Digital Camera Modifications: INFRARED | FULL SPECTRUM | ASTRO

The Ultimate Conversion Guide

Understanding Camera Modifications

So, you’re thinking about getting your camera converted. There are so many options, but which one is best for you? Let’s find out, together!

To begin, we must understand the basics of the colour spectrum. The visible range is what we normally see with our eyes while anything on either side of the spectrum is nonvisible light. In astrophotography shots specifically, light ranges to the right of the visible spectrum are responsible for the burst of vibrance that we see.

Light spectrum and major emission lines

Why are there three different modifications and what are they utilized for?

To answer this question, lets familiarize ourselves with the three major conversions. They are H-alpha, Full Spectrum, and Infrared. Each of these conversions requires the removal of specific filters inside the camera body followed by a thorough inspection. The filters that are removed or replaced likewise depend on the camera make and model.

H-alpha Modification

In an H-alpha Modification, the sensor stays open to visible light, but now it also takes in H-alpha light waves from emission nebulae in our own galaxy and neighboring galaxies. Getting your camera modified with this conversion creates an opportunity to shoot vibrant images of emission nebulae in the night sky in a significantly shorter time span.

Comparison between a stock and an H-alpha modified camera’s captured light spectrum
Single processed 300sec exposure at ISO400 using a stock Canon 70D (left) and an H-alpha modified Canon 60D (right)

Using a custom white balance (a camera setting which we can set for you), some cameras can still be used for regular daytime photography. 

Contrasting difference in images taken using the auto white balance (left) versus a custom white balance (right) with an H-alpha modified camera

Full Spectrum Modification

Consider the Full Spectrum Modification as the universal choice. This is an all-around modification that enables your camera to capture images of space objects at tremendous distances and replicate the capability of both H-alpha and infrared modified cameras. This is all because, in addition to visible light, both the ultraviolet and infrared colour ranges are captured. A camera with this modification can likewise function for daytime photography using external filters mounted on the lens and a custom white balance if needed. For astrophotography, just add a filter of your choice to the imaging train making sure that the filter cuts UV and IR light.

Comparison between a stock and a full spectrum modified camera’s captured light spectrum
Single processed 300sec exposure at ISO400 using a stock Canon 70D (left) and a full spectrum modified Nikon D5300 (right)

Infrared Modification

The Infrared Modification is an excellent choice if you are looking to photograph the world from a different, unparalleled perspective. In an infrared modification, only the infrared light range passes through to the sensor. Such camera can isolate infrared light to capture landscapes, cityscapes, or any other display from an almost entirely different view.

Comparison between a stock and a 720nm IR modified camera’s captured light spectrum
Example images taken using a 720nm modified Canon T1i camera
An infrared camera's (right) staggering ability to pierce through the morning mist

What else should I know before settling on a modification?

All Night Sky Camera modified cameras undergo an intricate calibration of the sensor position so that any modern lens you may want to use works properly and the camera retains its autofocus function (can focus on infinity).

Now you are a true expert in differentiating between the three conversions and are prepared to decide which of the three is best to suit your needs.