The frequent readers of this blog will know that infrared photography is one of my favorite subjects. A design flaw of the Leica M8 camera lead to extra sensitivity to infrared light, and while a UV/IR is needed to make normal images with accurate color (which is really annoying), it also transforms the M8 to an excellent infrared camera.
Being able to shoot infrared handheld is essential since I don’t usually carry a tripod with me unless I am into serious landscape shooting, long exposures or night images. Modern cameras have a strong IR filter built in the sensor, so shooting Infrared will require long exposure times, with no guaranteed results.
I had tried once the Fuji X100 with the Hoya R72 filter, and I got a very good image (actually one of my all time favorites, you can see it in my Flickr page). So, I thought to give it one more try since it was a sunny day. I have criticized the X100 for many things but one thing I cannot ignore is its superb image quality. So, let’s see how it performed.
I used a Hoya R72 filter since I have it on 67mm size and with a 49 to 67 ring I could use it on the X100. It’s obvious that these images look infrared, grass is white (as it should be on infrared) and as a first conclusion you can shoot IR images with his camera.
If you look at the exposure times it’s immediately evident that on base ISO (200) you have to use a tripod. With the Leica M8 I could easily get 1/30 shutter speed at f5.6 at he same conditions.
I used manual focus set at 10 meters and the image quality is great, sharp infrared images which can easily be printed at large sizes. White balance was custom (set by taking a reading from the grass). Of course I chose to shoot RAW so that I can alter white balance and other settings later.
So, for black and white infrared images the X100 can be used as long as you have a tripod (keep in mind that in areas with lower light, exposure times will get even higher).
What about false color IR photography ? In this area, the M8 can produce wonderful vivid images with blue sky and yellow foliage. Let’s look at an example from the X100.
On this particular shot I was able to “create” the blue sky by swapping the Red/Blue channel, but both foliage and sky lack the vividness that the M8 can produce. I find the black and white version much better. I have tried “false color” conversion to other images but I just could produce the effect I wanted. So, for false color IR, the X100 didn’t perform so well.
On the other hand, by experimenting with the white balance slider in Lightroom 4, I was able to create different look “color” images with a brown, green or yellow look. Sometimes it fits and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it depends on the individual’s personal taste to decide whether he likes these color variations or not.
As a conclusion I would say that the X100 can create IR images as long as you have a tripod and convert to black and white. It sure is not capable of making infrared photos the way a Leica M8 or a dedicated IR camera can produce, but for someone who owns a X100 and wants to try IR image, it gets the job done (up to a point !)
I am thinking next time to make a side to side infrared comparison with the M8 and X100, and also try to shoot with the X100 at high ISO levels (which will probably allow me to use it handheld and see if it can produce useful files).
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