Archive for: March, 2009

Converting Nikon D60 to Infrared

Mar 03 2009 Published by under Photography

Around Christmas time my favourite camera shop was having some really nice promotions on new DSLRs. Buying a new D60 from them was cheaper than buying a used D40 or even a D50. The problem was, I was buying the camera with the sole purpose of getting it converted to infrared, but there were no D60 specific manuals for doing it! Using conversion manuals for other cameras, Nikon D60 repair manual with schematics as well as some trial and error techniques, I now have a fully converted D60, with adjusted focus and white balance. Hopefully, it can be useful for more people.

I will cover all the steps needed for conversion, from getting a custom IR filter to fixing up focus on a reassembled camera. I suggest reading through the entire manual first, especially the last section about common mistakes before proceeding. If you would like to also see the Nikon D60 repair manual with schematics, email me and I can send you the PDF.

Tools and supplies

  • IR filter cut to size of about 30.5×29.5mm
  • Soldering iron and possibly a little bit of lead-free solder
  • Philips #00 screwdriver
  • 2mm L-shaped hexagonal key
  • Optional: small flat screwdriver and tweezers to help handling small parts, ribbons and wires inside.

As to the IR filter, you can either buy a precut piece from one of the online conversion shops, or cut it yourself. Last time I checked, lifepixel was selling them for ~$200 so even if you need to buy a glass cutter and several round filters (in case you cut the first one incorrectly), you will still come out ahead. If you do go the full DIY way and cut your own filter, you will need:

  • Regular IR filter of at least 52mm in diameter. I used Hoya R72, as it is the most easily accessible, but many others will work just as well. They may be hard to find locally but ordering it online should be easy and relatively cheap.
  • Glass cutter. I used a model with a carbide wheel, but a diamond tipped cutter should work as well.
  • Marker
  • 80 or 100 grade sand paper
  • Some scrap glass for practice. Make sure it’s thin and not tamperproof. Regular thick glass from a broken window is a poor approximation of the IR filter.

Getting a custom cut IR filter

You can skip this step if you got your filter already cut to size.

Otherwise, familiarize yourself with your glass cutter by first cutting straight pieces of glass, then turning them into small squares, and finally cutting the corners off to end up with rounded pieces of glass that are about the same size as your filter.

If you never cut glass before (which was the case with me), the best way to get a feel of how to do it is by asking the associate in your hardware store when you buy the cutter. Unless they are particularly unfriendly, they will show you how to use one of their cutters and maybe even give you some scrap glass to practice at home. Otherwise, check out the how-tos online.

To cut a round piece into the final shape, first mark the four corners of a 29.5×30.5mm rectangle with a marker in the middle of the circle. Try to make it as centred as possible, as it may be difficult to properly break the glass that is cut too close to the edge. Cut across the imaginary lines connecting the four dots, going not just from dot to dot, but from one edge of the glass to the other. Again, practice on scrap glass before cutting your filter.

It is better to cut a slightly bigger rectangle, than a smaller one. Once you have your filter cut, sand off the sharp edges with sand paper. At this stage you can also sand off any excess glass if you made it too big. You can sand off about 2mm within a reasonable time.

Disassembling the D60 and installing the filter

Remove the battery, SD card, and the lens.

The main thing that needs to be taken off is the back cover. The screws you need to take out are:

  • 2 screws on the side near the USB and video out ports
  • 2 screws on either side of the viewfinder
  • 2 screws on the side near the SD card slot
  • 2 screws inside the SD card compartment

You can also remove the 3 screws on the bottom cover that are closest to the back. You do not need to take the whole bottom cover off, but you will need to push it out a little to get to some of the screws inside the camera, so it is best to get it a little more loose.

Gently take the back cover off. Do not pull too fast, as there is a ribbon cable connecting the main board to the LCD. Be sure to disconnect it properly, and follow by disconnecting all other ribbon cables, marked on the photo in pink.

You will then need to remove 5 screws marked in green, and desolder the pink wire marked in blue. Be careful not to damage the wires marked in red. This picture was made after reassembling the main board and unknown to me at the time, one of the wires is actually damaged: top right blob in the rightmost red circle is missing a blue wire, which broke off during the disassembly process. You’d have to solder them back if any of them break off.

Next, take off the main board. Do it slowly and gently, as the wires marked in red above are connected to components underneath. You will now see the CCD board (not the CCD itself). Sorry, I have no photo of that, but it should not be hard to identify. There are 3 screws connecting this small board to the camera body. Remove them. The photo below shows the CCD already removed from the body. The holes for the 3 screws are marked in pink.

Remove the four screws marked in blue above. Remove the black frame holding the filter that is installed, and quickly replace it with your prepared IR filter.

D60 has sensor cleaning mechanism which may need to be sacrificed in the process of conversion. Sensor cleaning is done by passing current over the two strips connected to the original filter, visible in the photo above. If you manage to take those strips off without damaging them, you may try to attach them back to your newly installed IR filter. If you cannot do it, just get rid of the strips and cover any loose wires with electrical tape.

And here is the censor board with the IR filter installed:

Reassembly

Follow the steps for disassembly in reverse order. One thing to note is the connector between the camera body and the main board that needs to clip in fully, see the photo below.

Be sure to keep all the wires away from that connector or they may get inside and prevent proper contact. If this happens, the camera will not turn on and you will have to open it up again to fix it.

Once everything is in place, get the battery, SD card and lens back and try it out. If all is well, you should see some pink photos. If not, you are going to have to retrace your steps and figure out what went wrong.

Focus adjustments

Since different wavelength of light focus at different points, and the camera is optimized for green wavelength, your photos will be out of focus after this conversion. This is easy to fix though with a help of a simple 2mm hex key.

Turn on the camera and enable Mirror Lock-up. It’s in the SETUP menu. Remove the lens, and you will notice two small holes on the side of the camera. The bottom one is for autofocus, while the top one is for manual focus. Insert the hex key into one of the holes and rotate it as shown. Be careful not to drop the key and scratch your IR filter.

You will need quite a few rotations of the key, especially for the autofocus hole, since its position only allows for a very narrow turn at a time. Do this for both holes.

After several twists (~5-7), turn the camera off to drop down the mirror and replace the lens. Turn the camera on and make a few shots to check focus. It is best to do this with a macro lens or any large aperture lens. If the focus on your shots is further away from the intended point, repeat the rotating of the key in the same direction as before. If the focus is closer than your intended point, rotate in the opposite direction.

Make sure to try both automatic and manual focus during your trials.

After this, just set your white balance. You can use green foliage for this, but you don’t have to. White walls, as well as many fabrics also look white in IR and you can use them to set WB. Try several things and see what looks best. For example, I often use a plain blue shirt to set white balance.

Common mistakes and things to watch out for

  • You should be able to take out all the screws using a #00 Philips screwdriver. However, you may find that some screws are harder to take out than others. They are also easy to damage if you force it when it’s stuck. There are specialty screwdrivers for Japanese electronics that may work better. I actually had a couple of screws stuck so badly, I had to take the camera to a Nikon service centre and ask them to take them out. Once they were out though, I could use a Philips #00 screwdriver to replace them. Go figure.
  • The small wires that I marked in red in the first photo are very prone to breaking if you are not careful. If they do, you will have to strip them a bit and solder them back. I suggest doing the re-soldering as the last step, so that you do not end up breaking and soldering them several times. Make sure to memorize their positions though and proceed with extreme caution so that you do not damage them any further. For example, the blue wire (that is missing from that photo) is actually connected to the backup battery. This is the battery that keeps time while your main battery is out. After reassembling the camera, date and time on my D60 kept getting reset every time I took the battery for a recharge. Also, whenever I tried using preset white balance, my photos were tremendously underexposed (just looked black). Photos done with one of the pre-programmed WB settings were properly exposed, but obviously red. I had to open the camera and figure out the missing wire, after which both problems were fixed. Remember, there should be no loose wires or ribbons! They all have a purpose. The only acceptable loss are the strips that were attached to the original filter.
  • During reassembly, once you put the back cover on the camera body and just before you click it in, take a look at the condition of the USB and video ports. Most likely, they will have some soft padding sticking out. Take a small flat screwdriver and gently stick it back in.
  • Remember the positions of all the screws you take out. For example, the screws inside the SD card compartment are short. If you put long screws in, they will seem to fit, but you’ll have major trouble putting the battery in and out.
  • Do I have to mention that you must keep your working area absolutely clean and dust free? If you have a pet that likes to participate in your activities, ask it to step aside. Use a dust blower and lint free cloth to clean the IR filter.
  • If you cut your own IR filter, be careful not to get it scratched. Small pieces of glass left over from all the practice cutting will get it scratched in a way that may show up on your photos, depending on aperture size and subject of the photo.
  • While practicing glass cutting, try to get thin glass, so that it simulates actual IR filter as closely as possible. Also make sure it’s not tamper proof, or you will spend a long time trying to figure out why you cannot break it.

It sounds complicated, and you can damage your camera beyond repair (though it’s not that easy). But if you come this far, you’ll have your own converted D60. Good luck!

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