Shooting Sony NEX7 modified for infrared by Dierk Topp

Shooting Sony NEX7 modified for infrared

by Dierk Topp – His Flickr is HERE

Hi Steve,
I have a very special topic again for your readers.

After the great B&W post from Ashwin Rao and from Lee Sungsoo from India and so many more great B&W series I would like to offer a very special type of B&W images from North of Germany:

Infrared images in B&W

Made with a NEX7 after conversion to infrared with a R715nm filter built into the camera in front of the sensor.

I have been interested in infrared photography since decades but in the analog times it was just too complicated and expensive – ok. to modify the NEX7 for infrared is not cheap either.
Not cheap but a lot of fun, if you like this special mystic look of these images. You may have seen my post of infrared images made with the Leica Monochrom in June 2013. With the Leica Monochrome I one IR filter R715, that fitted the 21mm and 35mm lenses. For other lenses I would have to buy more filters. At that time a friend told me of his IR converted mirrorless and he told me, that he could use the camera like any normal camera and shoot hand-held! That got me 🙂

If you are interested in more information about infrared photography look here at wikipedia.

I will try a short explanation of the specialty of infrared photography:

shooting B&W infrared gives very light to white tones of the green of trees, leaves and grass and dramatic sky and clouds. I started my first IR shots with the Nikon D70 about 10 years ago and when I got the Leica Monochrom last year I tried it again. For shooting infrared with a normal sensor you need a tripod, as the IR blocking filter in front of the sensor blocks most of the infrared light and the infrared filter, you put in front of the lens, blocks most of the visible light. The small amount of light between these two filters is all you get for the exposure, very long exposures. Hand held IR is not an option in normal situations. The next problem is, that the focal length of the lens for IR light is different from visible light. Therefor you can not use the normal focus mark on manual lenses. I described this in my previous post with the Leica Monochrom.

Now comes the NEX7. 
The NEX7 has a normal color sensor and in front of the sensor the normal IR blocking and AA filter. If you take out these filters you get the full spectral sensitivity of the sensor and can use external IR or UV filters or get an internal filter permanently installed. I got an 715nm IR filter in font of the sensor.

What you will “lose”: 
This is one way, after the modification there is no way back to your normal color camera!
What you get: 
In my case with the IR filter built-in I have a IR camera and can use all my lenses (you know, you can adapt almost all lenses on the mirrorless cameras), even tilt/shift lenses or Hasselblad with the Rhinocam adapter!

And I ordered the Sony 10-18mm OSS for this camera, as said, I love clouds and therefor I like super wide:)
And I ordered the NEX6 for my normal color shooting – until I get the coming FF NEX, or if I don’t use the Leica M9.

I got my NEX7 modified by DSLR-Astrotec in Germany and got it back in July after less than two weeks.

My experiences up to now:

  • I started to shoot RAW and JPG in B&W, that gives me a B&W control image right after the shot
  • only, when I shoot with the panorama function of the camera, I have to use JPG
  • the sensitivity for the IR converted sensor seems to be about the same as beforee with the normal sensor
  • that means, I can shoot IR hand-held in relative dark environments (wood) without any problems, especially, as the 10-18mm has OSS stabilization
  • the AF of the camera works like before, also the senor cleaning
  • focusing manual focus lenses like the Leica lenses is very hard, sometimes not possible, as the live view image is all red in red. (see below) I have to find an area with high contrast in about the same distance as my object.

Pleas, forgive me, if my English is not correct sometimes.

Here are some of my IR images out of this NEX7-IR. You may find more here in my flickr album.

If not mentioned, all images are made with the Sony SEL 4/10-18mm OSS
PP: Lightroom 5, some with additional Nik Silver Efex 2

first image shows three different stadiums of an image

this is, what you see in live view before you shoot


this is, what you see after the shot,
when the camera is set to B&W (depending on B&W settings of the camera)


this is a color version, PP in CS6
remember, the image in the NEX7 is still a color image, but only red tones.
there are impressive IR color images in the web, but I prefer the pure B&W 🙂

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

if you like clouds, IR is for you
when I first saw the great images of Ansel Adams and his perfect and impressive clouds, I started to notice CLOUDS!

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

on this one a wanted to show the short exposure time for hand held shooting

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

and extreme light situations

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS


panorama out of the camera, some PP (contrast, light, crop of foreground)

NEX/-IR infrared with Sony 10-18/4 OSS

and another pano out of the camera
with the Canon TS-E 17mm/4 tilt/shift on a Metabone adapter, shifted up about 5 mm, tripod
this lens does not accept filters due to the extreme front lens, therefor IR with this lens is only possible with a converted camera.

NEX7-IR infrared with Canon 17mm TS-E shifted up

cloudy sky with some sunshine, the white of the green leaves seem to light themselves
camera in portrait position

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony 10-18/4 OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony 10-18/4 OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony 10-18/4 OSS

NEX7-IR infrared with Sony E 10-18mm OSS

lens: Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4 with adapter Rhinocam and hand held series
(as described in the previous post about the Rhinocam adapter), no EXIF info

60 MPix - NEX7-IR and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40

NEX7-IF infrared with Sony 10-18mm OSS

ok. last but not least a “self”

NEX7-IR infrared with E 10-18mm OSS

I hope, you enjoyed some of the pictures, even, if the typical IR look is not your favorite B&W



  1. Dierk, having used the FE 24-70mm Zeiss on the NEX 7, I wanted to ask you some questions. I’m currently deciding whether to buy the 16-70 Zeiss made for the APS-C or to get the FE 24-70. I’m wondering, will there be a difference in image quality to warrant the higher price tag of the FE? Or should I just get the 16-70 for the NEX? I know the FE would serve me well when I decide to go full frame, but right now I want the very best zoom for the NEX. Any response would be appreciated. -Raquel

    • Raquel,
      you know the pro and con of the 24-70. For me it is a great universal lens. I use it, when I want to be flexible, but when I want best IQ, I use good prime lenses.

      I don’t know the 16-70, so I can not give you any comment on that.

      The best zoom? That is hard to answer, as the range of focal length is very important.
      I am looking forward for the coming 16-35 FE.

      • Dierk, many thanks for your response. If I may ask two more quick questions….we’re you happy with the FE 24-70mm on your NEX 7? And if so, would you recommend I get it? Again, thank you very much for your time on this. I frequently visit your photos on Flickr and I’d consider myself lucky to be even half as talented as you are.

        • I used the 24-70 only a few times on the NEX-7 IR and again, I like the lens as a flexible tool. On the NEX-7 IR I like the much wider Sony 10-18 OSS for APS-C very much, as the super wide is great for IR landscapes.
          Not sure, if this is of any help for you. Try to test one for yourself and then you will know, if it fits yous needs.

  2. Well, I have seen previously your pictures on Flickr, and these were beautiful, I also try to do some with my fuji X100s with a hoya 720 filter. I set the camera in manual focus, but I just cannot have enough sharp images… enlarge prints to 40cmx40 cm and since there is no marks for distance I don’t know how to correct…
    Yes IR is one of the two way to increase the abstraction for Black and white picture (the other is long exposures)
    Thanks for sharing.

    • thanks very much, Enrok 🙂
      in my post on link #1 I tried to describe, how I focused with the Leica Monochrom.
      The modern lenses don’t have any IR marks any more (only my M Zeiss C-Biogon 21mm). I focused between the apertures stopped down between 2 and stops on the DOV scale, meaning with a f/2 lens you go between f/2.8 and f/4. That worked fine, and when stopping down to f/8 or f/11 for enough DOF and compensation of any focus problems.

      • For the focus, on the fuji X100s you just don’t have any marks but I guess the focus peaking (it is on the sensor brehind the filter) is correct so it is not due to the distance adjustment. I think it is more due to the fact (if I understand correctly) that with the IR filter on the sensor only the green chanel get the light out of the three type of pixels (green, blue and red) , so in terms of resolution you work in IR with 1/3 of the normal resolution. And I find it difficult to enlarge my picture. I know the solution is the MM but it is not for the moment a possibility (I play lottery every saturday….)!!!!

  3. Beautiful shots! I’ve tried do do something with a 720nm filter on my 28mm Pentacon lens and a Panasonic G3, the live view was black so it was more trials and errors, but my new E-M5 has a live bulb view that lets you see the shot while “develops”… really fun!

  4. I don’t know if you can do this on a NEX, but if you set a custom White Balance and point it to green foliage, your Live View Picture will improve a lot, making it much easier to frame and focus.

    • I was thinking the same. If one white balances before every session ‘Live View’ should give you an almost B&W, like the third picture from top, and if you set the camera to B&W, you should see just that, but maybe the NEX handles it different.
      I’m actually in favor of full-spectrum conversions. If one seldom changes the lens, as I do, an in-camera filter is too limited in my opinion. I started with the 830nm and 665nm filters, but added the 590nm ‘Goldie’ just recently and also use it for visible color once in a while. The trick with external filters is to adapt them into sunshades for quick change, a project I’m working on, otherwise one has to handle and screw on/off filters a lot

      By the way, the crosses against the tree is a great shot, so are the others. Nice work!

    • thanks very much Dirk and mikofox.
      I tried every possible combination (RAW, JPG, B&W and color), but the NEX7 keeps telling me, that it can’t do the manual WB – error 🙁

      great images in flickr, mikofox!!

  5. Thanks very much for your comments.

    in my previous post about IR with the Leica Monochrom (on link #1) I described the use with filter and tripod.
    The big advantage with an IR converted camera is, that you can use it like any normal camera, AF still works fine and sensor cleaning is still active. And you can use any lens, that fits on the camera!

    You shoot hand held in any (low light) condition as before. As described, the sensitivity (my personal impression) is about the same as before. You can see it in the EXIF data on the images.

    If you get infected by IR, a converted camera is ideal!

    • Great post and fantastic images Dierk. At present I use My Leica M8 for infrared and have wanted to get a GH2 converted but only knew about places in England and the US, now that I’m living in Berlin I’ll send it to the guy at DSLR-Astro Tech. Many thanks for sharing……….

  6. Nice! I’ve had very good results with the Fujifilm X100, too! Even unmodified! It’s great to do IR on cameras with really good high ISO support. I shoot in daylight @ ISO 1600 and can get it to ~1/30 sec or so, i.e. handheld. 🙂

    • Thanks ! I was wandering if i was going to try IR or not with mine ( i m not very fond of carrying tripod ). I order a filter and will give the little fuji somme cloudy landscapes.

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