Go Wide and Infrared - Via the Plastic SLR Route

2013-05-10 12

Single-lens-reflex (SLR) cameras have for decades been on the forefront of enthusiast and professional camera development. Sharp lenses, perfect exposure meterin,g and precise autofocus aren’t really features that you would look for in Lomography, but they do come to a great use in Infrared Photography – as long as a few precautions are taken. See below.

Single-Lens-Reflex cameras have their ViewFinder directly pointed through their main picture-taking lenses.
While this is the most convenient situation for macro, for example, IR puts another obstacle – the filters that are required for B&W IR film are blocking most of the visible light, so we end up with a dark-like-hell viewfinder.
An obvious remedy would be to use a Range-Finder camera, but these trend to be too expensive, especially when coupled with Ultra-Wide angle lenses. Your favorite LC-A will do fine, but you need special trickery to attach the IR filter and even more trickery to make it measure IR exposure correctly.
Since SLRs have long been around, there are many wide angle lenses in circulation too. The ones that can accept a filter are the ones that will work for this tipster.

What you will need:

  • An automatic-exposure SLR camera. Make sure it measures exposure through the lens and make sure it has at least one fully automatic exposure mode;
  • A Wide-Angle lens for your SLR camera. Make sure it accepts filters on the front;
  • Rollei IR400s film. Others can work too, but make sure you buy appropriate filters for them;
  • IR 720nm filter with a thread size that fits your lens;
  • Fisheye 2 viewfinder, or any fisheye or Ultra-wide angle viewfinder. Ideally, it would have the same Field-of-view as your lens. If if doesn’t, see below how to make improvised frame marks to match the lens.
  • Black electrician’s tape, a CD pen, scissors an a tripod.

How to proceed:

Attach the Viewfinder to the camera and attach both on a tripod. Place them against a wall, window frame, etc – something, that you can use to judge the Field of View of your lens:

Make sure it is horizontal.

If you’re using a zoom lens, make sure it is zip-tied on one focal length only:

Then look through the SLR viewfinder and memorize where the field ends at one of the sides. Look at the fish-eye finder and try to find the same spot. Now, stick a piece of electrician’s tape to the side, trying to limit the field at the same spot:

Continue with the other sides, but pay extra attention to the upper and lower sides – you want your photos to be horizontal:

Draw a frame on the viewfinder front glass:

Then remove the electrician’s tape:

Attach the filter to the lens:

Load in subdued light:

This is not a joke. Direct sunlight is going to fog this film.

Set ISO to 400, the camera meter is going to compensate for the filter applied. Expose from hand in full sun.

Process and scan normally.


Credits: adash
Credits: adash

written by adash on 2013-05-10 #gear #tutorials #plastic #infrared #35mm #slr #camera #filter #tipster #modification #b-w #ir


  1. emilios
    emilios ·

    Nice, but im surprised that your pentax doesnt "fog" the film. My EOS 1V and Elan 7e do it all the time.

  2. adash
    adash ·

    @emilios My camera uses a mechanical frame counter, and not an IR LED based one. It's just not so advanced. Here is some info on EOS cameras and IR film:

  3. emilios
    emilios ·

    Oh yes i know thanks. I was just asking cause im not familiar with this pentax. Plus i kinda like the fogginess sometimes.

  4. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    Good write-up, adash! Just one question: do commercial labs have to switch off the IR stuff on their machines, as with Aerochrome...?

  5. adash
    adash ·

    @buckshot I am sorry, my friend, but I can not answer. I never gave an IR film to a commercial lab, and I know none that will do classic B&W (not C-41) with an automated machine.

  6. thejomi
    thejomi ·

    Great tipster! This makes me more and more unpatient to shoot my first IR Film.
    Did I understand right, you did the exposure metering with attached filter? I want to imagine the difference in exposure times compared with non-IR film. Have you had to use a tripod in bright sunlight?

  7. adash
    adash ·

    @thejomi Thank you!

    I did the metering with the filter attached and Through-The-Lens. The film speed entered in camera settings was the box speed (400 ASA).

    I did not have to use a tripod with that lens, the times were conveniently about 1/90 to 1/30 with F/4 to F/11 (varying slightly overcast and full sun with haze).

    I imagine that the film becomes effectively between 12 and 25ASA with the filter applied, which means about 4 to 5 stops slower.

    If you have to use an external lightmeter, you have to dial that second value (12 or 25).

  8. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Wonderful article!!

  9. deepfried_goodness
    deepfried_goodness ·

    Very interesting article.

  10. servus_salyut
    servus_salyut ·

    What would happen if you use a 830nm IR Filter instead of 720nm? Especially with that Rollei 400S. Blank negatives, because the Rollei can't catch that remaining light?

  11. adash
    adash ·

    @herbert-4 @deepfried_goodness Thanks!

    @servus_salyut You're probably correct, because the sensitivity of this particular emulsion drops rapidly after about 720nm:
    I <guess> that some photos can still be taken by brutally overexposing, for example treating the film as 3 ASA instead of 400, for example.

  12. servus_salyut
    servus_salyut ·

    Sounds interesting, i will try it! I bought a bulk roll of that film so there's nothing to loose :-D
    Tank you @adash

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