Shattering the Warranty: Digital Infrared

Color original digital infraredI violated any warranty left on my original Canon 1Ds full frame digital SLR. Sitting at my dining room table I decided to make my now unused camera infrared capable.

This involved removing various small screws, and carefully labeling them to return them to their proper place. I found the instructions on how to disassemble an original Canon 5D to gain access to the sensor – the 1Ds proved simpler to disassemble (no soldering iron needed, the larger body is more simply laid out).

I had seen some digital infrared landscape photos at a class on how to make a photography book being taught by Brigitte Carnochan. I had a shoot lined up this past Saturday and poked around and was fascinated by the effect of shooting infrared on portraits and figures. I didn’t have time to have Life Pixel modify my camera for me so I plunged in totally DIY.

It took about three hours. I stripped one screw at the end (of three) that held the CMOS sensor in place. I drilled the head off and was able to actually remove the shaft of the screw to allow me to use a similar non-essential screw to replace it later. Whew!

Once I had the sensor dangling out, I used an Xacto knife to very carefully separate the hot mirror/anti-alias filter off its silicone mounting to the sensor itself. The hot mirror filters the IR that you want to capture. That was the stressful part.

I reassembled the camera partially, powered on – and nothing. I reopened and found one fine ribbon cable detached on the back of the camera from its fliplock connector. I reattached, and voîla!

Figure and 1920's vintage bridal veil.

The final part was to place a Hoya infrared R72 filter on the front of my 24-105L lens to block visible light. While the camera focuses beautifully – I am unable to see anything to frame it so it does require some guessing when handheld shooting. Because of this – and massive dust problems on the bare CMOS sensor when using, I’ve ordered the full frame R72 infrared filter for the 1Ds from Life Pixel.

The results were beautiful. Color images come out with a rose expression. When converted to black and white, they have a delicate pencil like quality I was getting only when I painted people white.

Why am I doing this? Because I think the portraits and figure studies done with this camera can be used to make delicately toned palladium prints on Bergger COT 320.

It’s all good.


  1. Jordan
    Posted Monday, April 13, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Very brave to do this work yourself. I’ve contemplated IR-ifying my Nikon D70s when I upgrade, but I’ll probably leave the conversion work to a “professional”.

    • bpawlowski
      Posted Monday, April 13, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      The really frightening part came when I had to separate the “hot mirror” from the sensor with the Xacto knife as I mentioned. Weaker men have likely crumbled at that point 🙂

      The results were really worth it. I posted some more (nude) images here.

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