Earlier this month, we showed you how some astrophotographers were turning their standard DSLRs monochrome by physically scratching the color filter array off of their sensor in order to get sharper black-and-white photos.
Another photographer is doing something similar, only instead of scratching off the color array and possibly doing damage to the sensor, he decided to swap out the sensor entirely.
The photographer’s name is Lasse Beyer, and as he explains it in on his website, he thought that simply swapping out the color sensor in a cheap DSLR with a panchromatic one made more sense than stabbing sensitive electronics with a pencil.
There are two major challenges to this approach: One is that monochrome sensors (especially ones that will fit your DSLR) are very hard to come by these days, and another is that most DSLRs have their sensors surface mounted in ways that make them nearly impossible to remove.
Fortunately for Beyer, the old Olympus E-500 he had sitting around featured an 8MP CCD that was mounted in such a way as to be easily (relatively speaking) removable. And what’s more, that sensor has a commonly found monochrome cousin that would fit just right and Beyer was able to purchase for about $133 from a German manufacturer.
The actual mechanical swapping took some physical force, and getting rid of the antialiasing filter caused some further problems, but Beyer was pleased with the results. Because the sensor is more sensitive, he gained about 1 EV. And once he managed to remove the anti-aliasing filter he saw a slight (yet noticeable) improvement in resolution as well.
Here is a before (top) and after (bottom) test shot. Click here for the high-resolution version:
You can read the full write-up, see a bunch more test shots, and get all of the technical details on Beyer’s website here. Assuming you have a camera that this would work on and you want to try it yourself, there should be enough details there to get you going. As always, however, if you choose to crack open your camera and start fiddling around with the internals, you do so at your own risk.