Best Infrared Lens Filters

Updated December 2019
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best infrared lens filters

Last Updated December 2019

The early days of film photography produced black-and-white photos. Eventually, color photos became the standard, and full color has remained the standard with the migration to digital photography. Photographers also enjoy the opportunity to shoot photos that include all kinds of special effects and use them to create some memorable images. Infrared (IR) photography requires a bit more planning than some other special effects, but the payoff is worth it when done correctly. And one way to do it correctly is with infrared lens filters.

Depending on the gear you own, the cheapest and easiest way to start shooting IR photos is by using infrared lens filters. These filters screw over the lens of compatible DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Infrared lens filters are not compatible with fixed lens cameras or smartphone cameras.

You need to use some care to find the IR lens filters that match the lenses you own, but once you do, you’re ready to start shooting some really cool photographs. Take a look at our buying guide for some tips and a few of our favorites.

If you’re unsure what IR photography is, do a quick online image search for “infrared photos.” You’ll find some amazing images, and you also may get some ideas for your own IR photography subjects.

Key considerations

Size

When seeking an IR lens filter that matches your camera gear, you need to understand how these filters attach.

  • Thread: The IR lens filter typically screws over the front glass of the lens. The filter has a thread on the outside that must match the thread on the interior edge of the lens housing.

    To find the thread size for a particular lens, look on the lens for a diameter symbol (⌀). Often, this symbol is printed on the rim around the front glass of the lens. Next to this symbol, you’ll see a number. This is the measurement of the thread in millimeters. Sometimes this number has “mm” after it, but sometimes it doesn’t.) Occasionally, you may find an older lens that doesn’t have the ⌀ symbol. If this is the case, the lens may not have a thread that can accept an IR lens filter.

    Common thread sizes are 37mm to 77mm, but you can find lenses with measurements outside this range, too. Once you know the thread size of your lens, you can pick a filter to match.
     

  • Step-up/step-down rings: If the IR lens filter doesn’t match your lens, you can purchase a step-up or step-down ring. This allows you to use the filter on lenses with different thread sizes.

Infrared lens filter features

After figuring out how to find the proper filter size to match your lens, you then need to choose the type of filter you want. Different IR lens filters block different types of light, creating different effects.

Wavelengths

Each filter has a number referring to the range of wavelengths of light it blocks. Visible light is about 380 to 740 nanometers (nm), although some experts list the range as 400 to 700 nanometers. Infrared begins at around 700 (near the edge of the red portion of the visible spectrum) and goes to about 1,000 nanometers. You may find some IR filters in between the wavelengths listed here, such as 595nm. This type of filter includes some of the benefits of the two filters closest to it.

Here are four common IR lens filter measurements and when they’re useful.

  • 550nm: This filter blocks all light shorter than 550nm, so you can see a mixture of visible and IR wavelengths. In the infrared photo, you’ll see some deep blues and reds and more colors than appear using stronger filters in this list. This filter produces less contrast than stronger filters and works nicely when photographing people for infrared portraits.

  • 665nm: The 665nm IR filter produces some interesting colors for landscape photography. It turns leaves almost bright white while maintaining some of the blue in the sky. You also can shoot portraits with this IR lens filter, but you’ll have a bit more contrast than with the 550nm filter. This filter creates photos with an almost dreamy feel because of the lack of sharpness.

  • 720nm: This is the standard IR filter and the most common choice among photographers. It blocks nearly all visible light, allowing just a hint of the red spectrum, which creates some beautiful colors in IR photos. Contrast measurements and sharpness are about average with this filter.

  • 850nm: When you want to shoot IR photos that are primarily black and white with little to no visible color, this is the filter to use. This filter also creates photos that are noticeably sharper than the other choices on this list. Because this filter blocks all visible light, it produces some unique images in areas with a lot of IR light.

Materials

One other important feature of an IR lens filter is the quality of the materials. The metal ring around the outside of the filter is made of durable brass in higher-quality filters and aluminum in cheaper ones.

EXPERT TIP

When using an IR lens filter, you also need a tripod. With an IR filter attached to the lens, you’ll have exposures that last 30 seconds or longer, and only a tripod can hold the camera steady for that long.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Take care when screwing on the lens filter. Don’t jam it onto the lens. Applying too much force could damage the thread. An improperly attached filter can admit light, ruining your IR photos.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

It’s recommended that you shoot in the RAW image format with your camera when using an IR filter. The JPEG format negatively affects the IR results.


Infrared lens filter prices

Infrared lens filters cost between $20 and $100. The least expensive filters do not match the build quality of the pricier filters, but they may be fine for people who just want to try out IR photography.

A filter that blocks a wider range of light may cost a little bit more, but the difference in price based on this factor is minimal. Most of the price difference relates to the quality of the materials used in the filter. Photographers who have experience in IR photography and are seeking the best quality may feel comfortable spending in the $40 to $100 range.

Tips

Here are a few other options for creating IR photos.

  • Try an infrared camera. There are a few cameras available that have an infrared image sensor, which measures infrared light rather than visible light. Purchasing an IR-only camera is an expensive option, though, so you’ll want to be certain you like IR photography before you spend this kind of money.

  • Convert an existing camera. If you’d rather convert an existing camera to infrared sensitivity versus using a lens filter, you can, but you’ll need to send the camera to a company that specializes in whole-camera IR conversion. This is also an expensive choice.

  • Use photo editing software. Many of these programs can take a typical full-color photo and convert it to an infrared simulation. Understand that this won’t look as great as a photo shot with an IR filter or an IR camera.

Other products we considered

Most photographers should be able to find a high-quality IR filter in our list above, but if you need something a little different, we have a few other models. If you want to save some money,, the Opteka 720nm IR Filter is a good choice. Its quality could be better, but it’s a nice starter filter. Another inexpensive choice with more versatility in the thread size is the Polaroid Optics 720nm IR Filter, offered in thread sizes from 37mm to 77mm. We love both the versatility and price of the Ruili Six-in-One Adjustable Infrared Filter and the Fotga Six-in-One Adjustable Infrared Filter. Both filters can deliver a range of settings between 530nm and 750nm in a single filter. The Ruili has thread sizes from 55mm to 82mm, while the Fotga filter is available in thread sizes from 43mm to 77mm.

An IR lens filter won’t work with certain cameras that have an IR block built over the image sensor. Conversion of the camera is the only option for shooting IR photos in this case.

FAQ

Q. How do I focus when using an infrared lens filter?

A. This is a tricky part of IR photography. The DSLR’s autofocus system won’t work because the IR filter blocks too much visible light. You should position the camera to shoot the scene you want without the infrared filter attached. Adjust the focus manually or use the infinity focus setting. Then carefully attach the filter and shoot the photo.

Q. What other camera settings should I adjust to take photos with a lens filter?

A. Because the infrared filter blocks visible light, you’ll have to shoot in a manual control mode, adjusting the settings yourself. The camera can’t successfully adjust them. Set the aperture between f/8 and f/11, which makes it easier to use infinity focusing for the best results. You’ll have to use the Bulb shutter speed setting, too, so you can keep the shutter open for 30 seconds or longer. You’ll have to use some trial and error to find the right exposure time.

Q. My infrared photos don’t look great right out of the camera. What am I doing wrong?

A. You may not be doing anything wrong. To add a bit of pop and sharpness to your infrared photos, you might need to run the image through photo editing software. Many of the best photos you find online have been edited. Shooting in the RAW image format and adjusting the white balance in editing software often helps a lot.

Q. How do I find a good subject for infrared photography?

A. Landscape photos typically work best. Plants reflect IR light, giving them a striking appearance in this type of photo, whereas they’re rarely the focal point in a color photo. Water also gains an interesting look in IR photography because it turns black. Skies are much darker than in color photos, too.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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