What is a full spectrum conversion?

The full spectrum camera conversion

A full spectrum camera conversion is a modification where the camera’s internal IR cut filter is removed and replaced with a clear filter, making the camera sensitive to UV, visible, and IR light. At this point, the camera is useful for astrophotography and low light applications where having as much sensitivity as possible is helpful. On it’s own, it is also useful for some B+W photography and can lower the noise in the shadows.

Why convert a camera to full spectrum?
The big benefit of full spectrum is that it allows you to put external filters on the lens to narrow the sensitivity to a certain range. Putting an IR filter on the lens will still allow for handheld infrared photography, just like a converted camera. Alternatively, using a hotmirror filter you can use the camera to take normal pictures. Putting a UV bandpass filter lets you take ultraviolet pictures (provided you use a good UV lens). Filters are available here. This is the most flexible conversion you can get, giving you 7+ options in one camera. Most importantly, it lets you still shoot normal color photography by using our hot mirror filter, meaning that you only have to carry one camera with you.

Best cameras for a full spectrum conversion

Full spectrum has some problems specific to a DSLR. Because most infrared filters are opaque, you will not be able to compose with the viewfinder with the filter on the lens. The autofocus and exposure systems also rely on visible light, making them inaccurate when the filter is on the lens. While exposures will be short, the obstructed viewfinder still makes shooting challenging.
To get the most out of a full spectrum conversion, it is good to choose a mirrorless camera or a camera with live view. With live view, you can compose and shoot regularly even with the IR filter on the lens. With that combination, it is possible to use a filter for normal photography, the best filters for color IR photography, another filter for B&W IR, and even filters for UV photography. DSLRs with live view and mirrorless cameras are very good for the full spectrum conversion because of this added flexibility. Some point and shoots have threaded lenses that will accept filters, others have adapters available, either in the form of an adapter tube or a stick on thread adapter, such as the one Lensmate makes. It is also possible to glue a filter adapter onto the lenses of most compact cameras to let them accept external filters.

Related articles:
Choosing a Filter, DSLR and Compacts Color Performance, Choosing a Camera, CDHK

What is a full spectrum conversion?
Article Name
What is a full spectrum conversion?
A full spectrum camera conversion involves replacing the camera's internal IR cut filter with clear glass, making the camera IR, visible, and UV sensitive.
Publisher Name
Kolari Vision

16 thoughts on “What is a full spectrum conversion?

  1. Hi Kolari,

    Can I shoot handheld or a faster shutter speed with a Full Spectrum converted camera + IR Filter (Any)?

    1. Hi!

      Yes, in most lighting situations the full spectrum will allow handheld speeds even with dark IR filters over the lens.

  2. Very honest and informative.
    I just bought Panasonic DMC-SZ 27 full spectrum camera from you. I am going to try it and see how it works out. I am interested in pure infrared photographs.
    I wonder what filter can I use on this camera. It has 52mm ring.
    Thank you

    1. Thank you! That camera is compatible with the 590, 665, 720, 850, and blue IR filters to achieve IR results. The 850 is technically the only “pure” IR filter, the rest let in some amount of red light as well. The 720 is close to a pure IR filter but lets in just a little red which allows for color IR with a channel swap.

  3. Hi I have a 665nm Conversion, can I add a 850nm filter to it and does that give me the look of that 850nm filter, i.e deep black & white, also would I have to custom a new white balance when or if I add the filter. Thanks for your time

  4. With an 850nm converted camera, can I use a filter to achieve the aerochrome look ?

    1. Unfortunately now. The Irchrome filter requires a full-spectrum camera to deliver the aerochrome-style look. The 550nm can also achieve this style, but it is not compatible with an 850nm conversion either.

  5. Do I loose quality, if I use a Full spectrum conv. with the hot mirror filter compared to a non converted ? All in case of regular use.

    1. You will not lose image quality with this equipment setup, but you may need to fine-tune color balance in post-processing as it can be slightly off depending on the camera model and your white balance settings.

  6. Hi, does a full spectrum conversion plus a CC filter lead to the same performance in B+W as a real monochrome conversion?
    thank you and regards
    Emile Gostelie

    1. Hello Emile,

      In short, yes.
      The reason is that IR filters placed over the sensor and the external filters both block visible light and generally are the same material.
      I have both cameras and can’t tell the difference in normal photography.
      Now, with that said, you will need IR bandpass filters. That is filters that pass IR light only, say the 850nm wavelength for pure black and white.
      CC or Color Correction or Color Conversion filters are used to block or change visible light and were used in film photography.

      I hope this answers your question.

      Best regards

  7. Is there any loss in visible light image quality when a mirrorless camera is converted to full spectrum and then used with a hot-mirror filter?

  8. Dear, can you use lenses with coatings for this filter or do you need lenses without coating to creating this look an how to take the white balance? Do you take the white balance with the filter or without the filter. Do you take then a picture of green grass?

  9. I have a red camera, scarlet-w. Can I use this filter on that camera with no modifications to the camera?

  10. What is the difference between a full spectrum conversion and a two spectrum conversion? Is one recommended over the other? I’m trying to decide.
    Thank you

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.