What Is Full Spectrum?
Using a full spectrum modified camera and/or camcorder is of great benefit to the paranormal researcher. It allows the capture of images invisible to the naked eye.
A Full Spectrum conversion involves the removal of the camera's hot mirror and often replacing it with a clear glass, optical window allowing invisible light waves to reach the sensor.
This exposes light frequencies where paranormal anomalies have historically been photographed.
These light waves include the visible light spectrum, Ultraviolet (UV) from about 350nm (nano meters) and Infrared (IR) up to about 1200nm.
MAIN TIPS FOR USING A CONVERTED CAMERA/CAMCORDER
Because of the conversion process, your camera may not want to perform as intended by the manufacturer. Here are some tips for using your camera to achieve optimum results.
Always steady your shots by using a tripod or monopod. Focus can be the enemy of any modified camera. By stabilizing the camera, your pics or video will be clearer. I use a monopod simply because it is lightweight and will quickly stabilize any shot.
Use the “Manual Focus” feature of your camcorder. Auto Focus often has a hard time focusing under IR and other types of light because the camera was not designed for this. By using the manual focus option on your camcorder, and sometimes camera if the option is available, your picture won’t have trouble staying in focus. This is especially true if something moves or appears within the range of your camera’s field of vision.
Pre-Adjust the cams EV and ISO values. These values are concerned with the amount of light that enters the cam’s sensor and how sensitive the cam is to light. By practicing what values work best for your camera/light combination before using it in the field, you will have the correct settings for your desired application.
Know where the buttons are on your cam. Because most of our cameras will be used in dark conditions, getting to know your camera and its operations, button placements, and adjustments, you will have a much better experience when you are in the field.
Q: My camera doesn't appear to be Full Spectrum. Colors look normal.
A: You are probably testing your new camera/camcorder under energy efficient or fluorescent lights. These light sources do not have enough IR or UV light to show up on your camera's LCD screen. Try taking your cam outside in daylight or using in the dark with an IR light source. A normal camera cannot see (or see very little) IR light in the dark.
Q: What kind of light do I need? What do you recommend?
A: I always recommend an IR light source to start with. This light is invisible to human eyes, but your cam will see it and register it on the LCD screen so you can see the area even in pitch darkness. There are a number of lights available on this site and elsewhere. I have priced them from most affordable to most expensive. All of these lights are great so just choose what you can afford for now. Don't forget to get a bracket as well so you can connect the light and camera for ease of use.
Getting The Most From Your Modified Camera
The most frequently asked question I receive is "What are the best settings when using my full spectrum/infrared camera?"
There are a few things to consider before heading out with your new modified camera or camcorder.
Will there be A/C power available?
Will I be using my cam on a tripod or carrying it with me?
What kind of light will I be using?
You may also want to consider experimenting with your camera well before the investigation. Become familiar with the settings, buttons and their locations and what settings you will use.
The resulting photos/videos that you see on the cam's display will often be different from the recorded product. So, it's important to know what the recorded photo/video looks like in comparison to what the display shows.
Here are the settings you should become familiar with (if applicable) before heading out:
EV (exposure values) In darkness, you may need to increase the EV settings in order to allow the maximum amount of light to enter the camera. This setting differs from cam to cam and depends on the strength of the IR lighting you use. Increasing the EV will make your pictures brighter.
FOCUS: Very important function! Because the camera has been modified, your camera may have trouble focusing in dark locations and under IR light. I highly recommend using the Manual Focus option in these conditions, espacially with camcorders that offer this feature. When you set the cam to manual focus, you eliminate the risk of the camera going out of focus in darkness and when something crosses the cam's path.
ISO Settings: For digital cameras, the ISO represents how sensitive the sensor is to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera will be to the available light. This is very important to consider when using IR light in darkness. If your phoptos become "washed out", you will want to lower the ISO number.
Indoors VS Outdoors: Your camera/camcorder, much like your own eyes, capture reflected light and then interpret the image. Your IR light, no mattery how powerful, can only be useful if it has something to reflect off of. This is why outdoor pictures/video can be tricky for your camera because very often, there are few objects to reflect your light source. However, indoor locations will have walls and many objects in which your light can reflect. Consider this when setting your camera up for investigating.
Lighting Is Everything: I am very often emailed by folks in a state of panic informing me that they can't get their new camera to see in Full Spectrum. "What button do I push?" "I think the Full Spectrum function is broken!" The problem isn't with the camera. Any modified camera is a permanent conversion and can't slip out of this mode. The issue is that you are more than likely looking at the picture under either fluorescent or energy saving lights. These light bulbs do not emit enough IR or UV light to make your picture look any different from a normal, color picture. Try experimenting outside in daylight and you will see a big difference in colors. Use in the dark with an IR light and you will be able to see the area on the camera's LCD screen, but not with your unaided eyes. This alone confirms that the Full Spectrum/Infrared conversion is indeed working properly.
Questions? Contact Joe for help that you don't see here.