Shooting Infrared images with a Nikon Coolpix 995

Having decided not to go to the expense of having one of my DSLR’s converted to shoot infrared, instead, I decided to have a go at doing a conversion myself. The camera I had chosen to convert was the Nikon Coolpix 995. Although these cameras were quite expensive in their day you can pick them up relatively cheaply on e-bay. Because I’d never attempted anything like this before, I was reluctant to pay too much for my 995. I set myself a messily budget of just 50 quid, not a lot of cash granted, but enough if it all ends up in the dustbin! Like I said, I’ve never done this before. . .

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Copyright © John Powell BPE3 . All Rights Reserved

The Coolpix 995 I won on e-bay set me back just over 30 quid and to my surprise was in pretty good condition. It came with 2 new batteries, a leather case and the manual, none of which I was expecting for £30.50 pence! In fact, it was in such good condition it was a shame to dismantle it.

The reason for dismantling the camera is to remove the infrared blocking filter, known as the hot mirror. With the hot mirror removed the CCD inside the camera will be sensitive to light-waves up to about 900nm. Because Infrared wavelengths start just beyond the deepest reds of the spectrum at 700nm we need to block out all light-waves below that figure. To do this we replace the hot mirror filter with a 720nm infrared filter. Once this has been done the camera will be just as sensitive to IR wave-lengths as it was to normal light before.

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Copyright © John Powell BPE3 . All Rights Reserved

Dismantling the camera is pretty straight forward, once you know where the screws are! In fact, only eight screws hold the body casing together with only another two screws holding down the circuit board, located just above the sensor.

The hot mirror is held in place by means of a square rubber grommet, you will need to remove the hot mirror and use as a template to cut your IR filter too. Note: your new IR filter must be the exact same size as the hot mirror filter it is replacing. Once this has been done re-assemble the camera in reverse order and make a few test shots to see if all went according to plan?

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Copyright © John Powell BPE3 . All Rights Reserved

Now! All that sounds pretty straight forward, but it did take me almost four hours to do my conversion, simply because I had no previous experience. If I had to do another 995 conversion I reckon I could do it in under an hour, no sweat!

As for the results, well they’re pretty amazing too. By setting up a custom white balance in camera you will remove most of the red cast caused by the filter and your images will become almost monochromatic, reminiscent of those taken on high speed infrared film.

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Copyright © John Powell BPE3 . All Rights Reserved

The beauty of digital infrared is that you can process them in many different ways depending on your mood at the time. However, the best thing for me is I now have a full converted IR camera, which cost less than 50 quid and I don’t have to carry a tripod around with me every time I want to shoot IR.

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Copyright © John Powell BPE3 . All Rights Reserved

Just one word of warning! If you decide to have a go and convert your own digital camera don’t blame me if it goes horribly wrong! I took a risk and it paid off. Nevertheless, if you value your camera and you don’t want to lose it, have it converted by a pro!

Larger and more detailed images can be seen by visiting my Flickr Photostream . .


About admin

John’s involvement with photography has lasted for more than a quarter of a century, although schooled in the use of film John embraced the digital age very early on. He describes himself as a discerning photographer who sees digital imaging as a tool rather than a box of tricks, a photographer whose images are linked by a natural instinct for subject arrangement and attention to detail. His approach to photography is spontaneous – seeking to recapture for the viewer the same mood and atmosphere that drew him to the subject in the first place.
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17 Responses to Shooting Infrared images with a Nikon Coolpix 995

  1. Mike O'Donnell says:

    Wonderful photos. Could you possibly give a bit more information about the filter you swapped in to your 995 in place of the hot mirror? At very least, I’d really like find the dimensions. Like you, I got a really nice deal on an ebay camera, and I don’t really want to tear it down until I have a new filter ready. I know that I can buy one, but they cost 4x as much as I paid for the camera.

    • Hi Mike, the size of the internal IR blocking filter in the Nikon 995 is 10mm x 12mm.
      For my filter I cut down a Cokin P007. These filters are made from resin, not glass, which makes things so much easier.
      Because the Cokin filter is half the thickness of the original blocking filter you will need to cut two and place them on top of each other to order to make up the thickness.

      Best of Luck with the conversion.
      If you have any problems, please let me know and I’ll ship you a couple.

  2. Lawry McCarthy says:

    Hi, I have a 995 I want to convert to IR. A few people have said that the earlier 950 is better but when I look at your great IR photos I am convinced the 995 is better.
    I plan to go for a clear filter over the CCD and use IR filters mounted on the front. The thing that is holding me up is I don’t know how thick the clear filter should be and I want to have it ready before I open up the camera. You said it was 2x as thick as a Cokin P007 but could you be more specific as I don’t have a P007 to measure?
    Thanks, Lawry

    • Hi Larry,
      Although the 990 & the 955 are similar to look at the 990 is slightly more difficult to convert (more screws to find and remove). Also, the 990 is 2.1 megapixel where the 995 is 3.2 and the battery life of the 995′s are better.

      At the moment I can’t recall the exact thickness of the cutoff filter, I think its about 3.7mm, but don’t quote me. I will e-mail you the exact dimensions later.

      If you do decide to convert your camera replace the cutoff filter with an IR one, not with clear glass!

      IR filters can be expensive, particularly if you plan on using either of the two coolpix lens attachments as both the E63 (wide-angle) and FC-E8 (Fisheye) have 72mm filter threads.

      Best of luck if you go ahead with the conversion.

      Regards
      John.

  3. Lawry McCarthy says:

    Hi John,
    I have to say I prefer the idea of a clear filter. A friend and I have just converted his 950; there was plenty of information on the net about the 950 IR blocking filter = 12 x 11 x 2.6 mm. We laminated two pieces of quartz glass with loctite to get the thickness. The external filters and adapters are cheap from Chinese suppliers on eBay; ~$7 for a 28 – 52mm ring adapter and ~$30 for a set of 3 52mm IR filters in 720nm, 850nm and 950nm. This provides plenty of scope for experimenting with different filters. I can pass on an excellent picture we shot today with the modded 950 and a 950nm filter.
    I have a 52mm filter coming that I think will render the camera(s) back to normal function just by attaching the filter.
    It may seem strange going for 52mm but we have found that you can get just about any sort of filter in 52mm cheaply. The only problem is the adapter ring obscures the viewfinder but we tend to use the LCD for framing with IR work anyway.
    Neither of us is interested in wide angle or fish eye at the moment but I am fairly sure we could find Chinese 52mm ones cheaply but probably of much lower quality.
    I was under the impression that all the 900 series used the same size filter until I saw your note about 10 x 12 mm so I started to wonder if the thickness was different as well.
    I am looking forward to modding my 995 for the reasons you mention; the higher resolution is particularly attractive. When I get there I will let you know – only the filter thickness data is holding me back now.

    Thanks, Lawry

  4. Joe says:

    I hope someone’s still around to help out because I have a 995 and plan to convert it. I know how to access the IR blocking filter and like the idea of external IR filters but don’t know what quartz glass is or what other kind of clear filter to put in to replace the original filter. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks.

  5. Hi Joe, I think you’ll find any piece of clear (optical) glass will do the job – just so long as it’s the correct size and thickness.

    Regards
    John

  6. Joe says:

    Ah, there’s the rub. I don’t know what optical glass is or where to find something that small. Or how to measure the thickness and then find something that matches. This suddenly seems less possible for me. I didn’t realize that the ir filter even had to be replaced by something, but it makes sense that it does. Where does one come by tiny pieces of flat rectangular glass like that? Sounds a tough task. Too bad clear plastic wouldn’t be so good because it would easier to work with. I’ve been using a 950 with external filters but it’s such a slow process that the idea of converting a 995 sounds good. Thanks for the input.

  7. mooseo says:

    Hi Joe,

    I meant to post some details of my hack here after I did it.. here’s the site where I documented it, including the dimensions of the filter in the 995.

    http://moosecraft.org/stuff/2010/02/infrared-camera-hacking-i-coolpix-995/

    As you’ll see, I just used window glass which I cut with a cheap cutter.

    I would say that my results are OK, but not spectacular. If I had the right thickness (I’m off by almost 0.5 mm) I’d be much happier.

    If you can find plastic the right thickness, by all means give it a try. Sure, fancy optical glass would be better, but maybe a quick piece of plexiglass will do what you need?

    cheers,
    moose

    • Lawry says:

      Hi Moose,
      I read your measurements with great interest, after successfully converting a 950 with a friend earlier this year, I am planning to covert a 995 ASAP. The 950 had a 2.6 mm thick IR blocking filter and I was told that all the 900 series had the same thickness filter. So I was quite surprised with your measurement of 2.85 mm. How did you measure it?
      BTW You mentioned a “weird red tint”, what band IR pass filter are you using? If you are using 780nm or less it will look reddish, to get that B&W effect you can change camera settings or post process.
      The best results though are with a filter above 840nm, you get that B&W IR look without effort. Also focus is better.
      Another way that you can get poor focus is not realizing the ambient IR level is usually low nearly everywhere not under the sun. This can lead to longer exposure times so you need a tripod.

  8. Joe says:

    Hi Moose, Lawry, John. Thanks for the input. I’m getting educated. I’ll be out at my brother’s ranch for a week, and there’s always bits of glass and tools out there that come in handy. If there’s some glass in the range of 2.6mm to 2.85mm I’ll go to the next step. Of course I want to have the glass all cut to fit and ready to go before I start taking the 995 apart. After checking the sites and reading your good info, my confidence is restored.

  9. Lawry says:

    Hi Joe, I should point out that there is nothing I can see to prevent using clear white plastic instead of glass eg Acrylic, Perspex, PMMA etc. The RI is only very slightly less than glass and it is much easier to shape. I have a piece of 2.5mm clear acrylic and it has a full transparency all the way up to 400nm (UV end). I was thinking of using it in my 995 but I might try 3mm after reading what Moose said about thickness.
    BTW Something that people seem to miss is that for all materials the RI drops as the wavelength increases. So the RI for IR is less than for visible. This suggests that the replacement glass should be slightly thicker. I believe it is a small factor though and I should sit down and calculate how much difference it makes.

  10. Joe says:

    Hi to all. Searching around out here on the Colorado ranch, I only found some old window glass and nothing thicker than 2 mm. That 2.85 size is pretty chunky and must have come from something other than window glass. Even 2.50 is pretty thick. I don’t know where to look next for thick glass to cut to size for the ir filter replacement in the 995. I don’t know if one would go to a glass store or a flea market or what exactly. Also I admit I had to look up and try to understand (from above): ‘the RI for the IR is less than for visible.’

  11. Lawry says:

    The 950 we modified got a filter made from two pieces of quartz glass stuck together with a special optical grade of Loctite to get to the right thickness. A very fiddly job.

    Sorry to go all techy on you, in simpler terms: The IR filter changes the distance the image sensing chip (CCD) is away from the camera lenses because it has a refractive index (RI) greater than 1. The rays of light from the lens bend passing through the glass. So to get the same focal point you have to replace the IR filter with something that bends the light the same amount.
    I was pointing out that IR light gets bent less than visible so you technically need something slightly thicker.
    Another thing we have found out is that original filter is two or three different layers stuck together. We suspect that at least one of these layers probably has a much higher RI than ordinary glass,
    We also have discovered that in all probability one of the layers is designed to blur the image very slightly to get rid of moire patterns.
    I am thinking of IR converting a 995 with a perspex (acrylic) filter which has a very slightly lower RI than glass. So with all the above issues considered, I might be trying a 3mm thick piece yet. It is hard to quantify though because I don’t know the exact geometry of the light path in the camera and the only original filter we have is out of a 950.

  12. mooseo says:

    Hi Lawry,

    I’d be willing to send you the original filter out of my 995 for you to check out. Realistically, I can’t see myself ever putting it back in. Next time I pick up this project, I want to put a slightly thicker filter in to improve my results a bit, so let me know how that goes for you.

    You can send me your address to mooseo at moosecraft dt org.

    cheers,
    moose

  13. Lawry says:

    Thank you Moose, that is very generous of you. I have available a very accurate digital thickness gauge, spectrometers etc etc …in fact a whole lab where I work.
    I can provide this site with a complete analysis.
    The tests we will do are non-destructive and at the end we can send you the filter back, You never know you might want it some day.

  14. Lawry says:

    I have my Nikon 995 converted to NIR now and very successfully. I have to thank Moose who loaned me the original NIR blocking filter from his 995 so I could measure it accurately in the lab and computer model the optical path. I made a dramatic departure from most conversions and used a ~3mm thick piece of acrylic to replace the original NIR blocking filter. My model seems to work and I have crystal clear focus over the whole range. I have a range of 28mm NIR pass filters brought very cheaply from a Chinese company via eBay so I can experiment with different NIR pass ranges.
    What is the best way to show and example shot?

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