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The best infrared filter in 2020: create surreal images in color and black & white

Best infrared filter
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Infrared photography can produce some truly unique results and by far the most affordable way to get started is with a dedicated infrared filter. While there’s perhaps less choice than some other popular filter types, some are better than others and that’s why we’ve rounded up the best infrared filters available right now. 

Our eyes only see a limited range of color, believe it or not, ranging from violet to deep red. This occupies wavelengths from around 380 nanometres (abbreviated to nm) to 750nm. Below 380nm and wavelengths become Ultraviolet, while anything beyond that range is Infrared (IR). 

It’s when we try to capture these infrared wavelengths that we can potentially capture some stunning results that really lends itself to landscape photography (though its application is not restricted to the genre), where foliage is rendered bright white and blue skies are captured as almost jet-black. It can be great for mono photography, but can also produce striking color photography with surreal color casts. 

Cameras though have dedicated IR blockers and while there are some services that will remove this (don’t try it yourself), that does leave you with a camera that’s only able to capture infrared photos. This might be something to consider if you get bitten by the IR bug, but those that do often do this with an old camera body that’s no longer their primary camera.

A cost-effect alternative is an infrared filter that blocks out almost all visible light making it possible to capture infrared images. Because they’re designed to block out visible light they look almost black, often displaying a red tint when held up to the light. This means that it’s best to compose and focus your shots first before mounting the filter. 

Examples of black-and-white and color infrared photography (Image credit: Ben Brain/Digital Camera Magazine)

There are both circular and square types of infrared filter available and while the square format makes it easier to drop them in and out when composing your shots, we’d favor a circular infrared filter as it reduces the risk of light leak. The density of the filter also means that it’s pretty much impossible to handhold your camera with an infrared filter attached, so be prepared to shoot with your camera in a tripod. 

So with that in mind here’s our guide to the best infrared filters you can buy right now. We also have links to the best infrared filters deals right now, but make sure you check your lens's filter diameter and get the correct size.

(Image credit: Hoya)

1. Hoya R72

The best infrared filter overall blending value and performance

Type: Circular | Sizes available: 46-95mm | Blocks visible light up to: 720nm

Great value
Good results
Nice sharpness
No complaints at this price

Hoya’s R72 has to be the most popular infrared filter available, and it's easy to see why. This circular filter is available in a wide variety of different filter thread sizes from 46-95mm and blocks out light with a wavelength below 720nm (hence the name). Mounted on a milled aluminum frame, the Hoya R72 has a slight red tint to its almost black appearance that enables it to transmit the entire infrared spectrum (760nm - 860nm) with light transmission at 95%. With good levels of detail, the R72 is an excellent choice whether you’re planning to shoot false color or black and white IR images.

(Image credit: B+W)

2. B+W 093 IR filter 830

Best for black and white infrared - restricts light up to 830nm

Type: Circular | Sizes available: 37-95mm | Blocks visible light up to: 830nm

Filters out the entire visible spectrum
Great for high contrast mono images
Only for mono IR photography
Greatly increased exposure times

While the B+W 092 is a bit weak for true infrared photography (see further down), the B+W 093 IR filter 830 offers some extreme filtration that makes it a great option for mono IR photography. Appearing black (there’s no tint visible when held to the light), the B+W 093 IR filter 830 enables you to shoot pure infrared. This is because it blocks visible light up to 830nm, making it possible to produce bright whites and pronounced blacks that’s great for black and white IR photography. The filter factor is highly dependent on lighting however, so be prepared for some long exposure times, and use a solid tripod

(Image credit: Lee Filters)

3. LEE 87 IR

Affordable option for square filter systems, but polyester not glass

Type: Square | Sizes available: 100 x 100mm | Blocks visible light up to: 720nm

Affordable for a LEE filter
Thin, polyester construction
Requires a separate mount
Potential light leakage

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. First things first though, 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 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.

(Image credit: Cokin)

4. Cokin Z007 Infrared 720 (89B)

Available in a range of sizes and a solid option if you use a filter holder

Type: Square | Sizes available: 67mm, 84mm and 100mm | Blocks visible light up to: 720nm

Available in a variety of sizes
Resin construction
Potential light leak, pretty expensive

Unlike the LEE 87 IR, this infrared filter from Cokin is constructed from resin, so there’s no need for a filter mount with this circular framed filter designed to happily slip into a filter slot on a Cokin filter holder. The Infrared 720 (89B) is available in three sizes – A Series at 67mm, P Series at 84mm and the Z Series at 100mm and blocks out visible light up to 720nm. One issue that might be a problem is that the filter doesn’t feature a gasket to stop light leak between the filter and front of the lens, so there’s a risk that light will get behind the filter and cause ghost images due to the reflections.

(Image credit: B+W)

5. B+W 092 IR filter 695

Only blocking light up to 650nm, one of the weaker IR filters out there

Type: Circular | Sizes available: 37-95mm | Blocks visible light up to: 650nm

Wide range of filter sizes
Punchy false color results
Blocks visible light only up to 650nm
Expensive

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.

(Image credit: Kenko)

6. Kenko PRO1D R72

A modern infrared filter that features some nice little details

Type: Circular | Sizes available: 52-77mm | Blocks visible light up to: 720nm

Low profile frame for reduced vignetting,
Multi-coated design
Not available in larger filter sizes

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) and as such has some nice little touches. This 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. Maximum filter size is 77mm, so those with larger front elements will have to look elsewhere.

(Image credit: Kood)

7. Kood R720

A good budget option for those wanting to try infrared photography

Type: Circular | Sizes available: 49-86mm | Blocks visible light up to: 720nm

Great value
Aluminium frame
Blocks visible light
Quality not the same as rivals
Not available in USA

The Kood R720 is a great value option for those wanting to dip their toe in the world of infrared photography, 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, either, but the key ones are covered and with a 77mm R720 costing just £20 / $25, the 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. Don’t expect it to rival pricier rivals, but you can’t quibble at the price. 

(Image credit: Kenko)

8. Kenko Infrared R72

Sharing clever features of pricier stablemate, a great option for beginners

Type: Circular | Sizes available: 49-82mm | Blocks visible light up to: 720nm

Decent range of filter sizes
Black frame for reduced reflections
Thicker frame that can produce vignetting
Not available in USA

While the PRO1D R72 is Kenko’s high-end infrared filter offering, the Infrared R72 is aimed at beginners. Interestingly, it's available in a wider range of filter sizes than its more expensive stablemate including a large 82mm option, though the Kenko Infrared R72 starts transmitting light at 720nm, so its filtration is not quite as strong (it's also not so widely available in different territories). To reduce reflections, the frame is painted black, but it’s a bit thicker than the PRO1D R72, so those with wide-angle lenses are at risk of vignetting in the corners. If you’re going to be shooting at less extreme focal lengths, then this is a solid option for those looking for an infrared filter that won’t break the bank.

Read more:

10 things you need to know about camera filters
The best filter holders to buy right now
Tips and techniques for using filters for infrared photography