Diving into the world of infrared photography can be a lot. But once you’ve decided to give it a go, the first thing to do is determine what conversion is best for you and the work you want to create. The two main options are a dedicated infrared conversion and a full spectrum conversion. In this article, we will cover full spectrum.
What is full spectrum?
Full spectrum is a type of infrared conversion you can get for your digital camera. Much like an infrared conversion, this modification removes the internal IR cut filter over your camera’s sensor. During a full spectrum conversion, this filter is replaced with a piece of clear glass, making the camera sensitive to UV, visible, and infrared—the full spectrum of light. This increased sensitivity allows your camera to absorb more light, making it a very useful tool for astrophotography and low-light applications.
Why get a full spectrum conversion?
You get the most flexibility when you have a full spectrum conversion. Since the camera sensor is sensitive to all spectra of light, you are able to shoot in all spectra of light. The main benefit here is that you can use external filters (i.e., lens filters, drop-in filters, or clip-in filters) to narrow the spectrum to a particular range. Putting an IR filter on the lens will still allow for handheld infrared photography, just like a converted camera.
With just one camera, you can shoot in IR with any of our infrared filters, ultraviolet with a UV bandpass filter (provided you use a good UV lens), or normal color photography using a UV/IR cut hot mirror filter. This is the most versatile conversion you can get, giving you 10+ options in only one camera. Additionally, full spectrum is the only conversion option compatible with the IR Chrome and Blue IR filters, as well as with UV and normal photography.
Why full spectrum is the best conversion option in 2022
In the past, full spectrum had some problems with DSLRs, but these are no longer an issue in 2022. Because most infrared filters are opaque, you previously could not compose through the optical viewfinder with the filter on the lens. The only option was to use the camera’s live view function, but many photographers preferred not to. Additionally, the autofocus and exposure systems rely on visible light, making them inaccurate when the filter is on the lens. Electronic viewfinders have since remedied both of these problems.
To get the most out of a full spectrum conversion, it is good to choose a mirrorless camera, a camera with live view, or an EVF. 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 regular photography, the best filters for color IR photography, another for B&W IR, and even filters for UV photography. The flexibility of full spectrum essentially makes all other conversions obsolete unless you know for sure you only ever want to shoot in one specific infrared filter.
Point-and-shoot cameras are also great for full spectrum conversions. Some have threaded lenses that accept filters, and others have adapters available. You can also glue a filter adapter onto the lenses of most compact cameras to let them accept external filters. Our Kolari Pocket and converted Canon G16 and Lumix ZS100 all have filter adapters attached and are perfect options for infrared photography.
Unless you have a specific style and don’t wish to experiment with other filters, a full spectrum conversion is a no-brainer. The versatility is unparalleled, and who wouldn’t want to lighten their load by minimizing their gear?