Picture of DIY Infrared Night Vision Device
I've been involved with airsoft for about two years being affiliated with a large local group of people in our community who meet regularly and have scheduled games, ops, and events. Airsoft is a great sport and hobby that encourages teamwork, honor, respect, communication, and discipline (as well as how to wisely make purchases). I recently played a game at night and realized how cool it would be if I could utilize some form of night vision. The more I researched it, the more I wanted to see in the dark somehow.

Unfortunately, true night vision in even the lowest quality can cost hundreds of dollars just for the optic alone, excluding hardware necessary to mount the optic to a helmet or airsoft rifle. It's expensive technology. However, there are alternative methods for seeing in the dark. There are several versions of educational night vision viewers and toy spy binoculars available on the market for kids and...um...well, geeks like me. They utilize low-lux cameras, infrared illumination, and a display for a more affordable $50-$80 system that can still see in the dark. This is the system I chose to utilize.

Being inspired by DIY'ers like Kipkay, and reading books like 50 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius, I chose to invest the money to build my own infrared night vision viewer. Besides, both of those night vision builds use parts that can only be scavenged, not purchased individually. I wanted to show how to build a unit from stuff you can buy online easily or at the store.

For more information on how to build this type of system, here's some helpful links:

KipKay's Night Vision instructable:

Longwinter's Steampunk Night Vision Periscope build:

Lucidscience (50 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius) Night Vision build:

Alex1M6's IR Night Vision illuminator:

So let's get started. Remember, don't get into any trouble with this, and don't expect this to compete with real night vision devices. This is intended to be a proof of concept. Let's begin!
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tedvm1 month ago
although this post is a couple of years old, I thought I'd add something that might help concerning the power supply issue.
a while back, i built a not-so-powerful portable amplifier which i used whilst renovating the house. i also had the drama of my mp3 player's battery dying at the most inappropriate moment. there's nowt worse than being in the throes of death-metal induced ecstasy and suddenly....silence ;)
i had a box of rechargeable batteries which were leftovers from broken/burned out portable drills. inside each battery pack is a barrage of rechargeable batteries connected in series. the amplifier needed a different voltage than the mp3 player, so i tapped the power somewhere along the line. i kept the recharge function by using an old transformer who's output was more than the combined voltage of the new batteries, and added a circuit for trickle charge.
i found that using this type of battery had the advantage that they lasted longer. after a days usage, I'd put the 'box' on charge overnight and was good to go the next day.
hope this helps mate. also, I'm pretty sure that ebay etc. must be full of knackered portable drills.
happy hunting! ted
NigelJ14 months ago

Will too may leds (say 70-80) affect the camera? Will it be too bright? I have a 72 led shell and was wondering if i could use it. Thanks

mikenaly5 months ago
So i just found this researching cameras that can see infrared. Great instructable for diy-ers. I was curious though, if the camera would work down to 4.5 volts? If so, the battery pack could simply be tapped at that voltage, eliminating any need for regulation. There might be a trade-off in how long it would work effectively though, seeing as how it will be starting at a lower voltage. Just a thouht.
Could the camera be mounted to the back of a rifle scope to extend the range and use as night scope?
eyebot117 (author)  firefighter1536 months ago

Sorry for the delayed response; you could certainly do this. Something to keep in mind is to keep your IR illumination outside of the scope that the camera is looking through so that the glare does not obscure your visibility. I would recommend one of the IR torches for this. :)

Battlespeed7 months ago

Or, you could just buy an Eye Clops - and spend less. A toy that's not really a toy and actually works quite well. Tough, too. Advertised range is 50', I think, but it does better than that, and with additional IR light (like your flashlight) will easily reach out to 100' or more. Also, you can record photos/video with it.

I've used it while camping with excellent results. Get it for your kids and let them see if they can pry it out of your cold dead fingers.

Just sayin': www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007TG2POM/

Yeah well, a lot of people like me would rather make it ourself

Of course. Nothing wrong with alternatives, though.
eyebot117 (author)  Battlespeed6 months ago

Of course not. I do think it's important that
people gain an understanding of how technology works so it can be improved, modified, and recreated to further progress innovation. :)

If you look closely at the screen's manual (or at its circuitboard with a strong magnifier), you'll see your screen works perfectly at 5V (and probably less, following the +Vcc on the circuit board quickly falls down to 1.8V) so you can use much lower voltage for the camera+screen (that's how I get my RaspberryPi and its screen on the same 5.2V PSP adapter), e.g get 5 rechargeable AA batteries (6V) and regulate power to the camera with a 5V Zener diode and a resistor (costs next to nothing, except if you source your components at Radioshack or Maplin).

Now, powering the LEDs is something else, but you don't really care about the voltage, only the watts count, so there is no problem in feeding your LEDs with 6V, it'll just drain your battery faster (but a 7805 regulator by itself kills a rechargeable 9V in 48 hours or less, lesson from personal experience...)

eyebot117 (author)  ндогонят8 months ago

I think I read about people running the screens off of 7V DC, but I never tested to see how little power it would take to run it. I'll try to keep this in consideration for the next one!

im working on buying the parts right now and was wondering if there would be any difference in compatibility if i got a led screen. i know LED wont heat up as much and usually have better quality, will this work??

TK1756721 year ago

the 5V regulator should have 2 capacitors (if using LM317 use a 100uf and 10uf) to smooth out the current. otherwise it is not good for the camera to have that pulsing current :)


Also there is a slightly larger screen on e-bay for about $5 less


eyebot117 (author)  TK1756721 year ago

Here's what I've learned about screens: TFT LCD's are usually low-res and are only suitable for near-sighted vision because of the loss of picture quality with distance on a fixed objective camera. 3.5", 4", and 7" are the dimensions for TFT's for automobiles that I've seen on Amazon and can easily hack to work for these sorts of devices. I usually go with the smaller ones since I intend on using eyepieces with them so they can be helmet mounted. Larger screens (although have more pixels) take up too much room for that.

If they had any small VGA displays at a comparable size to the 3.5-4" TFT's and had a higher resolution (at a reasonable price), they do make VGA camera boards that would work with them. Which would be awesome to use. :)

eyebot117 (author)  TK1756721 year ago

Interesting. Is it because the regulator has to pulse the current to step it down? I could see why that might be hard on the camera. Thanks for the tip!

You know i am not really sure lol. i think so but it might be to just smooth out the input supply.

it seems the caps are more important if you are using an AC/DC
wall power supply because they are usually not the most clean ones. if
using batteries you still should have the caps but it wouldn't have beat
the camera up as much :)

a friend is going to give me 3 dead
laptops so i am going to take the smallest screen, buy a driver and use
it beacause it will be higher res.

heastis1 year ago

I love this build! Working the kinks out of mine now. I was wondering how do you adjust the focus on this camera?

eyebot117 (author)  heastis1 year ago

This uses a smaller lens that can be adjusted by screwing the threaded objective lens in or out from the lens body until the desired focus is reached. I had to loosen a tightening screw on the lens body before I could adjust mine. :)

kurt151431 year ago

Hello, recently I work with the diy NVG project too, I met a problem, The problem is: it is okay when I connect the camera and the monitor, but when I connect to 2 3W, 2-2.4V IR light bulb, a 56 ohm resistor and a switch as a IR illuminating system. The power supply is 12V 3A li-battery. When I turn on the illuminating system which is parallel to the camera and the monitor, The screen will turn white and nothing can be seen, even I turn off the IR light bulb. Some people said I should check for the noise reduction, but I don't know how. Please advice. thank you.

eyebot117 (author)  kurt151431 year ago

Well, I've noticed that when my batteries start getting low and need to be changed, my IR's will get too dim to illuminate a usable field of view and my screen will fade to solid white. The weaker the batteries, the faster it fades to white, until it's white as soon as it's turned on. Double check your power supply and make sure you're getting the 12V you want for testing your wiring. Hope this helps!

Thanks for your advise, I will go double check for that

good project frnd, could u please explain how lux of a camera .001 as u have mentioned above, how is it linked to night vision
minimum lux of 0.001 is much more sensitive than minimum lux of 0.1. The lower the minimum lux, the more sensitive is the camera. As you know, nvg is used in dark or total dark, which means there are lack of photons with visible light frequency, so the camera need to be very sensitive.
sorry for the late reply frnd, and thanks i will try to get the lowest lux possible
What is the power of your infrared LED array? And the rated current? I think of using one or maybe more 1, 3 or 5W infrared LED's (wavelength 940nm). You can buy them for a few bucks.
eyebot117 (author)  Ronny_the_king2 years ago
The spec sheet says the array is 3W, but I have no idea on the current draw other than that it's relatively low. I don't have it opened up to check at the moment, but I'm sure you'd be ok using a couple of the the high intensity LED's.
koolkat66572 years ago
Hi i was wondering how i would go about giving these the ability to record video rather than just view it. also i am only 13 so it has to be relatively cheap.
eyebot117 (author)  koolkat66572 years ago
You have to split your camera video RCA connection to go to both your goggle display and some form of DVR. They probably make RCA splitters that you can get for a couple of bucks, but I'm not sure about DVR's being small, affordable, and recording like you want. Hope that helps! :)
tfrost19802 years ago
What's the purpose of the middle project box? did you keep the rca cables full length and thats where you put them?
eyebot117 (author)  tfrost19802 years ago
Yeah, I kept them full length. You can probably just use wires or make them shorter if you want, but the middle box helped create more space for everything. Like I said, the enclosure is totally however you want to make it. :)
darman122 years ago
Interesting. I built something similar (before I saw this), but I used a night vision security camera. The funny thing is, I used a 5v voltage regulator because my CRT viewfinder can only handle 5, but the camera needs 9+.

9v is OK, but to get the quality I am looking for, I need 12v. I've been looking for a 12v rechargeable battery, but they are all too big. The 8 AA batteries is a great solution. I should have thought of that.

I finally got the circuitry off of my solderless breadboard and onto some protoboard! That made me really happy. Now I just need to get that battery clip you suggested.

As you can see, I'm still working on an enclosure. I originally had the prototype in cardboard, haha.
SQLGuru2 years ago
I'd look into this as your camera source. Lower lux, supports 12v, and includes the IR light source. http://www.amazon.com/TaoTronics%C2%AE-TT-CC12-Universal-Waterproof-Distance/dp/B005C6NM0M/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&qid=1369009556&sr=8-28&keywords=backup+camera+lux

Plus, it's cheaper than the one you used by a few bucks.

Also, you might can find a cheap camera at Goodwill or a Pawn Shop to get the eye piece. Other than that, cool build.
eyebot117 (author)  SQLGuru2 years ago
Thanks for the link man! It does say that this particular unit is .2 lux required for minimum illumination. Not too bad, but it's not going to be nearly as sensitive as the .008 lux camera I used for this. Another problem I've run into with these cameras with built in LED's: the glare prevents you from looking down any optics or through any windows. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are a lot of times when you just want the IR off or away from your lens. Other than that, any automobile camera could be useful for close-up night vision video projects.
Something else I have just noticed on that camera in the link. In the description under the "Notes" section it states that the camera produces a "mirror Image", meaning you could not use it for a personal night vision aid as you would see everything reversed (E.G. things you see coming toward you from right would actually be coming from left).
eyebot117 (author)  XboxModz2 years ago
There are some buttons on the backside of the screen that allow you to adjust its brightness, contrast, saturation, and which way it displays. :)
you may add a photoresistor to control the IR LEDs' intensity
choch2 years ago
At the dollar store there are 5v adapters for the cigaret lighter socket for a dollar or two, easier than making something up as it is all there.
Alderin choch2 years ago
That's a brilliant idea! Now I've got to go get one and tear it apart to see if it uses DC-DC or a wasteful heat-shedder for voltage regulation.

frikkie2 years ago
very very great instructable. just take care that they don't damage you camera lens if they maybe shoot in your direction.If I can get my hands on a small screen I wouldve build myself a night goggle already.
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