Converting Nikon P900 to IR/Full Spectrum - The Definitive Guide

Mick West

Staff member
P900 Conversion.jpg

The Nikon P900 occupies a special place in many topics discussed on Metabunk. It's a fairly lightweight "bridge" camera that has a ridiculously powerful zoom lens. It's described as 83x, or the equivalent of a 2000mm lens on a normal 35mm SLR camera. It replaced the need to carry around several pounds of equipment to get super-zoomed shots. This made it an ideal tool for various communities to use for their interests. Normal ones like bird-spotting or aviation, but also a variety of more conspiracy-oriented topics, including:

  • Chemtrails - Where enthusiasts would zoom in on planes leaving contrails and try to pick out anomalies that might suggest some kind of secret spraying program.
  • UFOology - Long hampered by regular cameras creating blurry photos of distant blobs, the P900 now gave UFO hunters the opportunity to zoom in on those blobs and see what they actually are. So far those that were resolvable have all turned out to mundane things like birds and balloons, but the UFOlogists are hopeful that one day they will get a zoomed-in (and in-focus) photo of an actual flying craft.
  • Flat Earth - No esoteric subject is more synonymous with the P900 than "flat earth". The powerful zoom allows the curious to observe up close a ship vanishing over the curve of the earth, or to see the actual shape of the curve in perspective compressed electrical towers or causeway pylons. Enthusiasts can also recreate classic experiments (like Wallace's Bedford level experiment) that at the time were the domain of the wealthy due to the cost of suitable telescopes - now replaced by a P900.
In 2018 Nikon announced the P1000, with an even more powerful 125x (3000mm zoom). Many of the esoteric enthusiasts upgraded, but the P900 is still incredibly common in these spheres, and you can get one for a quite reasonable price.

Chemtrail hunters, UFOlogists, and Flat Earthers are not so concerned with taking pretty pictures. They just want accurate observations. So an increasingly popular modification to the camera (and many other cameras) is to remove a small piece of glass from inside the camera to allow it to detect infrared radiation. This is known as an "IR conversion" or a "full spectrum" conversion.

IMG_6646 FILTER.jpg

This bit of glass is an infrared (IR) filter. The sensor on the camera is more sensitive than the human eye and can detect light that is not normally visible, particularly infrared light. But including this light in the image give it an unnatural color cast, so most cameras have a filter, this little piece of glass, that removed the IR light, and only allows visible light to hit the sensor, giving a natural appearance, which is great for regular photography.

But this means you are actually removing information from your photo, and when your goal is to get as much information as possible, you really would want the IR light included. So people open up the camera, remove the bit of glass, and they now have a "full spectrum" camera, where all the light that the sensor can detect (visible and IR) is recorded in the photo.

A wonderful benefit of IR light is that it is not scatted as much in the atmosphere. This effectively means IR photography will cut through haze, giving you a much clearer view of objects (or horizons) that are many miles away. To maximize this effect, you add in a filter that blocks all visible light (the light that is scattered). You can replace the bit of glass internally with this filter, but it's more flexible if you get one for the front of the camera. This allows you to take photos in full-spectrum, IR-only (with a $12 filter), or in the original visible light ($100 "hot mirror" filter)

This conversion makes the P9090 a much more suitable tool for all the topics above, particularly Flat Earth, where the effects of haze often obscure long-distance observations. I'm interested in all those subjects, so I had to do it. I put it off for a while, as it's not incredibly easy, and there's some risk of breaking the camera, but as I started seeing more and more example of IR photography being used, I decided to take the plunge.

There are a few tutorials online for how to do this:
The first one is actually for a Nikon P600, an older but similar camera. I used the video by SpaceTech, which I watched in full, and then converted into step by step instructions. Spacetech was using the Plamoid video as a reference but had to experiment a bit to get it all to work on the P900.

I didn't watch the "Flat reality" video before my conversion, but it does show two ultimately successful conversions, there are a lot of hiccups though, and I'd only watch it if you just want a broader perspective on things that might go wrong. In particular, they keep the camera vertical, when it's easier to have it sat on the lens, with the back horizontal.

I videoed myself doing the operation, but I thought it would be useful to have a step-by-step guide similar to the Plasmoid P600 guide, incorporating what I learned from watching all the videos and performing the operation. So here it is:


Following these instructions will void your warranty, and might damage your camera. The following instructions are informational only, and if you break something, then that is your responsibility. Only attempt if you have the skills and tools required

Step 1 - Gather Your Tools

You will need several things for this operation, get them all before you start:
  • Precision Phillips-head screwdriver. Ideally a PH00 size one. If you are unsure, then test it using the two screws in front of the tripod mount. You don't have to remove those screws for the operation, so it's a good place to test. Magnetize the screwdriver, as that makes it MUCH easier to use.
  • Small flat head screwdriver (for popping open the case with the tab under the flash, and opening ribbon cable connections)
  • Tools for opening the case. Specifically something flat that you can slide in and twist to pop it open. You will probably be fine with fingernails or a small flathead, but I have a $10 set of case opening tools from Prytech, which worked great.
  • Tweezers, for reinserting ribbon cables, and picking up screws. Beware of "pinching" eyebrow tweezers as the sharp edge can cut the ribbon cable. Flat angled tweezers are ideal.
  • Containers for screws - There's six kinds of screws, so you might want six containers, but either way, you don't want to lose any! You will at the very least want to keep the three sensor screws seperate.
  • Pen - which you will use to mark things off this checklist as you through it forwards and then backward.
Step 2 - Prepare the camera
  • Remove the battery (you don't want to accidentally turn it on at a crucial point!)
  • Put on a lens cap (as you will be balancing the camera on the lens
  • Remove the strap (it gets in the way)
  • Fold the screen so it's facing inwards
Step 3 - prepare yourself
  • Grounding? Some people like to use a grounding strap when working with electronics. I personally do not, but if you frequently get static sparks you might consider it.
  • Gloves? Greasy fingers and optics do not go well together. Gloves fix this, but I don't use them as I'm not actually touching any of the glass, and gloves make it harder to handle the small screws.
  • Ensure you have an uninterrupted hour
  • Familiarize yourself with how ribbon cable connectors work. If you have not done this before you will be tempted to just pull out the ribbon cables. This will break your camera! The connectors have a small tab that goes the full width of the cable that you flip up to remove and press down when you re-insert the cable.
  • IMG_5038.gif
Step 4 - Remove 12 black screws. These are
  • 1 - Next to the hinge of the battery door on the bottom of the cameraMetabunk 2019-03-09 14-24-31.jpg
  • 2 & 3 - At the back of the tripod mount screw.Metabunk 2019-03-09 14-25-05.jpg
  • 4 - Next to the USB port under the rubber tab on the right-hand sideMetabunk 2019-03-09 14-26-12.jpg
  • 5 & 6 - On the right hand (grip) side, top, and bottom
  • Metabunk 2019-03-09 14-28-29.jpg
  • 7 & 8 - On the left-hand side, top and bottomMetabunk 2019-03-09 14-30-18.jpg
  • 9 & 10 - Under the screen, near the hingeMetabunk 2019-03-09 14-35-37.jpg
  • 11 & 12 - Under the flash (coarse)Metabunk 2019-03-09 14-37-17.jpg
All the screws are the same, apart from 11 and 12 which have a coarse thread. You will feel this when you unscrew them as they will come out quicker. Keep them separate.

Step 5 - Remove the back of the camera.
  • Gently pry the back away from the front, all the way around, but don't try to fully remove it.
  • Put the camera on a flat surface, base down. Insert a small flat screwdriver into the slot under the flash (see above) and gently twist. The back should now be pivot open, but is still connected by two ribbon cables on the right side
  • Remove the top (short) ribbon cable by flipping up the tab and then removing the cable. It will come out easily once the tab is up.
  • (Optional) Remove the second ribbon cable. I did not do this (and neither did SpaceTech) as there seemed to be enough room for maneuvering with this cable still attached. So I ended up with it looking like:
    Metabunk 2019-03-09 15-03-46.jpg
Step 6 Disconnect the metal shield

This is probably the most difficult part. Go very slowly here, and never force anything, as some of the cables are quite close of the metal, and can be pinched or stretched. You can do this step with the camera vertical (on its base like above), or face down (resting on the lense). I started with vertical and switched to face down. If you go for face down (which I recommend) and you did not remove the second ribbon cable, then you will need to put the back of the camera on something, like this:
Metabunk 2019-03-09 15-23-40.jpg
You are going to be removing 11 screws (13-32) and three ribbon cables (3,4 and 5). The screws are all silver and come in three sizes, long, short, and tiny. Metabunk 2019-03-09 15-35-27.jpg
  • Screw 13, bottom, right of center (long)
  • Screw 14, bottom right (long)
  • Screw 15, top right (long)
  • Screw 16 top, right of center (short)
  • Screw 17 top left (short)
  • Screw 18 bottom left (short)
  • Metabunk 2019-03-09 15-47-08.jpg
  • Cable 3, second cable in on the top right.
  • Metabunk 2019-03-09 15-48-43.jpg
  • Screw 19 (long) is directly under cable 3.
  • Metabunk 2019-03-09 15-52-15.jpg
  • Screws 20, 21, either side of the viewfinder
  • Cable 4, bottom mid. Flip the tab!
  • Screw 22, bottom left
  • Screw 23, left and down of viewfinder. Tiny screw.
  • Cable 5, top center (to viewfinder PCB)
Step 7 Remove the metal shield
  • Metabunk 2019-03-09 16-17-41.jpg
  • First, detach the viewfinder PCB from the shield. This is just loosely held in place with some tabs, and should jiggle free easily. Note how it was positioned, with the tab inserted in the metal slot on the upper right
  • Then gently pry the shield away from the main circuit board. It is loosely held in place on some small plastic posts. Remember this fact for reassembly, as you will need to pop it back into place.
  • Gently position the shield to the left of the camera. It will still be connected with a ribbon cable, but we will be replacing it in a few minutes.
Step 8 - Unscrew the sensor and remove the filter.

Metabunk 2019-03-09 16-23-03.jpg
I'm putting these together as you will want do this as quickly as possible to avoid getting dust on the sensor, which is under the copper disk. First, unscrew the three screws, and keep them separate. Then if you gently lift the copper disk (with the sensor attached), you will see:

Metabunk 2019-03-09 16-25-27.jpg

That little bit of glass is just sat there. With the sensor screwed in place the glass filter is held between a rectangle of black paper with a rectangular cutout, and a similarly shaped piece of black foam in the sensor holder. Both of these might potentially fall out. In my case, only the paper fell out. But in the Flat Reality video, the foam fell too.

Now REMOVE THE FILTER. There are three possible ways of doing this
  1. Tilt the camera so the filter falls out. This is what I did (because SpaceTech did). The problem here is that the paper falls out too. You can just put it back. Be careful in tilting the camera with the attached ribbon cables.
  2. Use something sticky - like a bit of tape. Just touch it to the glass and lift it away. Assumes you don't want to use it again.
  3. Suck it up with a drinking straw.
Replace anything that fell out
Metabunk 2019-03-09 16-40-30.jpg

Note the foam has a corner cut off that would be in the upper left when seated above the paper. If the foam falls off, then I'd put it on top of the paper, rather than attempt to refix it to the sensor container.

Step 9 - Reverse the above steps.

You essentially do everything exactly backward (except for putting the filter back, of course). So screw down the sensor container, then go back up the list of screws and ribbons until everything is back together. Some important points:

  • Cables slide into their slots fairly easily. But can be fiddly. Give it some time. Make sure the tab is up, slide it in, and close the tab. Compare with other cables to see if it looks right.
  • The copper tab on the sensor container should end up outside the shield. I left it inside with no ill-effects though.
  • When reversing step 7, the shield sits on these little posts that are next to the screws. It should pop onto them with light pressure, but you might have to actually screw it down in places so it pops into place. Ensure it DOES pop into place, and is well seated
  • Take it SLOW, don't force anything. Be aware of where the ribbon cables are. Make sure they are not pinched.
  • Also in Step 7, there's a metal tab near the tripod screw. Ensure this goes INSIDE the case. I had it outside, and had to reverse the reversal a little.
  • The bottom ribbon cable has to be tucked back a bit.
  • Metabunk 2019-03-09 17-10-46.jpg
  • Before putting back all the black screws, you will have to reinsert two pieces of rubber. Metabunk 2019-03-09 17-15-52.jpg
  • One goes in the bottom right corner, and the other is the cover for the ports. Check that you can snap the back together, and then pry it apart enough to insert these two pieces, then snap back together
  • You can run a test now (good idea), or after putting in the rest of the screws (coarse screws under the flash) if you feel lucky (I was lucky).

Step 10 - Switch on.

When you first power on the camera it will take a while, as it has been reset to factory defaults. You will be prompted to enter the date and time. Then take off the lens cap and observe the world in slightly purple full spectrum glory.

Metabunk 2019-03-09 17-21-40.jpg

If it is not working, then the most likely thing is a ribbon cable that is not inserted well. Go back and look at them and fix any that seem off. If still not working, then go through them one at a time, removing and replacing them. However, the success rate seems fairly high with this operation, unless everyone who failed is too embarrassed to share.

For pure IR, use an IR pass filter. I use a cheap Opteka 67mm R72
Metabunk 2019-03-09 17-24-13.jpg

Everything will be purple. You can correct this in post, but I like to switch the camera to B&W mode (Shooting Menu/Picture Control/Monochrome). You can adjust the contrast here too - ad added +1 contrast. Doing the B&W conversion in-camera means it's done on the RAW data.
Metabunk 2019-03-09 17-27-07.jpg

The first plane I saw with my "new" camera was an A380!
Metabunk 2019-03-09 17-45-31.jpg

Finally, go out and find some UFOs, capture some contrails, and/or observe the Curve
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Still working out what filter I need to restore it to natural color. According to Wikipedia the visible spectrum goes from 380 to 740nm. I'm not sure about this though, as I have an IR-pass filter at 720nm, which is nearly opaque to the naked eye. Although it does let through a tiny bit of red light from intense sources, like the sun. Maybe the eye is not very sensitive to far red.
Metabunk 2019-03-11 08-59-05.jpg

Anyway, I wanted to get a filter that would duplicate the filter I removed, and without doing much research I got this:

ICE 67mm UV IR Cut Filter Optical Glass Multi-Coated MC 67
Cuts out UV Rays below 390nm ; Cut out IR Rays above 750nm ; 99.4% light transmission between 400-700nm
Content from External Source
Not the upper end of the cut is 750nm, meaning it's letting though light between 720nm (the bottom of my IR pass filter) and 750nm. Which means it would not work, and indeed it does not. Doh!

Here's some comparison shots
Comp iPhone Visible.jpg
The first is what we see with the naked eye, or in this case an iPhone (the colors are a bit more saturated than in nature, but it's close enough).

Comp Full Spectrum.jpg
Second is the "Full Spectrum" P900, with no filters. IR comes through as purple, and we see the black areas of my printed spectrum are actually reflecting IR. The black on the glove varies, some of it reflects IR, some does not.

Comp Block Over 750.jpg
Here's the filter I thought would bring me back to true color, but it's blocking about 750nm. So light between 720 and 750 is leaking through giving a purplish tinge. Compare the hat color here with iPhone photo.

Comp Block Under 720.jpg
Here's the IR pass filter, so it's ONLY showing colors above 720nm. Note the stark difference in the glove wristband, and the now transparent sunglasses.

Comp pass 720-750 (two filters).jpg

And here's what happens with BOTH filters. Only light in the range 720-nm comes through. This is the IR light that is leaking into the third image.

(the above also assumes the stated ranges on the filters are accurate)
Actual experts on IR conversion are LifePixel (who offer a wide range of conversion services), and KolariVision (who offer similar services, including the P900 for $165). Both sell filters to allow shooting normal visible light images.

Metabunk 2019-03-11 16-41-40.jpg
The visible bandpass filter pairs perfectly with a full spectrum converted camera by allowing you to shoot normal visible light images. We selected filter stock that matches as closely as possible to OEM hot mirror filter properties to minimize white balance shift while aggressively blocking infrared light.
Content from External Source
Unfortunately, they don't state what wavelengths this blocks. The P900 size is 67mm, and that's $110 and out of stock, so I'd like to find an equivalent cheaper filter.

Kolari sells the: "Kolari Vision 67MM Kolari Vision Color Correcting Hot Mirror Filter (Uv/Ir Cut)" for $90

They give a helpful transmission chart (the higher the line, the more of that color light it transmits)

This compares it to two other filters (Tiffen and B+W.) Based on the chart it does seem like this is closest to the various lines for "original lowpass filters", but there's no real indication of which cameras those original filters relate too. It does let in more UV.

The "Tiffen 67mm Hot Mirror Filter" there (green line) strays way too far into IR, and this is confirmed by Amazon reviews.
I have a full spectrum converted camera. I was hoping to use this filter to allow me to take normal pictures and footage with it. No sir.

This filter barely blocks out any infrared light. It doesn’t work like the actual hot mirror filters on most camera sensors. It lets in way way too much for “normal” camera use.
Content from External Source
The Kolari and Lifepixel filters look identical, so are probably the same glass.
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Unfortunately, they don't state what wavelengths this blocks. The P900 size is 67mm, and that's $110 and out of stock, so I'd like to find an equivalent cheaper filter.
get an old slide/film-projector with a "real" (aka hot) lightbulb; inside the beam-path is an IR-filter-glass which works just fine. example pic from my full-spectrum-converted casio Exilim fc100 some years ago:

get an old slide/film-projector with a "real" (aka hot) lightbulb; inside the beam-path is an IR-filter-glass which works just fine.

Very cool, but I've just ordered the Kolari filter. An old slide projector might be something that I could find for a few dollars at a thrift store though.
I mounted the old internal filter on some card to replicate your shot and for comparing with the Kolari filter.
Metabunk 2019-03-11 16-46-51.jpg
How would this conversion apply to photographing the Northern Lights ?
A filter is not going to give you more colors, but the full spectrum camera (with no filters) might give you some different colors. Based on your article though you don't need a special camera (or any filters) to get great shots. Probably most people increase the saturation either in-camera or later.
New to this forum and clueless about photography, especially long distance pics. I have sent he article on here about how to do the IR conversion of the P900, just don't want to destroy a perfectly good camera if it's not going to be worth it. I am looking to photograph across water around 19 miles. Will this conversion and which filters to use make the pics clear, or is this a waste of tie and money.
Any help would be appreciated.
New to this forum and clueless about photography, especially long distance pics. I have sent he article on here about how to do the IR conversion of the P900, just don't want to destroy a perfectly good camera if it's not going to be worth it. I am looking to photograph across water around 19 miles. Will this conversion and which filters to use make the pics clear, or is this a waste of tie and money.
Any help would be appreciated.

Well, mine still works. The one disappointment was that the Kolari filter did not fully restore the colors. But otherwise it's now a great near-IR camera.

There's certainly a risk you might break the camera.

I generally just use it with an IR720 flter from Neewer, and set to monochrome.