• Ultraviolet Photography

My UV & IR Kit: Bjørn

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#1 nfoto

    Former Fierce Bear of the North

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 13:41

Many people wonder about what kind of gear I use for my UV photography. Below is a compilation of the current kits for UV and I also included IR since I often shoot both ranges at the same time.

  • Nikon D40X (UV-modified with internal Baader U 2". Now retired in favour of the D3200)
  • Nikon D40X (broad spectrum)
  • Nikon D40X (IR only)
  • Nikon D200 (broad spectrum)
  • Nikon D200 (IR only)
  • Nikon D3200 (UV-modified with internal Baader U 2")
  • Nikon D3 (broad spectrum, recently retired due to shutter monitor LED issue)
  • Nikon D600 (broad spectrum). Can be used for UV, visible light, or IR depending on filtration of lens.
  • Panasonic GH-2 (broad spectrum) I have two units and one is normally set up for UV video usage
  • Fuji Finepix S3 Pro UVIR Limited Edition (quaint but enjoyable, used mainly for emulated false-colour IR, its UV performance is not as good as the others. Battery capacity is very poor)
Lenses. Only items with wide-spread usage for UV are listed. Many more are used for special UV captures.
  • Coastal Optics 60 mm f/4 APO. This is a truly high-quality performer and virtually parfocal over its entire spectral range (300-1100 nm). A minor issue is the tendency to make hot spots at magnification greater than 1:3 if you stop down beyond f/11. The issue can be reduced by adding extension to get the lens into the close range, though. Another option is ading a sunshade with narrow opening to the front of the lens. The shade for a Nikkor 45/2.8 P or Voigtländer 90 mm f/3.5 SL2 are suitable and efficiently cures the hot-spotting issue.
    The 60 APO is in current production, but very expensive.
  • UV-Nikkor 105 mm f/4.5. This is the classic lens for UV photography and I am fortunate enough to have several of them.
    Image quality is simply superb (if you ignore the bokeh, both this Nikkor and the Coastal 60 share the same non-optimal bokeh because of their low level of various optical aberrations. You cannot have superb sharpness, virtually no residual aberrations, and a creamy bokeh all at the same time I suppose. So be careful with the background before shooting commences and one usually gets off just fine).

    The UV-Nikkor is discontinued but Nikon subsidiaries sell the RayFact UV 105 which is the same lens and currently in production elsewhere. From time to time a used UV-Nikkor emerges on the second-hand market. Be prepared to pay up handsomely for any sample of a UV 105, old or new.
  • Novoflex Noflexar 35 mm f/3.5. A good all-round performer for UV (and IR) with added advantage of being able to focus really close. All lenses on the market are vintage by now as production was in the '60s. Thus it can take time to find a really nice copy. They usually come in Exacta mount but converting to alternative mounts is feasible. I currently have 3 of them, all set up with Nikon F mount. Do note that most versions not with an original F mount can extend a little too far into the mirror chamber so as to block the reflex mirror. This is not normally an issue on a DX format camera such as the D40X or D200/D300, but definitively a problem on D70.
    They are not hard to locate on the second-hand markets, but prices recently have increased quite dramatically. Still, a clean sample can be had for less than $ 400.
  • Kuribayashi Petri 35 mm f/3.5. Also a good all-round performer for UV, responding slightly deeper into the UV range than the Noflexar. These lenses were basic OEM products from early '60s and came under various names. Petri, Kuribayashi, W.Acall, or Kyoei are common labels on them. Komura may also belong here but this is not validated yet. The mounts are Petri breech-lock, or M42 threads. Once in a while one encounters a W.Acall 35 mm f/3.5 in Leica 39 mm thread (LTM) mount, but that particular lens is not suitable for UV at all.
    They are not abundant on the second-hand market and hunting down a decent sample can take time. Prices tend to be low though, so expect to pay around $ 100 or even less if you are lucky. Be aware that the build and workmanship are pretty basic so look only for very clean samples. Petri lenses of the 'good vintage' tend to have scalloped chrome focusing rings.

    The Petri breech-lock mount has a short register distance so adapting these lenses to F mount can be very difficult. Probably the better approach is looking for a Petri-m43 adapter, or make one yourself (basic components are: a Petri breech-lock mount scavenged from a dead camera, a Petri TC, or an extension ring; and a Minolta MD-m43 adapter because Minolta has about the same register distance as the Petri system).
  • Petri 135 mm f/3.5 (Petri breech-lock mount). Used on the m43 cameras through an adapter to allow infinity focus. Can also be used on the "F" cameras with adapter but infinity focus is lost. It has acceptable UV performance and good UV transmission. Stop down to f/11 or beyond for best UV performance. They usually can be had for around $ 50.
  • Petri 200 mm f/4 (Petri breech-lock mount). Used on the m43 cameras through an adapter to allow infinity focus. Can also be used on the "F" cameras with adapter, or on a bellows, but infinity focus is lost. Acceptable UV performance and good UV transmission. Stop down to f/11 or beyond for best UV performance. Price segment is $ 50 up to $100.
  • Enigma kit (base lens125 mm f/1.2, adapters to make it 175 mm f/1.7 and 250 mm f/2.4). Designated 'Enigma' because I haven't been able to come up with anything regarding the manufacturer or its design purpose or application. This is a short, very stubby mirror optic, and is used without the accompanying field lens so is entirely free of any refractive elements. Image quality is good (UV and visible) and it is essentially free of chromatic aberrations. The main issue with this lens is the extremely narrow depth of field making precise focusing a true challenge. When the base lens is deployed with the F-mount cameras, a suitable TC has to be used otherwise the output shows partial darkening.

    I purchased it on a garage-sales auction many years ago ($25 or so) and it had been collecting dust until recently when I found how to make it work on my cameras by removing the internal field lens. Original register distance was just a few mm.
  • Petri-based 2X teleconverter for UV. This is a custom-built TC using components from a Petri 2X TC mounted into a Nikon E2 ring. Used mainly with my UV-Nikkor 105 lenses to provide a 210 mm f/9 UV lens with good image quality. The Petri 2X is dirt cheap on the second-hand market and you usually pay less than $20 for them. Do look for the early generation having zebra-striped casing. A bonus is the breech-lock mount you can scavenge from the TC to make Petri-F adapters.
Filters (UV):
  • Baader U 1.25" (Venus Generation 1). This filter leaks too much in IR for critical scientific photography, besides not all lenses can handle this small size of filter without vignetting. A dichroic filter. Now discontinued.
  • Baader U 2" (Venus Generation 2). Much better IR attenuation than its predecessor. Filter size is 48 mm due to its astronomy origin so step rings are usually required. A dichroic filter. Expensive but worth the price.
  • AndreaU filter. Leakage in deep violet makes colour profiling a little tricky but you do get shorter exposures.
  • PrecisionU (early prototype). Leaks too much IR to my taste but can be occasionally useful for video recording.
  • PrecisionU (late prototype, probably equivalent to production units). Much less IR leakage and a good overall filter for digital UV applications. Will balance to slightly warmer colours than the Baader U 2 as it registers additional information in the upper UV range immediately below 400 nm.
  • Narrow-band UV bandpass filters (Omega Optics). I'm building a kit with 320, ..., 390 nm units in steps of 10 nm.
  • Schott UG11X (dichroic), a predecessor to the Baader filters
  • B+W 403 (claimed to be equivalent to Wratten 18A, leaks too much IR to bwe useful for digital UV)
  • Hoya U-330 (50x50 mm square). Leaks a lot of IR so is best restricted for applications not requiring strict colour balancing in UV.
  • Hoya U-340 (50x50 mm square). Less IR leakage but still not acceptable for digital UV.
  • Hoya U-360 (52 mm thread). Less IR leakage but still not acceptable for digital UV.
  • Kodak Wratten 18A. A standard filter for UV in the film days, entirely unsuitable for digital UV due to its IR leakage.
  • Nikon FF (approx. Kodak Wratten 18B), accompanies the UV-Nikkor in the factory kit. Nearly useless for digital UV due to its IR leakage.
  • Baader UV/IR Cut filter (48mm thread) to establish visible-light reference photos with the broad spectrum cameras. Do note it does not restore the colour balance of the stock camera's filter pack. Either combine with BG-38 or BG-40, or make a separate profile for this filter in suitable software.
Filters (IR):
  • Hoya R72 (various sizes)
  • Hoya RM90 (various sizes)
  • B+W O-92 (often regarded as equivalent to R72, but its half-point is much lower, around 695 nm)
  • Wratten 87 (52 mm). Entirely free of coating so flares easily.
  • Wratten 87C (gel up to 100 x 100 mm)
  • B+W O-93 (equivalent to 87C, various sizes)
  • Hoya RM1000 (various sizes)
  • Zeiss Narrowband filter kit (700-1000 nm) steps of 25 nm. Not all kit items are present.
Light sources (UV/IR/Visible):
  • Nikon SB-140 (I have two of them, mostly used for UV in the field)
  • Nikon SB-14 (I have three, used with the SB-5IR filter for IR in the field)
  • Broncolor Mini-Com 80 studio flash. Uncoated Xenon flash tube (three flash heads + powerpack to run them on battery under field usage)
  • SB-21 Ring flash (for visible and IR, virtually useless for UV)
  • Nichia UV LED torch narrow-band peak at 365 nm. Used either for focusing by LiveView, or for UV-induced fluorescence
  • Sylvania Blacklight for UV-induced fluorescence. Retired in favour of the Nichia.
There also are loads of paraphernalia such as UV protection goggles, filter holders (hinged type), filter drop-in boxes, adapter rings, flash cords, remote controls, timers, chargers, and what have you.

[Published 12 Apr 2013, last update 20 July 2014]