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The best infrared filter in 2021: create surreal images in color and black & white

Best infrared filter
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

The best infrared filters are an affordable and simple way to start producing infrared photography. This fascinating, visually striking discipline is a great way to rejuvenate your shots and try something new, and while there are dedicated infrared cameras out there, a filter is a much cheaper way to try it out, with a good deal less commitment! Some filters are better than others, while some represent greater value for money, and that's why we've rounded up the best infrared filters you can buy right now. 

Infrared photography is all about capturing light and colour beyond that which the human eye can see. Our eyes see a pretty limited range of colours, running from violet to deep red and occupying wavelengths from around 380 to 750 nanometres (nm). Rays that exist below that range are known as ultraviolet, while those that sit above it are referred to as infrared, or IR. It's these we can use these filters to capture. 

While infrared techniques can be used for just about anything, they really come into their own in landscape. Infrared filters allow you to capture surreal and alien-looking landscapes, rendering foliage bright right and capturing clear blue skies in what looks like jet black. Infrared can be shot in both monochrome and colour, meaning you can really let loose with your creativity.

Infrared filters block out almost all visible light, leaving only the infrared spectrum to be captured. As such, to the naked eye the filters will look almost black, with a little red tint when they're held up to the light. This has the additional effect of making it very difficult to compose an image with an infrared filter in place, meaning you should compose first, then mount the filter. Shutter speeds will also need to be slower, as the camera needs more time to gather enough light. This is another reason why landscape is the most common genre of infrared photography, as you're pretty much guaranteed to be working on a tripod!

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

Types of infrared filter

As with most photographic filters, like NDs or polarisers, you can get infrared filters in circular and square formats. Square filters are easier to drop in and out, however they are more susceptible to light leak, and require a dedicated holder to be attached beforehand. 

Circular filters, meanwhile, need to be screwed on. This can be fiddly, but it does reduce the risk of light leak. Also, with circular filters you need to check and double-check that you've got the right size for your particular lens; this is referred to as "filter thread" in mm, and is generally printed on the front of a lens, or is easy to look up.

With all this in mind, we present our guide to the best infrared filters you can buy right now!

Best infrared filter in 2021

(Image credit: Hoya)

1. Hoya R72

The best infrared filter overall blending value and performance

Specifications
Type: Circular
Sizes available: 46-95mm
Blocks visible light up to: 720nm
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Good results+Nice sharpness
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Circular
Sizes available: 37-95mm
Blocks visible light up to: 830nm
Reasons to buy
+Filters out the entire visible spectrum+Great for high contrast mono images
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Square
Sizes available: 100 x 100mm
Blocks visible light up to: 720nm
Reasons to buy
+Affordable for a LEE filter
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Square
Sizes available: 67mm, 84mm and 100mm
Blocks visible light up to: 720nm
Reasons to buy
+Available in a variety of sizes+Resin construction
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Circular
Sizes available: 37-95mm
Blocks visible light up to: 650nm
Reasons to buy
+Wide range of filter sizes+Punchy false color results
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Circular
Sizes available: 52-77mm
Blocks visible light up to: 720nm
Reasons to buy
+Low profile frame for reduced vignetting,+Multi-coated design
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Circular
Sizes available: 49-86mm
Blocks visible light up to: 720nm
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Aluminium frame+Blocks visible light
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Type: Circular
Sizes available: 49-82mm
Blocks visible light up to: 720nm
Reasons to buy
+Decent range of filter sizes+Black frame for reduced reflections
Reasons to avoid
-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

Phil Hall

Phil is the Managing Editor of Top Ten Reviews, and is a former Editor of Techradar's camera channel. He is an accomplished photographer, and specializes in shooting cycling and fast cars.