Introduction: Floppy Disk IR Camera Hack

Picture of Floppy Disk IR Camera Hack

For the past seven years, I've had a broken digital camera lying around. It is still able to take pictures, but it is almost impossible to use on account of a broken screen. The fundamental problem is that sometimes the menu will accidentally get turned on, and not being able to see the screen, I can't turn off the menu and take pictures (without removing the batteries to reset the camera). I've been trying to figure out what to do with this camera as long as I can remember.

For a while I was considering converting it to a near IR camera, but I was reluctant to make another one after having already made one for 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer (p. 200). However, I changed my mind about this when I learned that it was possible to use the material inside floppy disks as a visible light filter (for viewing near IR light). This sounded really cool and so I decided to give this a try. Not only does this totally work, it also adds another level of computer reuse to the version demonstrated in the book (as it provides a way to reuse floppy disks in addition to cameras).

It has been fun going around shooting pictures and discovering all of the interesting results when I upload the photos at home.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

Picture of Go Get Stuff

You will need:

A (somewhat) broken (or antiquated) camera
A floppy disk
A mini screwdriver set

Step 2: Make a Visible Light Filter

Picture of Make a Visible Light Filter

You can make a visible light filter using a the plastic inside most floppy disks.

Rip apart the floppy disk and be careful not to get your fingerprints on the plastic disk.

Take the disk and cut a small plastic square that is slightly larger than your CCD.

Tip: To make sure your floppy disk lets IR light through, go to a window and look outside with the plastic held up to your eye. You should be able to see through it.

Step 3: Open the Case

Picture of Open the Case

Open up your camera case. Place your screws aside somewhere safe.

Step 4: Locate the Lens Assembly

Picture of Locate the Lens Assembly

Once the case is open, locate the lens assembly on the front of the camera.

Step 5: Find the CCD

Picture of Find the CCD

Carefully detach the lens assembly from the circuit board to find the CCD chip. Set aside these screws somewhere safe as well.

Step 6: Remove the IR Filter

Picture of Remove the IR Filter

The visible light filter is a thin piece of glass located either directly atop the CCD or behind the last lens of the assembly. It is easy to spot because it looks reddish to purplish and changes color when it is rotated.

Simply pick it free with your fingers (being careful not to touch the CCD/lenses).

Your camera will now let more IR light through.

Step 7: Attach Your Visible Light Filter

Picture of Attach Your Visible Light Filter

Place the visible light filter that you just made over top of the CCD.

Using your pin, place a few tiny drops of glue in each corner to hold it in place.

Step 8: Put It Back Together

Picture of Put It Back Together

When the glue has dried, reassemble the camera using all of the screws that you set aside earlier.


hivoltage (author)2010-12-07

I picked up a samsung 10mp point and shoot camera with a slightly broken lens mechanism on ebay for a steal then repaired it and did this floppy disc modification to it. results have been great! photos are very surreal and it is fascinating to see a things all around that your eyes cannot see. Finally those old AOL floppy discs have come in handy lol

KevinA5 (author)hivoltage2016-03-03

WOW... those are truly amazing... nice shots... I have to do this now.

KevinA5 (author)hivoltage2016-03-03

WOW... those are truly amazing... nice shots... I have to do this now.

These images are awesome! Thanks for sharing. I'm glad this worked out for you.

Thanks! I was surprised how much of its focusing ability the camera retained after I modified it, I guess because the IR cut filter on this model is very thin, only a tiny bit thicker than the floppy disc section that replaced it. I did tweak the contrast, levels and saturation a bit in these photos, but other than that they are pretty much unmodified. The first two I took above at Cal Poly Pomona are probably my favorites. The camera is a Samsung SL202 and it was very easy to disassemble and modify. Tried to do it to another point and shoot I had lying around first but it seems that the IR cut filter was coated right onto one of the lenses instead of on top of the CCD like this one and yours.

gdesmarais (author)2016-09-29

The filter over the CCD sensor is actually a polarizing filter. It let pass the reflected light (polarized) while blocking the direct light (non polarized). It improve contrast in high luminosity environment. An IR & anti-reflective coating is likely to be included on the front side of this filter

pingvin66666 made it! (author)2016-07-17

Thanks for the tutorial! This is awesome! :)

uandiarehere (author)2016-02-10

has anybody thought of making an IR laser sight with this? have the laser sighted in like a normal laser sight, but only you will be able to see the dot because you have the screen. I've been working towards a hunting-capable blowgun, so I wanted to know if anyone could advise me on that.


baratacus (author)2010-12-12

I.R. is radiation, All light is radiated, the visible you can detect with your naked eye, the invisible on either end of the spectrum you can't see. I.R. and U.V. I.R. is radiated by heat sources. Your body generates heat and therefor produces I.R. radiation. I.R. can be filtered and reflected like visible light. It has a longer wave length (shorter frequency) than visible light and can penetrate objects that would absorb visible light.. Microwave radiation is even longer wave and can pass through objects that IR can not, Radio waves are even longer wave radiation and can penetrate objects that microwaves can not get through. The longer the wave length, the higher the penetration. If you can filter (convert) that frequency of light to a visible (shorter) wavelength using an optical fliter, then you can see what that frequency of radiation is reflecting off of or being emitted from. We used to play laser tag as a kid in the park at night. A friend of mine had a pair of night vision goggles (chinese military surplus) and he could see heat signatures from the other players, and when we'd fire our guns, he could see the I.R. beams like they were flashlights.
Some airports are using IR boosted imaging scanners to show a thermal differentiation between the body and the clothing worn To filter out more of the visible light, you can stack the filters so that your visual representation of the I.R. spectrum is more pure.

Vengence (author)baratacus2010-12-13

The modern and widespread use of the word radiation refers specifically to ionizing radiation, which does not include IR.

mikiex (author)Vengence2011-01-09

Just because a word as been adopted in this way to refer to a specific "Bad" radiation doesnt mean it cannot be used to describe the process that is radiation of which there is no better word to describe it and is the correct current scientific term! :)

Vengence (author)mikiex2011-01-09

Wrong. That would be like using the word gay to mean happy. It just isn't done that way anymore. What a word has been adopted to mean is completely relevant.
There's no better way to describe it? The better way to describe it is to be specific as to non-ionizing radiation...

mikiex (author)Vengence2011-01-10

This is not true at all, if someone says Infrared radiation it implies you are talking about non-iornizing radiation. You don't need to say it is non-iornizing because it is a known fact that it fits into this band of radiation.

You are saying the word radiation cannot be used with non-iionizing types of radiation because the layman term radiation now only means ionizing radiation.
Where as the scientific meaning has been unaltered.

I better go and turn my non-ionizing radiators down as it's hot in here....

Vengence (author)mikiex2011-01-10

You ARE specifying non-ionizing by saying infrared. You didn't just use the word "radiation" standalone. You're not disproving the point...

Slightly R.E (author)Vengence2015-08-04

Okay, I know I'm necroposting. However, for anyone who reads this, PLEASE, do not be like this "Vengence" guy. In this case, he was just being obtuse, rude, and pedantic over an issue that is ultimately inconsequential, and in doing so derailed a perfectly coherent conversation. DON'T DO THAT: everyone hates it, and it blocks out constructive discussion.

Not only that, but the other people he was trying to argue with in this case were RIGHT. You CAN use the word radiation to indicate any type of EM emissions, including radio, microwaves, terahertz, infrared, visible light, X-rays, gamma rays, and probably many other forms that I have neglected to mention or have not been discovered yet.

I encourage you, in fact, to use the word to the fullest extent of its' technical definition and scope, and not just to spite this guy.

Jobo17 made it! (author)2015-02-17

I modded my xbox live vision webcam i got from the thrift store originally for my raspberry pi... the normal picture was taken with my integrated webcam, the gray one was taken with my modded webcam... where did the design go?!?!? (you don't have to tell me, I know).

Lukiepop (author)2013-01-11

*rushes to ebay for the cheapest digi camera possible*

jbaker22 (author)2012-12-16

So, does this make it a thermal imaging camera?

G13 (author)2012-11-15

does anyone know of a way to get this effect with a DSLR?

dan616 (author)2012-01-06

could i do this with a disposable camera?

Notbob (author)dan6162012-07-25

To my knowledge, this would not work with film, so for a disposable camera? no, it wont work.

thebodycopy (author)2012-05-05

This is, I think, exactly what I was looking for. I have an old Sony Cybershot F717 from 2003. However, the CCD chip is bad, I believe. (It used to take glitchy pictures, but now it's just black...except for the menu.) I am a video artist and am interested in hacking it for creative purposes....with the CCD chip dead, will this hack you posted still produce an image? I'm new at hacking this stuff, so please forgive any silly questions.Thank you SO much. Any advice is appreciated.

terrapinlogo (author)2010-12-13

These are some pics i took with the floppy disc taped over the lens without taking the camera apart. the first two where taken with a 10mp Panasonic Lumix and the second two where taken with my HTC touch 2 smart phone

afardella (author)terrapinlogo2012-03-22

... but in this way you don't allow IR to get the CCD sensor..... you are using the floppy like a whatever filter.....

aenke (author)2011-07-14

So I've seen a few comments on people getting shocked when they open up the camera. Is there a way to avoid that?

afardella (author)aenke2012-03-22

i think that the best is not to get scared of the technology :)

ilpug (author)aenke2011-11-29

Yes. In cameras there is usually a large capacitor. This thing is usually charged, so when you see it, discharge it by putting the tip of an INSULATED screwdriver between the contacts. do this two or three times, and it will be safe. By common practice, also make sure that all batteries are out of the camera before you dissassemble it.

Poggibonsi (author)2012-02-07

I made this hack to my old 2mpx camera but photos are blurry. I don't know if now it can't focus well or if the problem it's the 2mpx. (can't remember the quality of the photos...) Someone can give me an advice?

ilpug (author)2011-11-29

I am going to do this for my senior project with an old Canon Powershot camera I have.

compaqxp123 (author)2011-10-16

It just occurred to me, but when using IR Film you need to adjust the lens focus.

So on an older fixed focus point and shoot digital the photos will be blurry at first. You need to find someway to adjust the focus on them because it will need to be changed ever so slightly.

It's easy to do this on many cheap point and shoots.

compaqxp123 (author)2011-10-16

I wasn't sure about this until today, when I bought a Kodak Easyshare cx6200 for 50C. I saw it on the shelf and knew what I had to do with it.

Mind you I've already found it's limitations (it's very bad at infinity/anything past a certain distance) and the 2mp is just a bit lower then I'm used to dealing with.

Either way I've taken a few photos. I didn't like the brownish tint so I tried to edit them, not knowing how they should really look.

I'll just assume it's so blurry because of the camera itself.

chubby8 (author)2011-07-15

will this work in the dark? possibly with the help of some IR LEDs

aidanjarosgrilli (author)2011-06-09

If you know what the vivid festival in sydney is, you could tahe a photo of the opra house or the projectors.

The scanners they use at airports to see through your clothes use some sort of light in the IR spectrum, but it's not going to see through you of course :-)

Airport scanners use light from the far end of the IR band, they are very good at seeing through clothing, plastic and paper but cannot penetrate body mass because water is very strongly absorbing at this wavelength.

Vengence (author)keithisit2010-12-13

Are you guys talking about the backscatter scanners? No, those use actual x-ray radiation at "low" output(still unhealthy), not IR light...

keithisit (author)Vengence2011-05-26

Nope, what I'm talking about are scanners working in the far-IR (if your an engineer) or THz (for you physicists) region.
They are used quite widely throughout the packaging industry as well due to the high transparency, at THz freqs, of most packaging materials and the very low energy of the beams.

PSPerson (author)2010-09-02

kirkland brand batteries... ahh, i love costco.

ilpug (author)PSPerson2011-05-15

Costco FTW!

JuCo (author)2011-03-21

good to know that i can use that stuff... i've still got some spent film for these ir filters, but that disc would give more material in one piece than a 35mm strip does.

and to hivoltage: well, now i know someone here lives in my area... i recognised that sundial-looking building instantly. i had a friend who was a chem professor at cal poly. as a sidenote, keep ahold of that picture. i read somewhere that they're tearing that complex down. (the "sundial" and the building next to it)

k.ghia (author)2011-03-14

Great hack. Now i just wish i had saved some floppy disks. Oh well, off i go to see if Fry's still stock these things.

cybergod (author)2011-03-02

Now this looks like a somewhat simple project for a movice like me. I have an old Sony Mavica laying around, some old floppies (the Mavica stores stuff on the floppies) so pretyt much everything needed . . .

Might need to try this on the weekend :-)


101yummYYummy101 (author)2011-02-26

Whenever I try to look through the floppy disk, I just see dark red with a spec of light from the sun and other really strong lights. I cant really see much. And yeah, Ive taken apart a disposable camera before and was too lazy to discharge the capacitor first, and after getting shocked 3 times it was pretty much discharged by me anyway lol...

Walis (author)2010-11-29

Guys!!!! This is the most awesome instructable for cold winter evenings (like we say here in Czech Republic). You can easily check the functionality with your TV remote!!! Also good for tracking the surveillance cameras in the street. COOOL!!! LET THERE BE LIGHT!!!

sillywilly (author)Walis2011-01-12

Thanks a bunch Walis! I tried that test on my phone's camera and what do ya know! Two dots of light appeared. Covered the camera lense with the floppy disk and viewed it live through my phone camera. Only by viewing this through camera did the IR light from my remote show up. This is fun. Like someone else said, I think I'm becoming a "ible" junkie! 8--]

ItsTheHobbs (author)2011-01-03

I will definitely do this with an old camera that I have lying around. Also, you can make them look better by removing the red in Photoshop/GIMP, like this.

Inducktion (author)ItsTheHobbs2011-01-08

It looks like a post apocalyptic world. D:

jacco1997 (author)2011-01-04

My friend had an old 1 megapixel Kodak dc3200 that I did this to. It took me a while to get out the visible light filter because it had plastic surrounding it that I had to cut it out of. In the end, I amazingly got it back together with only breaking the menu button. So far the results have been awesome.

askjerry (author)2011-01-02

I'm wondering what kind of images you would get if you removed the IR filter and made no other changes to the camera... would you get full color images with IR ghosting? That might look interesting... then add either an IR filter or a visible light filter as needed.


der_fisherman (author)2010-12-14

Liked your instructable as you have helped me in finding a source of a normal light blocker for my Sony video camera. Many, many thanks.

You may have made a small error with regards to testing the opacity of the floppy film, I think you meant that you should see "no" light through it.....but that was a small unimportant error to my mind......maybe yyou could just read it through again and correct in some way.....

I do believe I am correct in saying any (video as well) camera with a IR "Night shot" type of ability (needs no lighting and usually looks a "ghostly" gree with no proper colours, like my Sony video camera for example, does not have the normal light filter you mentioned, so the camera does not need to be dismantled to remove it.....(I am not going to take it apart, just to find out though!! Sorry!!) But I would guess that if it had the filter, it would not be able to do Nightshot!!

When I have tried it out and it does not work as I hope, I will come back and post again....correcting my errors......

By the way, I am slowly turning into an "instructables Junky"!!! Keep them coming.....

Many, many thanks for each and every one of them......all are really really good.



About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I founded the Instructables Design Studio. I'm also the author of the books 'Simple Bots,' and '62 Projects to ... More »
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