Instructables
Picture of DIY Infrared Night Vision Device
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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:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Nightvision-Headset-Hack/

Longwinter's Steampunk Night Vision Periscope build:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Working-Night-vision-Periscope-Steampunked/

Lucidscience (50 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius) Night Vision build:
http://www.lucidscience.com/pro-night%20vision%20viewer-1.aspx

Alex1M6's IR Night Vision illuminator:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Infrared-LED-nightvision-box/

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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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 month 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 :)

http://www.instructables.com/id/Pocket-Size-Power-Supply/

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

http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-3-TFT-LCD-Car-Reverse-Rear-View-color-Monitor-for-backup-night-vision-camera-R-/181443603621?pt=US_Rear_View_Monitors_Cams_Kits&hash=item2a3ee1aca5

eyebot117 (author)  TK1756721 month 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 month 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.

heastis3 months 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)  heastis3 months 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. :)

kurt151434 months 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)  kurt151434 months 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

roshankm201112 months ago
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_king1 year 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.
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)  koolkat66571 year 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! :)
tfrost19801 year 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)  tfrost19801 year 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. :)
darman121 year 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.
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SQLGuru1 year 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)  SQLGuru1 year 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)  XboxModz1 year 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
choch1 year 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 choch1 year 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.

Thanks!
frikkie1 year 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.
eyebot117 (author)  frikkie1 year ago
No worries man. I doubt I'll be playing any airsoft with this thing. Though I do have much more effective DIY (real) night vision plans for the future. :)
i know its cool and all that you built your own but i know alot of distributors can sell you old first gen Russian goggles for about the same price
what distributors? i would be interested
good news everyone! i found the hundred dollar night vision set! and its new too! it can be found through the company i work for, big 5
do you have a link?
Id like to know where I could get a set of Gen.1 goggles for around $100.00 if you have a link Id appreciate it alot.
i looked at the distributers i know, i gave them a call and it turns out that they are priced that way because they sell them in broken batches to people who build their own working ones out of them
Thanks for checking also.
I have a set,well not exactly a set of goggles,they were sold as high dollar toys.Only the right eye is Illum.but they work alot better than night owl mono.I bought about ten years ago.It has two colors to chose from,the standard green,and then theres blue which gives me about ten yards more distance.W.M. stopped selling them as fast as they put them out .I dont know what the deal was,but very good night vision for something that was meant to be a toy.
however you can pick up a infrared illuminator for like 30 bucks that'll give most any camera night vision capabilitys and everyone take a look at kipkays (from make magazine) tutorial for his night vision setup
eyebot117 (author)  kyle brinkerhoff1 year ago
That's awesome! Would you happen to know where to look for that?
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