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IR and Lenses

What lenses are suitable for IR photography

This page is part of a series of articles about digital infrared photography. You'll find link to all the segments of the IR Series in the left margin. This segment lists a number of lenses whose IR properties has been tested for hot-spot problems by the editors and users of the DPanswers web site, and summarises the findings.

image showing hot spot
Typical hot spot.

In addition to the sensitivity of the sensor the quality of digital infrared depends on the characteristic of the lens.

For example, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 typically produces a pronounced hot spot as can be seen in the sample picture to the right. The hot spot is a result of internal reflections within the lens produced by the lens' coatings. Some types of coating are not transparent to infrared wave­lengths.

Also note that lens coatings are not designed for infrared light, so almost any lens will exhibit more flare and ghosting at infrared wavelengths, compared to when it is used to capture visible light.

Below is a preliminary list of various lenses and whether they are suitable for digital infrared or not. The list is not a result of systematic testing, but com­piled from observations submitted by readers. The lenses listed in the intermediate category - May produce a hot-spot, etc. - are those where I have inconsistent reports, or where the hot-spot, flare and/or ghosting is so unobtrusive that modest post-processing will clear things up.

If you want to add to the list, or comment or correct one of the entries, please use the comment facility below. If you want to read the original reports submitted by the users, and not just the summary below, take a look at this page.

The recommended way of testing a lens' susceptibility to the hot-spot problem is to make an infrared photograph of a sheet of white plain typing paper.

1. Fixed Focal Length Lenses

No hot-spot reports

May produce a hot-spot, etc.

Poor IR performance

2. Zoom Lenses

No hot-spot reports

May produce a hot-spot, etc.

Poor IR performance

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44 responses:

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Why so much flare?

What I want to know is why flare is so much more pronounced with digital IR than it was with film IR. I have photos I took on IR film with the sun in the photo that have no more flare than regular color photos. Not so with digital IR!

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Mapping out IR Hot-spots

To the blog group,
after reading many of these hotspot reports I see the IR hotspot is still pretty mysterious.

When I bought a Sony DSC-R1 in May 2006 and had it converted at MaxMax, my major concern was whether the fixed Zeiss 24-120mm (equiv) lens had an IR hotspot.

Because this camera has a very useful electronic viewfinder, I was able to devise a simple test for the hotspot. I aimed the camera at illuminated white no-seam and worked through the zoom range. At ~65mm (equiv), the Zeiss Sonnar formed a tight hotspot at f16. Looking at the EVF, I could see the hotspot form and dissolve as I zoomed through that trouble area. Aperture played a big part also; as I opened from f16, the spot became more diffuse until it was barely perceptible at ~f5.6. (Of course, there is no hotspot in normal visible wavelengths.)

So, the IR hotspot is a result of internal IR reflections; it is possible that these reflections can be controlled by the selection of aperture and focal length. Now that I know where the problem is on my lens, I avoid that narrow area. In my thousands of IR exposures, I have never seen the hotspot.

While my simple test will not help anyone who is shopping for a lens, it will help you map out the best areas for the lenses you already have.

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Good lenses from Canon

Dear Gisle and community,
thank you for such a rich resource. And thanks Stan for sharing your test procedure (Gisle too for the white paper test). I plan on systematically testing all my lenses soon!

With that out of the way I will share some info. To begin I have been doing photography a long time and have been a regular infrared shooter (all year, not just summer!) since the early 90's. A year and a half ago I went digital, and shortly thereafter stumbled onto a Canon 350D converted to infrared. I'm not so crazy about digital but I'm liking digital IR very much. Well, except for hot spots!

So for those of you who by used and older equipment, here are some recommendations for good lenses from Canon.

EF 80-200 2.8 L Superb, superb! Even better than the newer descendants as you only need to refocus at 80mm (from 100mm up it is apochromatic). Big minus is its heavy weight and inability to use Canon teleconverters.

EF 100-300 5.6L Another fantastic lens, but quite a prima dona generally. It's actually better suited for digital IR than film because it does not like any filter that is not clear: you lose autofocus, then the image is so dark you cannot manually focus! I'd recommend this only for converted cameras so you can just use a UV or other protection filter. Again, at the widest setting (100mm) you have to refocus but from 135mm up you can use autofocus.

TS-E 24 Seems good, but I've rarely used it as it has nasty chromatic aberration on color digital. The few images I've taken have been good but they are very few and all in low light. I'll have to do some more shooting.

Added info on two lenses already reviewed:

EF 50 1.4 Yes, sometimes has a hotspot. Worse is its notorious tendency to front focus even in normal shooting, so that even when you refocus to the IR mark the picture may stay sharp. A very frustrating lens to use in IR. However, I've noticed on a very few shots under tungsten lights I have gotten what looks like steam or vapor from people against dark backgrounds. A very cool effect and I don't know what it is (heat and sweat?). It is very rare and unpredictable but fantastic when it happens. It keeps me shooting this lens in IR. Kind of like buying a lottery ticket, I guess!

EF 16-35 2.8 L I bought this lens specifically so I could shot IR and was rewarded with its notorious and nasty hot spot. This on top of a generally propensity to flare. Not recommended, although sometimes you can get a good image, and some of the marginal images can be cleaned up in post processing. Instead, go for the absolutely glorious EF-S 10-22mm, which is my hands-down favorite Canon lens for shooting infrared. Maybe its the Super UD element but it is clearly superior even when looking at thumbnails.

That's it. I hope my info was useful. Happy shooting!

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Canon 300mm f/4 L IS

I can add that the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS lens is very good for IR with no hot-spot seen at all on a converted 5D body with the internal filter having the response characteristics similar to the R72 and 89b external filters.

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Canon FD lenses?

Does anyone have infrared experience using Canon FD lenses? I'm particularly interested in their fast wide-angle lenses.

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Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8

The Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 does NOT produce a hot spot. I have an IR-converted Canon XTi... and I have yet to see a hot spot at any focal lenth. The lens is excellent, and my IR images are coming out very nice. It's a great combination.

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sigma 10-20 f4-5.6

My sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 showed a slight hot spot. Not terrible but not great.

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Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro DG EX works well

I had good luck with the 50mm Sigma macro using a filter (Cokin 007). The kit lens Canon 18-55mm was unusable as you note above.

BK

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Canon 50/1,2L

i have this lens with my ir converted camera and it works great, with no hotspots.

Also my M42 lenses Soligor 21mm f/3,8 and Carl Zeiss Jena 35mm f/2,4 are working pretty good.

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Infrared Lens Wiki

Phostructor said the following:

To All Digital Infrared Photographers:
This is to announce the creation of the
Lenses for Infrared Photography Wiki at http://irhotspots.wikia.com/
Your experience and data are vital to help develop this database of lens performance for IR photography. If you know what a hot spot is, then you are qualified to contribute. There is room for data that has been methodically tested and gathered, and there is also room for less formal data. Please head on over and put in your data, and know you'll be helping many other photographers fascinated with the potential of infrared.

Please pass this on to any person or group interested in IR photography!

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does this happen in all exposure times?

or just long ones?

Thanks for the detailed conversation!

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@Tali

My experience is that the aperture may have an effect on the hot-spot, but not the shutter speed.

Nikon 18-105mm focal length aperture relation

Hot spot is very pronounced when at 18mm f/9-11. What I observed as I took shots of different focal length, hot spot seems to dissolve when zooming in, disappearing at around 24mm with the same said aperture.

Trying to adjust the aperture higher (going to f/16), hot spot also seems to dissolve but this may require you more exposure time.

Though I am not quite sure I am correct, I hope that it may give you some info and try operating at different f lengths and apertures; hot spot will not appear at some f length and aperture values.

Good Canon Lenses

I have used canon ef

  • 28 1.8
  • 300 2.8
  • 400 2.8
  • 400 5.6
  • 600 4
  • 1.4x II tc

all with good results and no hotspots with a lifepixel converted camera.

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Canon 17-40mm f/4 L

This lens DOES produce a hot spot in IR photos.
 

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No problems with Tamron 18-200 LD XR Di II

I have used the Tamron 18-200 extensively for 720nm filtered infrared and have never seen an hotspot on any of my images. I traced the listing of problems to a 2006 report. Perhaps new er versions of the lens do not produce hotspots? Please consider removing this lens from the list

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No hotspots - Samyang 14mm f2.8 IF UMC [Nikon Mount]

I've been using the Samyang 14mm for some weeks now, and it's spectacular for IR photography (modified Nikon D80, Wratten 87), with no hotspots. Sharpness is superb right out to the corners, right from f2.8.

I've been using the Nikon 18-55 and 16-85mm zooms, which are pretty good, although sharpness becomes worse as CA increases off-axis (no hotspots, though).

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who about sigma

who about sigma Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM (Canon Mount) ist hot spot ot not thx

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Have had few to no problems with the Nikon 24-120 vr
 

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A few Canon quibbles

In my experience (mostly with modified 5DII cameras):

The 17-40/f4 L and the 85/1.8, both listed as "may produce a hotspot" are fine.

The 24-105/f4 L, listed as OK, does produce a distinct hotspot at f8.

The 200/f2.0 L, not listed, also produces a distinct hotspot at f8, but not when you shoot it wide open. I don't consider this a problem--what's the use of having such a glorious lens if you don't shoot it wide open? It took me more than a year before I happened to shoot a frame at f11 and first noticed the problem.

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Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar ZF

I don't see the above-referenced lens, or any Zeiss lenses for that matter, on the lists. Anyone have any experience using this lens for UV/IR?

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hot spots

I have a pair of Tamrons

11 -18 leaves a hot spot

17 - 50 f2.8 leaves a hot spot both while using a 72 IR filter on a Canon 10D

28 - 105 f3.5 - 4.5II canon lens will not leave a hot spot this is the good one they made 3

One more lens is the canon 20 - 35mm f 3.5 - 4.5 it leaves a hotspot

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Canon 28 - 105 lens

I used this lens with filters and with converted camera and no hot spot.

Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 has nasty hotspot right from the maximum aperture.

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Nikon 16-35mm f4

Just tried this lens with a hoya R72 filter and it produced a hot bar across the image plane with a slightly larger spot in the center. I do not reccomend using for IR...

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nikon 17-35 f2.8 or nikon 16-35 f4 (hotspot)

hi! which of this lens produce hotspot?

which is a better lens for InfraRed? Tnx

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Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S II

the Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S is mentioned in the introduction as producing a (pronounced) hot spot but in the listing this applies to the IS version and not the non-IS (bit confusing)

but I only found the #II version (non-IS) so far (49 eur) is that version also ok for IR? If the Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S II also has hot spots I consider to use a 720nm on my 24-70L instead (less wide angel and more expensive filter). Tips are we;come

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Nikon 24-70mm & Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D IF-ED

Nikon 24-70mm: Produces hotspots in most shots, but they are almost invisible. I went out and shot maybe 50 pics yesterday using a Hoya R72 filter, between f/2.8 and f/11, it was a hot and brightly lit day, and only maybe 2 shots have noticeable hot spots. The spots are more noticeable in color than in B&W.

Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D IF-ED: this lens produces a very noticeable hot spot in most of the shots I took with it. Bright circle, quite unlike the barely visible and very fuzzy spot of the 24-70m.

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tokina 116 hot-spot

I have this lens and make hotspot, i try other one and its the same. isnt good for IR photo.

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lens database

If anyone is interested, I have put together a list of all the hotspot reviews I could find and my own results here: kolarivision.com/lenshotspot.html.

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lenses report

500 mm nikon vr, 70-200 f2,8 nikon VR2 and 24-70 f 2,8 sigma don't make hotspot.

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Sigma 12-24mm IR

The old version - prior 2005 works very well with my D70 and D200 IR converted cameras - no hotspots ever seen. My very old sigma 28-105 was very bad for IR.

Regards Johann van der Walt

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Nikon 500 mm f4 vr / 70-200 2,8 vr2

No hot spot with these nikon lenses.
 

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Nikon 24-70mm IR

shot this lens on my Nikon D700, converted to IR Deep Black and hot spots appeared in all images. it was a rental lens and I will not be buying a copy.

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Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D IF-ED + Citiwide 720nm IR filter = light streak

took a test shot of a newly purchased Citiwide 720nm IR filter w/ the Nikon 18-35mm , first 2 shots ISO 200, exp. about 20-25 seconds, f/8... a horizontal light streak appeared on the lower part of the image... could be because i didnt engage the eyepiece shutter to prevent light leak from the viewfinder (hopefully) more tests to be done before confirmation of light streak issue.

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Canon 28-135mm Hotspots!

I have two canon cameras that have been converted to infrared: 720nm and 590nm. The hotspots I've gotten in images are much more pronounced with the 720nm vs the 590nm.

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Nikon D7000 and 50mm 1.8D

I'm using a Nikon 50mm 1.8D on a D7000 and I've noticed a very distinct hot spot at f8 and smaller. At f1.8 there is no trace of the hot spot. Haven't bothered checking the range between f1.8 and f8. Also the lens Nikon 18-105mm 3.5-5.6 is unusable at all focal lengths and f-stops. Same goes for Nikon 55-300mm 3.5-5.6.

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Zeiss 21mm distagon and IR?

Any one try the Zeiss 21mm distagon on an IR mod body?

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Horizontal light streak

Pentax K200D, 18-55 ALII, Hoya 720 nm filter.

In some photos (light on side) I've an horizontal light streak running through all the photo, same as JM's.

Any suggestion?

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Zeiss 21mm Distagon and IR

I have this lens and it's terrible for IR photography on a converted Nikon D200, produces very misty looking shots, not very clear.

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Is this article referring to

I read on Wikipedia that: "When the IR blocker is removed, many lenses which did display a hotspot cease to do so, and become perfectly usable for infrared photography."

Is this article referring to "hot spots" from IR filters on lenses, or actual IR converted cameras?

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Nikon 28mm f/1.8G

That lens produces hot spot. Too bad because it is a great lens for normal photography.

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Nikon 16-35

there was one negative comment about this lens. I shoot this lens on my B&W IR Nikon D700 for about one year and have never had a hot spot with this lens. maybe the camera makes a difference?

www.uvircut.com

I tried HOYA filters and another brand Rocolax

[Hoya is now a Taiwanese company, same outfit that owns Pentax and Ricoh]. But I know a Taiwanese outfit that makes very good filters and much cheaper than the Hoya are "Rocolax". I bought a few Infrared filters from them IR720 and IR590 as well as UV+IR Cut filters .... and they were considerably cheaper than Hoya and at least as good.

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