With few exceptions, all cameras have a Infrared cut filter build into the camera. Infrared light would ruin a normal shot, because it would engage the image sensor with light that we don’t see, there-fore making the image not true.
When we decided to do the Midnight Musher series, we knew we would need to overcome this hurdle. Our search lead us to LDP LLC in New Jersey. They offer a camera modification service that removes the IR-Cut filter from the C/MOS and replaces it with a IR-Pass filter. This is a permanent change and the camera will show false color in daylight. But works very well at night, especially with IR emitters lighting up the subject.
We decided to purchase a relatively low end camera to try this on and that was the Panasonic DMC-G5. We lalready owned, and liked, it’s big brother the GH3. The Live MOS sensor on the G5 was one of the fastest in it’s price range which we hoped would help with the night conditions under IR.
This camera and modification worked out better than we hoped. Other than choosing it for the image sensor, many other features attracted us to it and worked well in the field. The LCD swivels out and rotates, making irt easier to frame shots from different angles– as we often need from the back seat of a dog cart. The LCD is touch screen, making it easier to control in the pitch dark operating envirnoment. The zoom control is awefully small, but I guess a nessasary sacrifice in such a small DSLR. Lens options are resonably priced and work well. Hard to compare to other cameras since we never used this camera before the modification.
Even with the modification, night shooting is difficult. We operate in pitch blackness on the Midnight Musher runs. If you don’t have night vision goggles on or have a IR camera to look through, you see nothing but stars through the trees and maybe a relection off a river here and there. So, the only light the camera has to work with is the IR emitters we use, a 18w LED flood mounted forward and a small emitter on top the camera. It would be compariable to trying to take a picture with a stardard camera using a flashlight. So, in that respect, this camera works amazenly well! There is understandable bright spots in the images depending upon what IR emitter is lighting up what subject. But, in the end, we could mush at night, not let any passerby see us, and still shoot photos.