Sony A330 Full-Spectrum IR Conversion

April 25, 2013 by CPBurrows

When I first saw a “False Color” infrared photograph, I instantly fell in love and knew one day I simply must get myself one. It was a long time coming, but I finally found a good deal on a Sony A330 and jumped. Even though it was inexpensive as these things go, it nonetheless took me quite a while to work up the moxie required to tear into my camera without a guide. I’d seen DIYs for the A100, but other than that, there just wasn’t a lot I could find.

One factor that extended my decision-making period was the myriad options available in terms of potential hot-mirror replacements. I ultimately opted for simply not replacing the hot-mirror, determining that A., the CCD itself was fairly durable and should handle non-contact cleanings with ease, B., a good filter replacement would cost more than half what I had paid for the camera and C., I figured I could throw any filter (wood’s glass, IR pass, UV pass, etc) on the lens and rely on the Live View to frame my shots.

I was completely wrong on count C, because as it turns out, the A330 uses a second sensor in the pentamirror unit for the Live View feed, requiring its own modification to Live View outside of visible light. A similar conversion on an A580 with Focus Check, or any SLT I believe  would produce the result I was looking for. After some effort, I determined that access to the Live View sensor would require more dismantling than I was comfortable with and I decided to forgo that modification.

Despite the fact that I chose not to install a filter over the sensor, you can obtain very similar results to a 680 or 720nm filter simply by using a red filter over the lens itself (#25, #29, 090, R2, 25A, 091). An interesting and possibly beneficial side effect is that it allows some visible light to pass through, allowing you to eke out realistically colored photos with brilliantly white flowers and bright foliage. Better though than using a normal IR filter is that you can use the optical viewfinder to frame and compose your shots. Further, you are theoretically able to photograph the UV-spectrum as well, though I have not tried as none of my lenses are very capable of passing UV.

Ultimately, I believe this cost-effective arrangement is satisfactory, but with this guide for the A330, and the filter cutting and replacement advice you can see here, it should be quite easy to go back in later and make the change.

I hope you find the following guide and above information helpful, and if you have any questions, you’re welcome to contact me!

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Step 1

Step 1:
Remove the 5 screws on the bottom of the camera, being certain to note where they came from as they have various lengths and thread types.

 

Step2

Step 2:
Start by sliding the eye cup up vertically to remove it. Carefully remove the screw holding in the diopter adjustment. You’ll need to have a skinny screwdriver and make sure you have firm engagement, as it is easy to strip this screw. Then go ahead and remove the other 4 circled screws. Keep them isolated from the ones from the bottom for more easy future assembly.

 

Step 3

Step 3:
Two more screws hold the rear panel to the grip. Remove them, again, being careful to separate them.

 

Step4

Step 4:
This screw holds the back to the dial piece.

 

Step 5

Step 5:
For the A330, the large ZIF is for the display, and is long and easy to remove. It may vary on the other models this guide should cover, but should be similar as all 3 share a repair manual. The other ZIF is for the controls. Before removing either ZIF, note the type of receptacle. Some require a black tab to be flipped, some just pull out.

 

Step 6Step 6:
On the right side there are two contacts, labeled ‘Discharge.’ Use a 330 Ohm resistor to carefully discharge the capacitor. Careful! It can deliver quite a tingly whallop.

 

Step 7

Step 7:
I know… It really looks like a lot, but it’s not too bad. Carefully do all the ZIF connectors. Then remove the screws that are circled. There are multiple types of screws holding the main board in so keep them separate. Be careful not to drop them into the body when you take them out. Once it’s loose the main board needs to be gently maneuvered out of the interface panel and folded up to expose the SSS assembly and CCD beneath. I found it preferable to not risk damaging the ZIFs here, so I simply folded the board over.

 

Step 8

Step 8:
Remove the circled screws to free up the CCD assembly. Remove the ZIF so you can take it entirely out. In as dust-free an environment as you have available, get ready to do the next step: prying off the filters. There is a sandwich of 3 filters here, I believe 1 for UV, one for IR and one which is an anti-aliasing filter. Do not try to separate them from one another, but take them all off simultaneously. They are adhered with some sort of silicone adhesive to seal out dust. There is a small, flat, black rectangle which you also must remove now, as if you don’t it will fall in front of the sensor. Once all that’s done, you can either replace the glass with your own filter, or just pop it right back in. Be careful not to let the sensor scrape on anything as you insert it.

 

Step 9:
Once it’s back in, reinstall the mainboard, and hook up all the ZIFs. There are 3 allen screws here (1.5mm) with springs. These are the adjustment screws for the sensor. Depending on what you chose to do, you will need to adjust them to some degree. If you removed everything, you’ll essentially need to screw them all the way in to achieve infinity focus. Before you get started, use a skinny Sharpie to mark a line across the head of the screws onto the blobs of glue. This will give you a reference for how much you turned them. It is IMPERATIVE that you turn all the screws the exact same amount, or else you end up with a slanted sensor, and you’ll get undesired effects of a tilt-lens.Leave the back loose, but connect the 2 ribbon cables back up.

Take a photo with a lens set at infinity and look at it on the screen. If it’s blurry, at a very far point, you will need to tighten the screws to adjust the sensor. Mark down how much you rotated the screws each time, in case you need to reverse it. Repeat that until your infinity focus point looks sharp. Once that’s done, you can put the whole thing back together. You can take it 1 step further if you wish to retain autofocus and adjust the screws hidden under the sticker on the bottom of the camera. These affect the AF sensor, and don’t have a bearing on the actual sensor used for photos.

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