Full Spectrum Camera vs IR Camera – Ultimate Guide in 2023

full spectrum camera vs ir camera

If you found this post, it means that you have some interest in infrared photography. So, I have put together a comprehensive guide on infrared and full-spectrum photography. Before starting, let me tell you that this article is going to be really long, so be with us.

Full Spectrum Camera vs IR Camera

A full spectrum camera allows all wavelengths of light to hit the sensor while an IR camera is one that can filter other lights and only allow IR radiation to pass through it.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Before talking about the infrared, I have to talk to you about the electromagnetic spectrum and where infrared photography lies in all of this.

Think of energy as having different frequencies. You have Gamma rays on side extreme and Radio waves on the other. Rays like Gamma rays are more dangerous because of their high frequency and small wavelength and because of that, they are highly energetic.

Between Gamma rays and Radio waves, we have UV, X-ray, visible light, and infrared light which is what we are interested in. There is also a microwave, but we don’t actually have to get into that. Today we are only going to be focusing on visible light and infrared light.

Wavelength and Color of Infrared Rays IR

Waves having wavelengths between 380nm and 900nm are called Infrared waves. There is one thing you should know. As the waves get longer, you start to lose color.

If you are shooting at 380 nm, the colors are completely visible to the eye. Next, we have a picture shot with 590 nm which is quite colorful. But color slowly disappears with increasing wavelength as in the case of 600nm, it’s still a little colorful but at 780 nm you can see the blackish tone. At 900 nm the picture is completely black and white.

Infrared Photography

The camera sensors don’t actually recognize ultra-violet or IR or any other wave. So, what the camera manufacturers do is that they actually put some kind of filters to block the other light. The cameras you are using now will have a filter that is going to filter other light and allow only visible light to pass through.

Just for your information, any filter cannot completely filter 100% of light rays passing through it. At most 98% can be filtered, the rest 2% can pass, of course, they won’t have any effect on your photography.

How to see IR rays with Your Camera

If you wanna see the IR rays with your phone, follow the steps below:

  1. Take a remote of TV or something.
  2. Take out your phone, open the camera app and focus on the IR blaster of the remote.
  3. Press any button and you will see those infrared rays going out.
  4. Use both front and Selfie cameras in case one doesn’t work.

So, the point is that with that 2% you can capture a complete photo too. All you need is to block visible light using a filter that allows only infrared radiations.

Shooting Wit an IR Camera

You can convert any camera into an IR camera, and I recommend having one that also shoots raw. It’s not the camera but the sensor taking pictures and once you have removed the previous filter and planted a sensor to allow IR, you will see IR images.

If you want a more colorful and brighter infrared image, go for a 590mm filter. You can keep it increasing until 900mm at which you will get a complete black and white image.

Now the good thing about shooting with the IR camera is that you don’t need a tripod that taking lowlight images. So, you’re basically going to be shooting like a normal camera but you’re not going to get the visible light colors, instead, you will get infrared.

As I mentioned above, if you got a 590mm, you would have more colorful pictures. If you got a 720, it’s going to be a little less saturated and a 900mm will remove colors completely. So, choose wisely, what kind of filter you want.

For a beginner, I will recommend, using the default camera sensor that allows 2% of the IR and keep practicing until you are sure for the upgrade because it does cost something. To get started, take a tripod and reduce the shutter speed because you are going to let most of the light enter the lens.

How to Convert a Normal Sensor to a Full Frame or an IR Spectrum?

First of all, it is quite a risky task to do it yourself. I will recommend taking the camera to a repair shop and letting a pro do the work for you.

So, take the camera open it up carefully, take out the image sensor and remove the filters added to it. By removing filters, you will make it a full spectrum camera allowing it to allow all kinds of waves to hit the sensor. You will have to add external filters to it depending on your need. The downside is that it costs much, both the conversions and the filters.

You can also make it an IR spectrum by adding a filter to it which will only allow IR rays to hit the image. We have mentioned above how and what kind of pictures you can take with an IR lens.

What Kind of Sensor do I Need as a Normal Photographer?

If you are a normal photographer, you won’t need a full spectrum or an IR spectrum camera. You can perform all your required tasks with a normal sensor. These other sensors though perform better in certain conditions especially lowlight but cause more problems most of the time because they are really hard to understand.

Bonus Point and Downside of Full Spectrum Camera

If you got a full spectrum camera, then the most mesmerizing thing about it is that you can use it to take every kind of picture. You can take normal pictures as well as infrared pictures. Also, you can take UV photos too. In this way, you made your camera more dynamic. You can even shoot in different wavelengths of infrared.

You can take normal pictures with the full-frame camera by applying a filter that will filter all other kinds of waves. Similarly, you can apply a filter that will only allow a specific kind of infrared radiation and filter all others.

Now, let’s talk about the downside of the full spectrum camera. Okay, most of you might not take is a downside but still, it is for some! It is expensive to convert the camera into a full spectrum cam. Also, the filters that you are going to buy, are going to be a bit expensive because they are not just holding back colors of visible light but also all other wavelengths of the spectrum.

Full Spectrum Camera vs IR camera | Which One to Choose

Well, it depends on your choice. If you want to choose at a specific IR wavelength like 590mm or 680mm etc., you should go for an IR camera as it would cost less compared to a dozen of lenses, you will need for a full spectrum camera.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does spectrum affect the quality of a good photograph?

Yes, the spectrum does affect the quality of the image. Using a normal spectrum, you will get a normal photo but using an IR spectrum, you will get much better results at lowlights and the sensor becomes more light-sensitive. That’s how you can capture clear and sharp images. Also, if you are using a UV filter, you might get a dusty and dim image.

What wavelengths can cameras see?

Cameras are sensitive to all kinds of wavelengths meaning that they can see each and every wavelength. By doing to it may cause distortion in photos which is why wavelengths of light other than visible light (380nm – 700nm) are filtered out

Why can you see IR light on a camera?

IR rays are generally blocked out by a filter before reaching the image sensor to prevent distortion in the images but when you press a remote button, you will see the IR rays coming out of the IR Blaster. The reason is that the filter filters out 98% of IR radiations but still 2% of it slips into the sensor.

Does lighting affect camera quality?

Of course, Yes, the quality of the image is affected by lighting. Light affects every aspect of the photo including clarity, sharpness details, exposure, bokeh, etc. To get the desired photo, you have to adjust the lighting conditions according to the requirements.

Read More

Does Infrared Help in Better Astrophotography?

To make astrophotography more dramatic and alive, you should use infrared light. The camera lets in more IR light making the photos appealing and clear.

astrophotography in ir

Final Thoughts

Now, while concluding our post, I will assume that now, you know how to decide between a Full Spectrum Camera vs IR Camera. In case, we left something, you are free to ask us in the comments and must give a read to a few more related trending articles if you are interested.

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