Nikon D80 Infrared Conversion

Sep 07 2010

My infrared D60 served me well, but a recent accident involving a kayak and the beautiful waters of Georgian Bay left it inoperable. My primary colour camera is a D80, so it seemed natural to get the same one to convert to IR. It turned out to be a lot easier to deal with than the D60. There are no wires to desolder, and fewer screws and ribbons to undo. As long as you have the IR filter cut to the proper size and ready, you can be in and out within 10 minutes.

First, lets start with the necessary tools and equipment:

  • the D80 (naturally)
  • the IR filter, no larger in size than the original filter (which is 30x32mm). Mind that sensor size is 28x20mm and the filter overlaps it
  • #00 Philips screwdriver (even better if you have a special screwdriver for Japanese electronics; it’s very similar to a Philips, but slips off the screw less easily and provides a better grip on those tiny screws)
  • a lint free cloth

On the outside case, there are only four screws to undo. Two on the left side near the cable inputs:

Another two on the right, near the SD card slot:

Once these are out, you can lift off the back cover with the LCD. Be very gentle with it, there are a few places where it would need to snap off as you pry it open. Don’t pull too quickly, as theLCD is still attached to the main body by a ribbon cable, which may get ripped if pulled too far.

Once the LCD back is off, you’ll see a protective metal plate that covers the main board. Take out the six screws holding it and take it off.

Next, you need to take out one more screw and three ribbon cables attached to the main board. Taking out the LCD ribbon cable is not necessary, but it’s very easy to do and will reduce the chance that it will get pulled and damaged.

Now you need to lift the main board and place it vertically like in the photo below. I used some tape on it to prevent it from bending back down. Be careful as you handle it to avoid damaging the wires soldered next to the large ribbon cable at the bottom. It’s not fun soldering them back on it they break.

With the main board up like that, you can now see the CCD chip’s board. Take out the three screws that connect it to the body.

You can now lift off the CCD board in the same manner as you did with the main board – very gently! Place them both horizontally with the CCD facing up so that you can work on it. What you are really seeing here is not the CCD itself, but the IR blocking filter over the CCD. Touching it (getting it dirty) at this point will not affect your IR photos as you will remove it anyway.

There are now another four screws that you need to undo (the last ones, I promise).

Take off the metal frames that are used to secure the filter  over the CCD. There are two, one over another:


Now you can finally take out the IR blocking filter and place your own, R72 (or whichever you picked) filter instead. Be sure to wipe your filter clean with a lint free cloth before putting it on.

Put the frames back on and repeat all the disassembly instructions in reverse to put your camera back together.

Make a few test shots, set the custom white balance and go shoot some great IR photos!

Tips

  • If your IR filter is a little too big, you can use 80-100 grit sand paper to sand the edges down to appropriate size. Be careful not to sand near a disassembled camera or food items, as the fine particles of glass will get everywhere. Also, be gentle with the filter surface because these same fine glass particles can create permanent scratches on the filter that will be visible on your high f-number photos. You can wipe the dust with a lint free cloth, but you cannot easily get rid of scratches.
  • To set a custom white balance easily: attach your longest lens to the camera, then with the camera in shooting mode with no image on the main LCD, hold the WB button near the main LCD and turn the wheel under your thumb until “PRE” is displayed in the white balance section of the secondary LCD. Keep holding the button until “PRE” is flashing. Point the camera at any plant or vegetable you have. Get close to it, as if taking a closeup, but focus manually at infinity. Press the shutter button and make sure the secondary LCD has a message “Good” flashing. Take some regular shots to confirm that it really is good.

7 responses so far

  • Steve says:

    Could you supply more info about the filter itself. Where to get it? You show a R72 in this article, but what might be another choice, and for what reason would you use another?

    • marina says:

      I don’t recall the technical terms right now, but you could also use a clear filter which passes both visible light and infrared, or a filter for a different wavelength of infrared. R72 is a filter with peak transmission rates around 720nm, which is near infrared. There are also filters with a wider bandwidth – they can go from 600nm to 850nm and create a photo with a wider range of colours. You could also use a deep infrared filter (around 900nm, far infrared) and the resulting photos would be more pronounced black and white, with higher contrast and less colour range.

  • william says:

    What is the size of the IR filter for D80?

  • Lee W says:

    Marina,

    thanks for the info and the details photo of the diy process.
    about the R72 ir filter, may I know the size and thickness that would replace to the IF block filter ? any problem if the thickness is different from the original IR block filter ?

    thanks.

  • Doug says:

    what did you use for the IR filter?, was the thickness and refractive index a factor, with focusing the camera?

    • marina says:

      I used a Hoya R72 filter which I got at a local camera store in 55mm size. Just cut it with a glass cutter to size. It’s a bit thicker then the IR blocking filter it replaced, and focusing is not quite the same as in visible light. When I shoot with a zoom lens like 18-200mm I can barely see the difference between IR and visible light sharpness – because sharp focus is just not a strong point of that lens in the first place. With a good prime lens you begin to see that the focus is a little off – it can be fixed by rotating the focus ring a tiny bit after autofocus is complete. The amount of rotation required varies slightly from lens to lens but if you don’t have too many lenses, you can get used to it fairly well.

  • Gabriel says:

    I just performed this mod on my D80. It has been kicking around my workbench, pretty much doing nothing since I got a D700 a couple years back. I gotta say, this really breathes new life into the D80. :-) Thanks for a good howto. One thing, I found I had to remove the bottom plate from the D80 to get the back plate off.

    I can’t wait to take lots of cool IR photos. ;)

    Thanks!
    -Gabriel

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