Digital UV and IR Photography
Using Nikon D1

By Bjørn Rørslett

UV : Hoya U-360 Filter

UV: U-360 Filter, Inverse Blue Band


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All images: © Bjørn Rørslett/NN

Taken in February, 2000 using UV-Nikkor 105 mm f/4.5 lens on a D1

IR : Near-IR (89B) Filter
Wratten 87

IR: O92 Filter

B+W O-92

When I first started testing my new Nikon D1 digital SLR, I hadn't any expectation at all when I mounted my UV-Nikkor 105 mm f/4.5 on it. I attached a Hoya U-360 filter to the lens, a virtually black filter that passes much UV and negligible energy outside the UV band. I was surprised to see the D1's meter gave response and just out of curiosity, pressed the shutter release. Unbelievable, but true, this UV image turned out to be perfectly exposed! What a pleasant surprise for an old UV freak ...

Many test shots later, I had convinced myself that D1 is fully capable of doing UV photography in the digital domain. About the only drawback is using UV flash. D1 won't do UV TTL with my SB-140 UV flash, but neither will it do TTL with any flash unit except for SB-28 DX. Otherwise, UV photography couldn't be simpler than with the D1. It literally is "point and shoot".

I was however in for even more surprises, as it turned out that D1 extended its spectral response into the near-IR region as well. This IR response was highly unexpected, because I knew in advance that D1 was fitted with an IR-rejecting filter in front of the CCD chip. However, since IR energy levels are substantial, evidently just enough IR passes through to give an IR image onto the CCD notwithstanding the barrier filter.

The images displayed above show the entire spectral range that my D1 commands, from true UV to near IR. I availed myself of a stormy day to depict my faithful birches in the various spectral bands. To get really low into the UV and eliminating extraneous colours, I added the Hoya U-360 filter which has peak transmittance at 360 nm. I would have preferred my FF filter (Wratten 18A equivalent), but that wasn't available to me at the time of this shooting. All images were obtained using my D1 set to 'A' mode and no exposure corrections were dialed into the camera. To show the flexibility of the digital images for colour rendition outside the visible region (where all colours would be considered "false" anyway), I have shown one of the UV images with the blue channel inverted.

Exposure times ranged from 2-4 secs for the IR photos up to 10-15 secs for the UV images. The UV-Nikkor was set to f/16 in order to give the long exposure times I felt were needed to convey the stormy and gusty mood of that day.

I shall continue developing my skills using D1 for non-visible light photography, so be sure to check back in a short while. My first digital UV images of sand ripples are found here. Later, I proved conclusively that D1 is capable of recording pure UV images.

The latest development is bringing the UV and IR aspects together by creating "false-colour IR" images with D1, using inexpensive stacked polarizers. Just see for yourself. Alternatively, it is possible to filter out the visible band completely to create another set of fascinating pictorial expressions.

For more information on the Nikon D1 camera, my review pages for it should be consulted.

For an updated review of digital UV and IR photography, click here.

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Last Update 1 October, 2002