Sony A65 Full-Spectrum IR Conversion

January 11, 2017 by CPBurrows

E ver since my A580 broke and I started using SLT Sony bodies, I’ve badly wanted an IR-capable body with EVF. Manual focusing is hard with infrared due to the focus shift, meaning most of the shots I ever did with the A330 required trial and error or high depth-of-field to get what I needed to be in focus.

I picked up an A65 with focusing issues a while back, slated for conversion from the day I bought it, and I’ve finally gotten around to doing a conversion. Like the A330, I’ve documented the process for anyone curious or interested in doing it yourself.

This conversion is definitely not one for the faint-hearted, being full of perils and fraught with risk. More finesse was required than was for my A330, and despite my best efforts, I managed to not only temporarily ruin the camera, but also to electrocute myself.

I used the Sony A65 Service Manual for my guide in the process, but I think seeing actual photos is much better than the illustrations. I haven’t compared manuals, but I bet the A77 is similar to this, considering the number of parts they have in common.

So let’s begin.

A65 IR Modification

You’ll need some tools:

  • Small Phillips screwdriver (I used the 1.5mm driver in a phone repair multitool)
  • Toothpick or other non-conductive spudger thing
  • 1w 1kΩ resistor
  • Alcohol (as solvent)
  • Hobby knife
  • 1.5mm Allen Wrench

1. Before Disassembly

Camera before disassembly

This is a Sony A65. Take off the eye cup.
There. The easiest part of this whole thing is done.

 

2. Rear Screws

Screws on Back

Three screws on the back. Take the dioptre adjuster first, then the other two. Starting here, keep the screws separated into their groups. It’s not the end of the world if you put some in the wrong place, but better if you don’t. The dioptre adjustment screw is different from the other two.

 

3. Bottom Screws

Screws on Bottom

A few on the bottom – all the same.

 

4. Grip Screws

Screws on Grip

All the same on the grip side.

 

5. Plug Side Screws

Screws on Plug Side

The side with plugs has a screw the same as the ones in the bottom.

 

6. Motherboard + Capacitor Discharge

Motherboard

Look at those guts. Look at them some more.
You fool! What have you gotten yourself into!
I won’t blame you if you turn back now. If you’re not okay with potentially destroying your camera, you should probably quit here before it’s too late.

Okay, in order to promote safety, let’s take the charge out of the capacitor. The manual specifies a 1W/1kOhm resistor applied to the copper pads just left of the blue ribbon cable in the top right.

When I was troubleshooting the first reassembly, I accidentally brushed my finger against the area and got electrocuted. I could smell the burned skin and for the next few days the entire end joints of my finger were sensitive and a bit raw. If you touched that with two hands instead of one finger, you’d risk more than just a little electric burn.

 

7. Motherboard Screws

Motherboard Screws

Look at all those ribbon cables! There are a lot, and not just on top of the board! My A65 has been gotten into before and has missing screws. One ribbon cable was undone – maybe the case of the autofocus jankiness. (The skinny blue one near the center.)

If I recall correctly, there are two ribbons that go under the board, in addition to the 3 plugs.

If there is no black bar on the connector, the ribbon cable is stiff and will just pull out. You can use the tangs on the sides to lever them out. I used a toothpick because it’s thin, non-conductive, and less likely to damage components if you make a mistake.

The ones with black bars need to be flipped up. Some of the ribbons may pull out without flipping, but they’re softer cables and not designed to come out/go in that way.

The ribbons on the underside are in the top right, and bottom left of the board. Also on the underside are 3 plugs in the top right, and one on the left.

If your camera has all the screws, then the four on the left side are all the same and the one on the right is different.

To get the board out without removing the left panel, you can bend it out of the way so the aux-jack clears the board.

 

8. Heatsink Screws

Heatsink Screws

Four screws hold in the heatsink plate (all same). The guard sheet on the left comes out with it. There is a “graphite sheet” that connects this to the sensor, so just fold it out of the way once loose.

 

9. Imager Screws

Imager Screws

Four screws hold the imager assembly in. Sorry for the ribbon cable covering one up. These screws are identical to the ones for the heatsink plate.

 

10. Sensor Screws

Sensor Screws

Four identical screws (different from previous steps) hold the sensor in. They’re symmetrically offset. One different screw secures the metal backing on the right. I had to shift the sensor to get to them and my anti-shake system still seems to be working fine afterward.

Getting the sensor out/in is a little tricky. I didn’t intend to, but ended up slightly mangling the tang on the right. You may need to bend it to get the sensor out. It is surprisingly durable, so you shouldn’t worry too much at this phase.

 

11. Sensor All Apart

Sensor Apart

Here’s your sensor!
To get the filter off, soak the adhesive with alcohol. I just used 70% isopropyl swabbed on. I originally had hoped to remove just the infrared filter, but when trying to slide my hobby knife between, it ended up pulling the entire assembly off, leaving the sensor part bare (which is how I’ve used my A330 for years.)

I not only got fingerprints on my sensor after giving up on the clumsiness of wearing gloves, but also got lint stuck to the remaining adhesive when trying to reinstall the spacer sheet. With some serious cleaning, I have it satisfactory again. I had intended to reinstall it with the retainer plate, but without a new piece of glass, it will not stay in place. Considering that, I wish I had left off the spacer piece altogether.

 

12. Sensor Back Together

Sensor Apart

Now is time for arduous assembly.

I hope you sorted your screws right!

The hardest parts will be reinstalling the sensor safely and getting all those ribbon cables back in place on the motherboard.

Regarding the motherboard reinstallation, it is VERY easy to forget a cable or two.

The first time I reassembled it, I left off the black cable and plug on the left side of the board. The symptom was that the shutter would fire with a weird noise, and display “Camera Error.” I thought I’d made a mistake with the imager assembly and went all the way back in, even taking out the shutter. When I got back to the board, I realized I didn’t remember installing them.

Right after that, I ended up with blank EVF and LCD, but the shutter was firing normally. Turns out the small cable under the LCD cable is related to video output to them. It had slipped in place enough to trick me, but was not inserted into the receptacle.

After fixing that, the LCD worked, but not the EVF. The wide and thin ribbons just below the EVF are for it. The large is video, and the small is the eye-detect. I re-seated the video ribbon and it worked.

Point being, make sure you get EVERY plug and cable back in! If you have issues at this point, that should be the first thing you inspect.

 

13. Reassembly

Your last step before putting the exterior case screws back in will be to adjust your sensor plane.

Removing the filter without replacing it shortens the optical path. Assuming a refractive index of 1.5 and thickness of 1mm, it needs to move forward about 0.3mm. Unfortunately, the service manual doesn’t give a thread pitch for the adjustment screws and it could be anything from 0.2mm-0.35mm for standard M1.6 screws.

For that, you’re looking at the 3 silver hex-head screws. Before you do anything, mark their positions with a permanent marker, paint, or whiteout. You need to turn them evenly or you will change the alignment of the sensor. The screw is knurled and with the blobs of glue applied at the factory, it will allow you to count the splines and keep your adjustment matched up.

My theory was that 1 full revolution would be 0.3mm and result in infinity focus. While that was enough for my 35-105mm to focus at infinity at 105mm, no other lens or even focal length for that zoom will work and it needs more adjustment. Either the refractive index of the filter was not 1.5, or the thread pitch was less than 0.3mm. Luckily, the camera can be operated without reinstalling all the exterior screws and that allows you to adjust it on the fly – as long as you’re careful not to overly stress the ribbon cables.

In the end 2.25 complete revolutions of the adjusters gets my 24mm and 18mm lenses to focus to infinity as well.

Hopefully you’ve found this interesting and/or useful.
If anyone has questions I’ll do my best to help out.

Oh, and don’t forget: If you electrocute yourself or make a crock of the mod, it isn’t my fault!

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