MIRRORLESS - AN EVOLUTION OF INFRARED PHOTOGRAPHY

 A PROPOSAL TO SONY

 

Mirrorless cameras already make a great option for infrared photographers. This proposal will highlight how Sony can:

  • Further improve this experience for existing users

  • Inspire a new generation of photographers to choose the Sony system

  • How this can be done with only small changes and marginal investment.

Before Mirrorless

Infrared converted DSLRs have several handicaps compared to mirrorless cameras:

  • Lack Of Flexibility - Can no longer shoot normal - "visible light" - photography

  • Lack of Adaptability - Shooting alternative spectrums only viable for higher wavelengths. External IR filters block the viewfinder

  • Focus Issues - PDAF no longer accurate. Compensation only reliable for one lens, focal length and wavelength

  • Workflow Issues - Viewfinder doesn't show the world you're shooting, or assist accurate exposure

 

A full spectrum conversion is arguably even more more problematic for DSLRs - ruining the visibility of all wavelengths through the viewfinder and making auto-focus calibration impossible.

Flexibility

Mirrorless cameras fix all of the awkward issues surrounding DSLRs concerning infrared. This allows for a single camera to shoot both visible and invisible wavelengths with ease. Here are a few aspects that make mirrorless cameras great for IR:

  • On-Sensor Focusing, which doesn't suffer from IR focus offset issues

  • Highly adaptable lens mount + focus magnification / peaking

  • White Balance adjustment that can be seen in the viewfinder (in real-time)

  • Reliable On-Sensor auto exposure

  • Real-time WYSIWYG manual metering (screen effect)

  • Live histogram and horizon levels on all screens

  • Not damaging eyesight when looking into the sun

  • No light leaking through the viewfinder

 

Popularity & Potential

Thanks, in part, to mirrorless cameras infrared is growing in popularity. This could be pushed much further by advertising something I have notice more photographers talking about - time of day. Normal "visible light" photography looks most spectacular in the morning and evening (sunrise & sunset), but the opposite is true for infrared photography. Photographers with the ability to shoot both (full spectrum) could retain their motivation throughout the day and capitalize more of their time on inspiring lighting conditions.

 

Alternative Camera Models

Simply replacing the camera's hot mirror with glass and offering customers an official "Full Spectrum" version of the Sony A7 series would be of great interest to IR photographers. This is something that Canon and Fuji have done in the past for DSLRs, but as mentioned above, DSLRs makes little sense compared to the mirrorless camera system. As more discover how easy it is to shoot - IR photography is gaining in popularity all the time. The ability to buy a camera like this and retain a valid warranty would be a huge advantage. Currently the only option is for photographers to spend hundreds of $/£ for a stranger in a garage to remove parts from their camera and invalidate their warranty.

 

This simple option could be the first of many small changes that Sony could do to improve the experience of infrared photographers and further corner the market.

Business Opportunities - Hardware
The ability to slot filters in front of the sensor without removing the lens could revolutionize workflow, speed and quality for videography and various other photography, as well as infrared photography. This could allow Sony to insensitivity users to purchase official filter accessories and few would complain about. Of course this would require a camera body redesign and thus would be a big decision for Sony. Alternatively...

Internal clip-in filters already exist from a few companies however so this could simply be something that Sony considers tweaking and selling officially. Photographers would jump at the chance to buy back the hot mirror that was removed from their full spectrum camera, as well as a host of simple IR filters. This would allow them to shoot in various wavelengths with only a small set of filters that even allow the use of ultra-wide angle lenses (without front filter threads).

Business Opportunities - Software

Minor tweaks specifically for infrared visualization could be sold as optional upgrades. For example:

  • The ability to swap the red & blue channel in the viewfinder - to see false colour infrared images in real-time

  • Hue Shifting the yellow (below left) to other colours (below right). Eg. to emulate classic Kodak HIE colour infrared film.

My Experience

From the early days of the Sony A7 I sold all of my pro Nikon gear so that I could switch to the smaller Sony system and convert it to 'Full Spectrum'. I have gained an appreciation for this camera system over the last five years, but the additional wavelength flexibility afforded by this conversion (visible light, UV and various infrared wavelengths) has revolutionized the way that I shoot.

Edward Noble

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