding the IR filter at the sensor? It seems to me that if you remove the IR blocker filter in front of the sensor and then reassemble you could just add the IR filter to the front of your lens? or have you mainly done it this way to save money by not having to purchase a 77mm filter. I would be interested to see what an image would look like without the IR blocker filter or the IR filter, so allowing visible and IR light to hit the sensor.
Now I just need to find an old canon dslr!

zorwick (author)dwosullivan2013-09-20

The advantage to have the filter at the sensor is, that you see through on the viewfinder and have auto focus. A filter on the lens would be dark, hardly see anything to frame the picture, and the focus wont work.

dwosullivan (author)zorwick2013-09-20

but it would work in liveview right?, I mean the viewfinder, the auto focus should work as well being contrast detect?
Really nice work, I remember shooting IR on film and have always meant to do some more digitally.

zorwick (author)dwosullivan2013-09-21

Honestly I don't know about live view due the D80 does not support it, but I guess you see the infrared image since the picture is recorded on the sensor already. If there is enough contrast, it might works.

zacker (author)2013-09-17

can you make an IR blocker filter that goes on the lens to off set the IR filter in the camera so you can take regular photos if you want to?

zorwick (author)zacker2013-09-17

Only if you remove the IR blocker and leave it as it is, or just replace with an UV filter or a protector glass to protect the sensor itself. Then you can attach your IR filter to your lens. But! For normal pictures you need an IR blocking filter...which I don't now if it exists.

trophygeek (author)zorwick2013-09-20

The internal sensor filter limits light to the visible range. So it is bocks both UV and IR light.

You have to buy a UV / IR Cut filter to return the camera to normal use. These can be found on ebay.

zorwick (author)trophygeek2013-09-20

Thanks for the info!

zacker (author)zorwick2013-09-17


dddddd (author)2013-09-19

Some of the color cast is a result of the differential response of the integrated Bayer filter elements (the red, green and blue filters that are fabricated right on the sensor) to infrared.

We were doing some electroluminescent imaging with a converted Nikon D90, and were able to see that the red Bayer filter elements transmitted the infrared the best, followed by the green and the blue. We just discarded the green and blue channels.

Focus shift for infrared was a serious problem. The camera would autofocus using contrast sensors on the prism, but the resulting infrared focus was of course behind the film plane. We solved this problem by telling the camera to flip up the mirror, and used the image from the CCD to set the focus (with an infrared LED beacon on the subject so that we had something that we could see on the screen to focus on), and then focussing manually.

Finally, the lens introduced a lot of aberration, especially when the aperture was wide open. The lens is not designed for infrared, and we had to stop it down to get acceptable performance.

We used a manual cable release most of the time to get acceptable exposures, as we spent most of our time in the bulb setting on the camera, and some of our exposures were in the 15 minute region.

zorwick (author)dddddd2013-09-20

One of my ultra wild lens has a same problem, it has a hotspot on small apertures, unfortunately I can not do anything with it. Its there because the IR reflects inside the lens barrel. That coating is not designed for IR photography. Other lenses are fine.

The focus is indeed a problem. I had to do some weird solution to get the focus right. I had horrible back-focus and the manual adjustment did not help. So I put some tape to that eccentric screw where I can set the back or front focus....its not a nice way, but at least it worked.

horphmyre (author)2013-09-19

I love the photographs.

zorwick (author)horphmyre2013-09-20


hhuang (author)2013-09-19

Wow, those are really amazing pictures! Somehow it looks they are from the 50's or so and taken during the winter time :D. Awesome! I will keep this amazing instructable in mind, when i have the money and time to fumble around :D

zorwick (author)hhuang2013-09-19

Thank you! Indeed the foliage look like snow :)

onemoroni1 (author)2013-09-19

I am impressed with your project. Although I am intermediate in the skill of photography and stuck on film I would like to try IR because of your examples.

zorwick (author)onemoroni12013-09-19

Thank you! Well with film its more easy, just pop up the filter to the lens! There is no IR blocker filter there, and I think you need some infrared film.

andrea biffi (author)2013-09-17

That's GREAT! I wanted to do something similar on my old Canon 20D. What do you mean with "some advanced options to set up the camera for IR pictures" when you speak about requirements? Thanks!

zorwick (author)andrea biffi2013-09-17

I meant a camera with low white balance values, a possibly black and white option while shooting. It helps a lot to see the picture on the camera screen in B&W, not that red or purple colour. However if its raw, it can be edited on computer and tweak a lot in Lightroom. It is just convenient.

zorwick (author)zorwick2013-09-19

I forgot one more important thing...It is really handy to have a camera which can show the RGB histogram. The red channel is the closest to the IR and sometimes its a surprise, how different from the single histogram, and in IR I need to see only the red channel. My experience with this camera to under exposure the images with -1, -1,5, sometimes -2 stops. The red channel is still shows more data in the lighter areas, but it can be controlled very well when I edit the images on computer.

zorwick (author)andrea biffi2013-09-17

BTW, I see you are in Europe, so it wont be a problem if you want to do something similar and you have a filter plus the dimension of the replacement filter, just send it to me, I cut it for you! :)

andrea biffi (author)zorwick2013-09-18

Thanks Zorwick I'll keep that in mind :-)

bob3030 (author)2013-09-17

Really cool images. Great info for anyone that would like to take their photography in another direction. Thank you for posting.

aidanjarosgrilli (author)2013-09-16


About This Instructable




Bio: Hungarian guy in The Netherlands. Check my website for nixie clocks!
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