D610 VS. D7100 VS. D7000 Infrared Comparisons
I happened to be testing an old Nikkor 20mm f/4 (AI-converted). I thought I’d try some infrared shots, since this lens is supposed to be excellent shooting IR. I use the Hoya R72 IR filter, with the 52mm thread diameter.
This 20mm lens is about the smallest and lightest FX lens Nikon ever made. 7.4 ounces light. The D7000, D7100, and D610 allow aperture-priority auto-exposure after defining the “non-CPU lens data” for this lens. I absolutely love its field of view (94 degrees) on the D610. You’d never miss auto-focus using a lens like this, since everything is typically in focus all the time. You still get the 3-stage focus indicator inside the viewfinder while manually focusing. Still, 20mm on a DX camera isn’t that wide; my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 has no reason to feel threatened here.
The 20mm, of course, has the little red dot on the focus scale for infrared focus compensation. Back in the day, Nikon really paid attention to stuff like that.
Manual-focus lenses are actually superior to auto-focus lenses for shooting infrared with a filter like the Hoya R72, since you can’t see through the viewfinder. You frame and focus (and use the lens focus scale red-dot IR shift) before attaching the filter. Those of you who have gone through the pain of framing/pre-focusing a ‘G’ auto-focus lens and then mounting an IR filter know what I’m talking about.
After all of those digressions, back to the subject at hand: IR shooting comparisons.
The D7000 IR results indeed look excellent. Absolutely nothing to complain about here, aside from the gripe about the narrower DX field of view. I was shooting at f/11.0, 15 seconds, ISO 250. (“Sunny 16” rule would have been 1/500 at f/11, ISO 250. IR needed 12 stops more light!)
Nikon D7000 using Hoya R72 with Nikkor 20mm f/4 AI-converted lens. Excellent
Now, for the D610 infrared results. How to describe what I got? Epic failure comes to mind. Totally unusable. It appears that the light baffling and anti-reflection coatings inside the D610 act more like a mirror in the infrared spectrum. In comparison, this 20mm lens is wonderful for regular-light photography on the D610, especially for landscapes.
Nikon D610, Hoya R72, Nikkor 20mm f/4 AI-converted lens. Gross.
Next, I head for my D7100. Terrible. Exact same light baffling and anti-reflection coating problem in infrared.
Nikon D7100, Hoya R72, Nikkor 20mm f/4 AI-converted lens. Gag me.
Note the terrible horizontal glare across the entire frame for both the D610 and D7100. The Nikon D7100 misbehaves in a nearly identical way to the D610 when shooting infrared. My guess is that the camera internal baffling and anti-reflection coatings actually reflect instead of absorb infrared wavelengths.
Ahh. I bet it's something wrong with the 20mm lens, you say. I bet the problem goes away with a different lens, you say. There's no way the D610 and D7100 could let me down this badly, you say. How could the D7000 possibly be superior to the D610 and D7100 in any way, you say.
I tried using the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D with the Hoya R72 IR filter on the D610, since I’m apparently a glutton for punishment. Big nasty hot spot in the center of the picture, in addition to the terrible horizontal banding flare. Having used this lens in the past for infrared, I know it’s not the lens’ fault. I have to conclude that the D610 is useless for infrared photography. I didn’t have the heart to try this same lens on the D7100; I know the results would be the same.
Now, the secret sauce to making the D7100 and D610 succeed with IR photography: you absolutely need to cover the viewfinder eyepiece with the little "DK-5" eyepiece blocker. Unlike the D7000, D60, D50, and D500 cameras I have tested, the light baffing in the D7100 and D610 seems to be inferior. You can clip the DK-5 onto your camera strap so you don't lose it, and you don't even need to take it off of the strap to slip it over your viewfinder!
50mm f/1.8 AF-D on the D610, HoyaR72 filter. Still gross and unacceptable.
The Nikon D7000, as with all modern digital cameras, (that haven’t been converted to infrared) is very insensitive to infrared. The filter on top of the image sensor screens out almost all of the infrared wavelengths. Older camera sensor filters (like the D50 and D60) were much better at passing IR (a few stops better, at least). Aside from long exposure times, the D7000 provides top-notch IR results. Just keep in mind that the Bayer sensor only has a quarter of the photo sites sensitive to red, so your camera resolution is essentially divided by 4 as well.
Nikkor 20mm f/4.0 AI-converted, on a D610. It's only a little bigger than a body cap.
Moral of the story: don’t ditch that D7000 if you do infrared photography. For the D610 and D7100 (and probably the d7200), always use the little DK-5 viewfinder eyepiece blocker.
By the way, I typically use Nikon Capture NX2 to convert my 'deep red' RAW shots into the samples you see above. I can't get the D7000 to succeed at measuring a scene to get "preset manual" white balance with infrared, although the preset measurement works for a D50 and D60.
I use the Capture NX2 "Camera Settings", "White Balance", "Set Gray Point", "Marquee Sample", "Start", then rectangle-mouse-select the whole picture, then click inside the selection. This is a quick and easy way to get the picture really close to what the in-camera "preset manual" white balance procedure achieves for regular photography. Once the editing steps are entered, just save those steps as a batch process. The batch process can be run on a whole folder of IR shots, to quickly get everything converted.