Infrared Camera Update

Shot on my new GX1. This camera appears to be better than my old one. I don’t know why but the results are better.

A few blogs back I discussed my desire to have a digital Infrared camera and weighed up some of the options I was considering as a light weight photographer. The usual approach of photographers converting cameras to IR seems to be to take an old DSLR that they would otherwise sell and have this converted. However the cost of this conversion (certainly in the UK) makes me think this isn’t cost effective and anyway, I don’t like carrying a DSLR around never mind a second body for my system.

In the end I decided to purchase a second GX1 body for the conversion. This was not an easy decision and for a while I toyed with the idea of purchasing a GF1 to convert. What put me off was the cost of the conversion was £250 + VAT (ouch) and I would still have an old 12Mpixel camera. Weighing up the cost of the conversion and the cost of a new camera I thought the GX1 made much more sense.

My initial search for a GX1 was looking for a new model at a good price. This would have cost me around £300 after the cash back offer Panasonic was running (that’s a fantastic price for such a great little camera). I also looked on eBay but most of the imported models were about the same cost. I did find a second hand model for sale but the owner had stuck faux leather on the body and I wondered what that might be hiding.

In the end I found a reconditioned model which had a 12 month warranty and had been reconditioned by Panasonic. The price was just £250 and when it arrived it was like a completely new camera. In fact I can’t believe it has ever been used and all the accessories such as the strap were brand new. Best of all the body is silver and my existing GX1 is black. This will allow me to distinguish the IR camera from the standard one.

Now here is where the fun begins because I decided to send my current GX1 for the conversion given that it was about 8 months old but the new camera now had a 12 month warranty. What happened next has taken me a bit by surprise. When I have been using the new camera I could swear the sensor has a much better dynamic range. Quite often I could shoot without an ND Graduated filter where it would have been needed with my older GX1. The images also appear cleaner and the colour more balanced. I did check the firmware but it was v1.0 as was my old camera.

This experience has lead me to conclude there could be a few possible causes for what I am seeing:

  1. I’m seeing things that aren’t there – but I don’t think so
  2. My first camera could be a poor model or my new one could be a fluke product that is better than the average. I recall Ctein writing on The Online Photographer site about his old printer being much better than a new model and after much testing and input from Epson concluding his old model was so good because of exceptional luck.
  3. Could Panasonic be improving the GX1 bit by bit by including new sensor developments as they become available? This is not as odd as it sounds because they are developing new sensor improvements for newer models all the time. Why go to the cost of manufacturing different sensors of different quality if they are all the same size and probably all cost similar amounts to make.

Anyway, I have rambled on for a while here without telling you where I sent the camera for the conversion. In the end it was ACS in Norfolk because I wanted to keep the camera in the UK. I did consider sending it to one of the leading converters in the US but in the end I wanted to support a UK company and after all costs were factored in there wasn’t too much difference. Once I get the camera back and have a chance to use it I will post some thoughts about the conversion.

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