I bought the Fuji X-Pro 1 the minute it was available in the US. My old Pentax K-x was a reliable camera but was growing long in the tooth and I was eager to replace it. The X-Pro came out at just the right time and the temptation of a digital rangefinder(esque) was too great, even with a strictly limited lens selection.
One of the things I had tried with the Pentax was digital infrared but I didn’t have very much success with it. Unless a camera is specifically altered to be a dedicated infrared device there are limitations on the effect. A few months after I had purchased the Fuji X-Pro I read on a forum that the infrared filter was weak on the X-Pro and that it would be a good candidate for digital infrared. After finding an article on the technique I decided to go out and give it a whirl.
The key techniques for digital infrared are:
- An infrared filter (I use a modest Hoya R72 filter)
- Sturdy tripod as exposures can be several seconds
- Setting the white balance in camera
- Post processing.
The most important part for me was remembering to set the white balance manually. The X-Pro does not allow you to use a custom white balance. This is typically done by filling the frame with a leaf (green shows up as white in infrared) and setting the white balance off of that frame. Instead the X-Pro requires you to set a manual Kelvin value so you must set it all the way down to 2500K. Not setting the white balance gives you a photo that’s shifted so far into the red (as the filter will cut out all other light) that it will be very difficult to work with. Even with the manual white balance setting the photos will be extremely red but the white balance can be managed somewhat in post-production.
As the infrared filter cuts out the vast majority of light you either have to crank up the ISO or use a tripod for long exposures. While the X-Pro has excellent high ISO performance I see no reason why you should have to add additional noise to an already noisy frame. Use a tripod with a cable release or the self-timer feature. Even at 200 ISO there will be some noise but not its not excessive. All the photos in the attached gallery were shot using a tripod at ISO 200. Typically the exposure was several seconds (around 2 seconds to 10 seconds).
Using the highest ISO settings can get something resembling hand-holding shutter speeds in bright sunlight but as the most typical infrared subjects are landscapes I don’t see much value. I haven’t tried shooting street scenes using infrared but it might be an interesting exercise. Several photographers including Weegee have used an infrared flash (see some DIY conversion instructions) but generally that’s been used with film, not digital.
Generally I didn’t find that the infrared effect was very strong with the Fuji X-Pro 1. While this was an interesting effect it doesn’t have the same impact as a converted and dedicated infrared camera or infrared film. Post-processing for digital infrared consists of opening the image in photoshop (or another image editor, I use Pixelmator), switching the red and blue channels, then setting the white balance on the color corrected photograph. This will give you a color infrared image. I don’t like that effect very much so I converted the color corrected image into B&W.
The output of the Fuji X-Pro is more like Ilford’s SFX-200 film which is red to infrared sensitive. It will give you a feeling for the infrared but in comparison with the output of a converted digital camera its just not the same. Just as SFX-200 offers the advantage of easier handling and processing, the X-Pro is relatively easy (assuming you remember to set your white balance) as it just involves screwing on a filter. R72 filters aren’t expensive even if purchased new so its a low-cost and zero risk adventure.