Infrared with unconverted EOS 6D

I dabble in infrared photography now and then (see previous posts).  I’m fascinated with it for two reasons:

1. Most of the time, we photographers struggle to get our cameras to see things the way our eyes do, or at least to create an image we can edit to look like what we see.  But infrared photography shows our world washed in light our eyes cannot see.

2. It just looks cool! I love high contrast black and white, and infrared looks awesome that way.

I haven’t taken the plunge and spent the $300 or so to get a camera converted for dedicated infrared photography, so I was looking around the web to see if anybody is using an uncoverted EOS 6D.  I found some comments on forums, but not a lot of info, so I thought I’d do a post on how mine did.

Tumwater Historical Park - Uncoverted 6D & B+W 093 filter

Tumwater Historical Park – Uncoverted 6D & B+W 093 filter

My 12-year-old B+W 093 infrared filter has a 58mm thread, and all but one of my lenses is 67mm or larger. I can only use it on my EF 50mm f/1.8 using a 52 to 58mm step-up ring. So composing and framing is done by more walking around with the tripod, just like any prime lens.

Olympia Brewery - Infrared w/ EOS 6D

Olympia Brewery – Infrared w/ EOS 6D

The B+W 093 filter is rated at 830nm, so it’s really for pure black and white images. I believe the 570 to 720nm range is better for color infrared photography.  I used settings of f/4, 10-20 secs, and ISO400. I could raise the ISO for shorter exposures, but I’d need more noise reduction in post processing.

Capitol Lake - Infrared w/ EOS 6D

Capitol Lake – Infrared w/ EOS 6D

You’ve probably noticed, at 15 seconds, any breeze causes leaves to blur.  In addition, there is a sort of glow effect that is probably not due to motion blur. I believe this is common in infrared images.  The blinding noon sun made it almost impossible to see the screen on my camera, but looking at these images on the computer, I could probably improve them with the following changes:

1. Decrease the aperture opening from f/4 to f/8 or so (the black benches above suffer from a somewhat shallow depth of field)

2. Raise the ISO to 1600 (the EOS 6D is great at high ISO and its noise is much easier to correct than my 7D was)

I might end up with the same shutter speeds, because #1 decreases the light and #2 increases sensitivity. So I’d still have to contend with motion blur.

Washington State Capitol - Infrared with EOS 6D

Washington State Capitol – Infrared with EOS 6D

I had to remove several “hot pixels” from the above photo, but that was because I shot about five 15- or 20-second exposures in a row. Sequential long exposures can heat up the sensor, causing some pixels to turn white. The solution is to take your time and give the sensor time to cool between long exposures. This would probably be more of an issue with exposures of several minutes (which I have not tried), but ambient temperatures are likely to be much cooler at night, helping to cool the sensor more quickly.

Overall, I am pleased with this test.  I thought the 6D would have such a strong hot mirror in front of the sensor that infrared photography might be nearly impossible to capture without a full conversion. Turns out the only real challenge is: a tripod must be used for every shot because of the longer shutter speeds, and longer exposures can cause moving foliage and clouds to soften up in places.  Now the question is: Do I spring for a larger 77mm IR filter, or convert a second body for infrared?  Hmm… how serious an infrared photographer am I?

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5 thoughts on “Infrared with unconverted EOS 6D

  1. Thats what I have looked for 🙂 I don’t want to change my 6D body and try to play wit IR using Hoya R72 filter. After some tests with cokin IR filter I lost the hope that it is possible… But your photos looks great sa it is possible.

    • Hi Mateusz, yes it’s possible. Just takes long exposures on a tripod, which means a slight breeze or vibration will blur things. Use a remote or in-camera timer. A good filter can be expensive, so I suggest getting one that fits your largest lens, then use adapter rings to fit it on the smaller ones.

  2. Did you try this on your 6D and get color images, not just Black and White. If so, did you do the typical channel swapping in Photoshop? When I do the typical test on my 6D of putting my TV remote in front of my lens and looking into the viewfinder to see if I can see a blinking blue or red infrared light, it shows nothing. That told me that it wouldn’t do infrared.

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