The best infrared filters can unlock a whole new genre of photography to explore. Infrared shooting is a fascinating discipline – so much so that there are a fair few dedicated infrared cameras for those who want to shoot nothing but. However, if you like a bit more versatility, or just want to try out infrared without fully committing to it, then a filter is a much more cost-effective way to go. That's why we've rounded up the best infrared filters you can buy right now.
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So what is infrared photography? Put simply, it's the art of capturing light and colour beyond what the human eye can see. Our eyes can see a range of colours occupying light wavelengths between about 380 and 750 nanometres (nm). Colours at the low end of that range appear to us as violet, while those at the high-end appear to be a deep red. As such, rays below that spectrum are referred to as "ultraviolet", which those that sit above it are called, yes, "infrared".
Infrared or IR photography therefore lets us capture details that aren't visible to the naked eye. The technique is mainly used for surreal landscapes, allowing the photographer to produce bright white foliage and turn clear blue skies jet black. IR photography can be done in colour or monochrome – all you need is an infrared filter to block out all the visible light, and allow the camera's sensor to only capture the infrared spectrum.
Infrared filters will appear almost black to our eyes, with maybe a slight red tint. Put one on your lens and you likely won't be able to see a thing through the viewfinder (as visible light is being blocked), so you'll need to compose first, and use a slow shutter speed to give your camera enough time to gather the light required for a scene.
Types of infrared filter
Just like most photographic filters, such as the best ND filters (opens in new tab) or the best polarisers (opens in new tab), infrared filters come in circle or square formats. Circular filters need to be screwed onto your lens, which is more fiddly, but also more light-tight. Square filters, meanwhile, require a dedicated holder. This makes them easier to slot on and off, but adds to the expense. If you go with circular, double-check you get the right thread size for your lens. Measured in mm, this value should be easy to check, either by looking at the front of your lens or just googling it.
We've included a mix of all types, sizes and strengths of infrared filters in our guide, so let's take a look at what's out there!
Best infrared filter in 2022(opens in new tab)
The Hoya R72 is one of the most popular infrared filters around. It's a circular type, available in various thread sizes from 46mm all the way up to 95mm, so it's going to fit the majority of lenses, and it's constructed in a high-quality milled aluminium. It's black in appearance, with a slight red tint when held up to the light.
Solidly blocking out light with a wavelength below 720nm (which is where the filter's name comes from), the Hoya R72 is able to transmit the entire infrared spectrum of 760-860nm, giving you a vivid infrared effect. Its light transmission levels in this spectrum are 95%, which means you'll see good levels of detail and won't have to leave the shutter open for half a year just to get useable results. It works really well for colour or black and white infrared images, which is why it gets our pick as the best infrared filter for the majority of users.(opens in new tab)
For the purists among us, the B+W 093 IR filter 830 provides an extreme filtration effect for mono IR photography only. It appears completely black to the naked eye, with no red tint visible even when held to the light, because it blocks visible light all the way up to 830nm. This means you can shoot "pure" infrared in mono, and will get the kind of bright whites and deep blacks that the genre is known for. Of course, this means your camera is going to be exposing for a long time to gather enough light, so be prepared for some long shutter speed times. One of the best tripods (opens in new tab) is going to be a must here.(opens in new tab)
Constructed from resin, the Cokin Z007 Infrared 720 (89B) comes in a range of sizes, and is also compatible with Cokin's filter holder system that allows multiple filters to be used simultaneously. This system also makes it easy to slip the filter out for composition, and then in when it's time to take the shot. It blocks out visible light up to 720nm, making it a good choice for mono and false colour infrared photography. The only thing that might be a potential issue is the fact that the filter system doesn't feature a gasket to stop light leaks, so it's possible that light will get behind the filter and cause ghost images through reflections.(opens in new tab)
While most infrared filters are circular in design, that’s not much good if you’ve bought into a square filter system. The good news is that there’s a couple of options out there and the LEE 87 IR is one of them. However, unlike LEE’s resin filters, the polyester construction is substantially thinner so you will need to invest in a LEE polyester filter mount as well. Once mounted in the holder, it’ll work with the LEE 100 filter system and other 100mm filter holder systems (opens in new tab) like Formatt-Hitech (other sizes are available). The LEE 87 IR infrared filter blocks out visible light up to 730nm for true infrared photography, but you will need to be aware of potential light leaks from the filter's thin construction.(opens in new tab)
The PRO1D R72 from Kenko is one of the newer infrared filters out there, having been developed in the mid-2000s (a lot of other filters can trace their heritage back to the days of infrared film). This filter includes a black-painted frame that’s designed to cut down reflection in the glass, while there’s a knurled front that makes attachment that bit easier. Blocking out visible light up to 720nm, the Kenko PRO1D R72 features a multi-coated finish to reduce ghosting, while the low profile cuts down vignetting in your images. However, with a maximum filter size of 77mm, those with larger front elements will have to look elsewhere.(opens in new tab)
The Kood R720 is a great value option for those wanting to dip their toe in the world of infrared photography before splurging out on better kit, though not so widely available in some territories, this circular filter isn’t available in quite the wide variety of filter thread sizes that some rivals offer, but the key ones are covered and with a 77mm R720 costing just £20 / $25, the overall outlay is low. Like the Hoya R72, the Kood R720 blocks out visible light up to 720nm, so you can potentially get some decent false color and mono infrared images. While you shouldn't expect it to beat more expensive rivals, you can’t quibble at the price.(opens in new tab)
B+W produces two infrared circular filters and the 092 is the weaker of the two (check out the B+W 093 IR filter 830 further up the page). Available in an incredibly wide range of filter sizes all the way down to just 37mm, the 092 has a deep purple-red tint when held up to a light source. Unlike a lot of other IR filters, the B+W 092 IR filter 695 blocks visible light only up to 650nm, so you’re not going to get ‘true’ invisible infrared results thanks to the extra visible light sneaking in. This can lead to some pretty extreme false color images, while mono images won’t have quite that same distinctive look.
How we test infrared filters
We look at a number of different factors when testing an infrared filter's suitability for our buying guides. We check the spectrum of visible light that the filters blocks, measured in nanometres (nm), as this will tell us how strong the infrared effect is going to be. We also look at how versatile the filter is – how many thread sizes it comes in, which in layman's terms means how many lenses it's going to fit. We look at what coatings have been added to help light transmission, and also assess the quality of the filter's construction to see how well it will stand up to long-term use.
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