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Sharpness in Visible Light vs Infrared

In theory, infrared images could be sharper than those taken in visible light, because its narrower spectral band could potentially reduce chromatic aberrations (a tendency of the lens to focus different wavelengths or colors of light differently). Visible light spans the spectrum from 400 to 700nm (though bright 800nm light is just barely visible to some eyes). Infrared light to which digital cameras are sensitive spans the spectrum from 700nm to 1000nm, with peak response at 700-850nm. The percentage difference in the wavelengths is thus much greater for visible light.

In practice, sharpness of infrared images can be just as good as with visible light, but is rarely better, because few lenses are corrected for infrared, allowing various optical aberrations to reduce sharpness, especially towards the corners of the image.

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Diglloyd Infrared Photography covers cameras and lenses for infrared photography.

The coverage explains all the issues involved in shooting in infrared, which do not change. It is not a review of any particular camera or lens, though many examples are included.

  • Guidance on workflow for infrared, including black and white and channel swapping for false-color images.
  • How infrared renders, and why certain spectral cutoffs matter: false color vs black and white.
  • Image quality issues to be on the lookout for in infrared.
  • Numerous lens evaluations in infrared.

View an overview of infrared as well as filter spectral transmission plus examples from an optimal lens.

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