I recently converted my Nikon 1 V1 mirrorless camera to “super-color” infrared. I’ve been having fun with the camera, but I did notice that wider shots seemed very soft in the corners. According to the team at Life Pixel, wide-angle lenses are notoriously problematic with infrared cameras. Lens distortions tend to be exaggerated and softness is common. The primary culprit, it seems, is the fancy optical coatings on your lenses, which help reduce distortion and aberrations. The coatings are optimized for visible light, not IR wavelengths.
As much as I hate taking pictures of brick walls, I also want to understand the limitations of my gear. I decided to test three of my 1-Nikkor lenses to see how well they performed with infrared.
- 10mm f/2.8 1-Nikkor
- 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 1-Nikkor (the Nikon 1 kit lens)
- 6.7-13mm f/4.5-5.6 1-Nikkor
I tested all lenses at 10mm, which is roughly equivalent to using a 27mm lens on a 35mm camera body.
Findings and Recommendations
At 10mm, all three of these lenses exhibit corner softness. The 10mm prime was the best, followed by the 6.7-13mm zoom. The 10-30mm lens was extremely mushy in the corners, even at f/11. The softness wide-open was such that it created a blurred vignette effect (which can be used creatively in the right circumstances). At f/16, corner softness wasn’t any better but center sharpness suffered from diffraction. The 10mm 1-Nikkor was the best of the bunch, by far. The 6.7-13mm zoom was definitely better than the 10-30mm, but still soft enough in the corners to warrant caution when shooting wide scenes with maximum depth of field.
Here are sample shots taken with each lens at 10mm and f/8. I put a circle around the area of maximum sharpness.
My recommendations: Wide-angle and infrared don’t always play nicely together. If you want to shoot wide with an infrared converted Nikon 1 camera, choose either the 6.7-13mm zoom or the 10mm prime. The 10-30mm just isn’t good enough at the wide end unless you want a creative blur effect in the corners. However, the 10-30mm 1-Nikkor lens is perfectly good for IR photography at other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is not a major problem above 18mm or so. So far, none of the 1-Nikkor lenses I’ve tried have had any issues with hot-spots that would make them unsuitable for IR photography.