Picture of How to Make a Cheap Infrared Camera

Infrared (IR) photography is fun and interesting, however, getting a proper IR filter that allows only IR light to pass through for your camera can be costly and difficult to find. If you have a point and shoot, or in my case, a smartphone, you can avoid the cost and difficulty of buying one.

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Step 1: Materials & Tools

For this project, you'll need a camera (I'm using my smartphone), a floppy disk, an X-Acto knife, and a ruler. That's it.

Step 2: Check Your Camera

Picture of Check Your Camera

The first and most important step is to check that your camera does not have an IR blocking filter built into it. If it does, this project will not work. However, the camera may work if the IR blocking filter isn't very sensitive and only blocks some IR light.

So how do you know if your camera has an IR blocking filter? Turn the camera on, get a remote control of some kind (TV, DVR, etc...), point the front end of the remote with the IR LEDs in it towards the camera lens and press any button. You should see them light up if your camera is sensitive to IR light (they'll look purplish). Congrats!

If you don't see anything, make sure the remote isn't dead. If you still don't see anything, then you have a good camera and unfortunately the only way to continue is to take it apart, which is outside the scope of this project.

Step 3: Cut Your Floppy Disk

Picture of Cut Your Floppy Disk

Take your floppy disk and, using your X-Acto knife and your ruler to guide you, cut open the floppy disk. Try to not cut into the actual disk inside.

Step 4: Add the Filter to Your Camera

Picture of Add the Filter to Your Camera

Crack open the floppy disk. This will release the adhesive holding the two halves together allowing you to obtain the actual disk from inside. This is what we are after.

ian.daley.374 made it!1 month ago

Instead of using the filter in the floppy disc, I used this Rosco #382 Congo Blue filter.

boardsmm1 year ago
Wonderful pics!!! Could this be used as a thermal camera?
moeburn boardsmm6 months ago

Yes, but you need a digital camera with a removable IR-blocking filter, like the PS3 Eye ($10)

moeburn6 months ago

You are wrong. I have done this. The floppy magnetic tape acts as a GREAT IR passthru filter. It does let a tiny bit of red in.

Unfortunately, most digital cameras have an infrared blocking filter. Not a very strong one, which is why you can point your TV remote at your cameraphone and you'll see it blink purple. But that IR led on your tv remote is actually pretty darn bright, bright enough to light up an entire closet or small room, but the IR blocking filter on your phone is making it look dim. If you use the floppy tape on this type of camera, you will just see a very dark, slightly red image, because it's just not sensitive enough to see any significant IR light through the internal blocking filter.

If you get a digital camera with a removable IR filter, like the Sony PS3 Eye ($10), you'll see that this IR light is now much much brighter. When you place an IR passthru filter over it, like this floppy tape, the autoexposure software will adjust, and if your IR light source is very bright, like the sun, you will not see the red tint, it will be too dim. THAT is how you get a picture like the one at the top of this page.

PS my PS3 Eye camera with IR filter removed is also slightly sensitive to heat; if I point it at an electric kettle in low light, the kettle glows :D

Blaufeld9 months ago
Sorry for ruining your happiness, but the floppy doesn't act as an IR filter, but more as a "red" filter. This is easy to check: if you look at the emitting bulb of a tv remote, even pushing a button doesn't seem to light it - BUT if you observe it thru the lcd display of, say, a modern mirrorless camera, you see the bulb lights up indeed. This is because the sensor can see IR light that your eyes can't. Try the same with your filer-covered smartphone: you'll see NO light. And the filter just adds a nice red tint (hence, fake IR photos).
kuttyuma1 year ago

Also try this 5" Floppy

Ahh ok. I must have used a cheap brand. It works though, great photos
To make it easier you dont need to cut open the floppy disk. I just put my nails in the seam, pulled the sides apart and the disk just fell out. Much safer
techguru14 (author)  miss softpaw1 year ago
I think it depends on the floppy disk. I originally tried prying my floppy disk open but I wasn't able to so I resorted to cutting it.
Excellent idea.... I have just got to try this with my home made macro lens.
thebear11 year ago
hey it works thanks for sharing  I'm using a Nokia 6350  and it works