Introduction: How to See in the Dark

Picture of How to See in the Dark

If you want to be able to see in the dark you can pick up a maglite and shine it every where you want. But if you don't want other people to know you are there you have to figure out an other way to be able to see using a lightbeam others can't see. in otherwords build your own night vision scope.

what do you need:
- a viewfinder from an old camera.
- an old 380 line black and white camera
- six Infrared LED's
- three 15 ohm resistors

Step 1: The Viewfinder

Picture of The Viewfinder

The viewfinder I used for this night vision scope. Was taken from a CANON UC4000 V8 Camcorder. The Camera was broke but the viewfinder is stil very usefull.

The viewfinder used to be connected to the camera with 5 cables.
When I started measuring them I noticed that I just needed the first three cables those where.
- +5 volt
- Ground
- video-in

The viewfinder contains a 0.7 inch picture tube, a high voltage power supply and some calibration pots. The size of this module is only 2,5 x 5 cm.
Therefore the  high voltage power supply could for the picture tube could cause serious injury if you touched it.

This is why in attached new cables to those connection points en put the viewfinder back together.

Now our output device is ready.

Step 2: The Camera

Picture of The Camera

After some searching I found a 380 line black/white camera in my garage which was solderd on a piece of stripboard and used a 5 volt power supply (thats nice the same votage as my view finder). This camera cannot see in the dark but it can see IR light (which is invisible for the human’s eye). So fore the record this night vision scope is not an image intensifier this scope needs an Infrared light source.

(Sometimes manufactors put a filter in the lens which blocks the infrared light when you work carefull jou can remove it as described in my Instructable Turning an old webcam into a Night vision cam

Step 3: The Illuminator

Picture of The Illuminator

For the illuminator I used 6 High Power Infrared Emitter, type SFH4550.

Some specifics on these IR LED's:
- Current: 100 mA 
- Wavelength: 860 nm 
- Radiant Intensity: 700 mW/sr 
- viewing angle: 3 degrees
- voltage: 1,5 Volt
- Diode Case t-1 3/4 (5 mm)

I used the stripboard that was attached to the camera as a base for my illuminator which i made by connecting 2 times 3 LED's in series (3 * 1.5 volts = 4,5 volts) to make it work in my system that has to run on 5 volts becaus of the viewfinder and the camera, I had to place a 5 ohm resistor before the LED's to make the powerdrop I placed 3 resistors of 15 omh in parallel.

Step 4: Connect and Enjoy

Picture of Connect and Enjoy

After connecting the viewfinder to the camera en connected all the power and ground cables I could see in the dark using the light of the Infrared LED's.

I am stil searching for a case to put it in and when i do I will deside what kind of battery i will use en design a circuit for battery power to the 5 volt working power of the electronics in my scope.

Images of the completed Night vision scope will be added after i have found a nice case to put it in.

Unforunatly i can't let you see what the image looks like when you look trough the night vision scope, But i can gaurantee that it works great.

Happy spying.


D006DR (author)2013-11-11


I read you are using the SFH4550 with a dc current of 100 mA. The datasheet shows that this is the maximum rating. I would use them not at 100 mA. I would prefer 50 mA for a longer life of the leds.

Velkov (author)2013-06-09

Great idea! I want to make the same gadget and I managed to find an old camera already - canon uc800. If you know please let me know where can I find the service manual for this camera. I would like to see the schematics of the viewfinder. Thanks!

elkliko (author)Velkov2013-06-12

I always say that Google is youre best friend for finding stuff on the web.

fmasi (author)2013-05-21

Couple of quick ideas
1) this design is easy to double and go stereoscopic ...
2) on some chinese ebay shops I spotted 1w/3w/5w IR high power LEDs (850 and 940nm, but I would go for 850), along with drivers, heatsinks, DC-DC converters and optics to change the focus degrees between 5 and 120 degrees.
Very nice stuff for powerful and deep field illuminators.

elkliko (author)fmasi2013-05-22

That is also a posibility, thanx for the idea, unfortunatly my viewfinder is broken when it fell from the table. so I couldn't finnish the project.

fmasi (author)fmasi2013-05-21

I forgot: nice job :D

nvnusman (author)2013-02-05

So, thanks for the inspiration ...

But I don't see three LEDs in parallel in the diagram, which I think is accurate and what most folks would follow. What I see are two parallel circuits of three LEDs in series ... am I right? Wouldn't want to fry a bunch of emitters! And, um ... power switch?

emdarcher (author)2012-10-02

here is a camera from sparkfun that is perfect for this, it has ir leds and a cmos camera with rca output. all you need is the veiwfinder.

50-50 (author)2012-06-07

this does not make you 100% undetectable, when the IR leds are pointed at someone they can look and see a red glow from the leds.this happens even if they are military NVGs.

elkliko (author)50-502012-06-08

I disagree with you on this matter, if you have the correct LED's, you can not see the light(or glow) with the naked eye.
Can you see the LED on the remotecontrol of your tv? This also works with a IR LED.
The only way that this light can be seen is with a camera that is sensitive to IR light or a night scope.
Also some animals can see this.

sokamiwohali (author)elkliko2012-09-09

it matters not the ir led...all ir led's can be seen if in the right condition. for the ones that you "cant see" if your close enough to the LED then you can see the light it emits. this is what the military uses. also, they use a HIGHLY sensitive sensor to pick up the light in the NVG's. i used to be military, and used these almost all the time.

50-50 (author)elkliko2012-06-08

OK I admit that you cant see some of them but it happens to some of them.

elkliko (author)50-502012-06-08

So you have to find the one's that you can't see, or harvest some from old remote controlles.

jeronimooo (author)elkliko2012-06-10

Problem here is that the camera can see these LED's when you look into them but they won't give enough light to have decent picture. The camera will not be sensitive enough at that wave length.

elkliko (author)jeronimooo2012-06-10

You can see a decent beam from the leds since the angle of the LED's i used is only 3 degrees. I can see for about 25 - 30 feet, but am considering to make a IR flashlight using more LED's for a stronger beam.

50-50 (author)elkliko2012-06-08

it is debateable

GrumpyOldGoat (author)50-502012-06-10

850nm IR LEDs have the 'red glow' while the 940 IR LEDs do not.


Lights my driveway nicely.... well, to a camera it's lit up.

Foxtrot70 (author)GrumpyOldGoat2012-06-14

That is correct. If you have a security system with video the IR lights on the cam might not be enough. A battery of LED illuminators scattered thru the field of view really lights things up. The best thing is the bad guys don't even see it.

Mr Jaderman (author)2012-07-24

Great instructable! I just have one question. I have a CCD security camera with a 4 pin S-video output. Is there a way to use that?

mirusev (author)2012-06-10

re: if you have the correct LED's

What are the correct LED's? Mean, it is for sure true, but do you know what exactly type are they - their name? To may search about...

Thanks :)

arunbabu (author)mirusev2012-06-15


you may search as IR led's , they emit Infra Red rays, spec are there based on there wattage, also some sites offer a directivity graph also, hence you can select your IR led

elkliko (author)mirusev2012-06-10

I used High Power Infrared Emitter, type SFH4550.
But as GrumpyOldGoat mentioned there are more Leds that work good.

GrumpyOldGoat says:
850nm IR LEDs have the 'red glow' while the 940 IR LEDs do not.

mirusev (author)elkliko2012-06-11

I really like it, thanks! :) Seems these worth buying then:
or ready to go:

elkliko (author)mirusev2012-06-11

indeed not bad but 60 degrees seems a bit wide to me, and you wil have to place your camera lens in front of the LED's as mentioned earlier.

arunbabu (author)2012-06-10

hai, elkliko

great work, but i had certain doubt, wat will be visibility range you are getting from this circuit, i used one with 9 IR led s arrange around a VGA camera, but not getting visibility more than 6-10 feet, can you say how long you are getting.

it will be more usefull then,


elkliko (author)arunbabu2012-06-10

I can see a decent beam from the leds since the angle of the LED's i used is only 3 degrees. I can see for about 25 - 30 feet, but am considering to make a IR flashlight using more LED's for a stronger beam. As I metioned in my reply to Jeronimooo

SenKat (author)elkliko2012-06-11

Absolutely LOVE this ! You mentioned you were looking for a container/mounting method - why not use a ball-cap ? You could attach the items to the bill of the hat, then the viewfinder would be in direct line of sight :-) It might LOOK hideous, but it was a momentary inspiration ! Great work, thanks for sharing !

elkliko (author)SenKat2012-06-11

I was looking for a slim case wich i can hold in my hand so that i can operate 2 switches one to activate the camera and viewer and one to switch on the LED's.
Because when there is enough Infra red light i won´t need them and i can save my battery, with this i can also locate other night vision scopes and IR camera´s and they can´t see my IR beam.

But wearing it on your head is an option, with wich I would have my hands free. thanks for the idea.

arunbabu (author)elkliko2012-06-11

Thank you Elkliko for your fast response, i will try flashing of Led's instead of continuous illuminating the LED's ,

GrumpyOldGoat (author)2012-06-10

Just as a guide.

Infrared LEDs in the 850nm range do give the red glow. The 940 nm do not.

10 degree viewing angle gives the longest distance, while a wider viewing angle gives less distance but a broader field of view.

Try to keep the forward tip of the LED behind the lens of the camera to prevent a glow across your lens.

Excellent Instructable, thank you, I have an old cartridge camera that the tape drive gave up on.

Now it will live again.

dwmanz (author)2012-06-10

How about an IR flashlight? Not that expensive, and certainly better than sacking junk out of old gizmos.

elkliko (author)dwmanz2012-06-10

Se previous replys. to Arunbabu and Jeronimooo.

curious youth (author)2012-06-04

i can use any camcorder viewfinder right ?

elkliko (author)curious youth2012-06-04

any old viewfinder will do you just hav to check what kind of voltage it needs en wich wire is the video channel.

curious youth (author)elkliko2012-06-09

alright sweet. do you have an image of your finished product ?

elkliko (author)curious youth2012-06-10

still working on that!

bannutechniclor (author)2012-06-10

its all the ir led we use. all night vision issue only happens with ir led.

juanjomf (author)2012-06-10

Very good to take an old camera, but not all work should be shot .. the night are common filter. To see if the camera works point to an IR LED, if it is blue is because it does not work. The LED should be seen as a flashlight .. It is best to use a mini car lcd and reverse camera. dealetreme is cheap .. if you need more power to use surveillance camera. I will put instructable soon.

tgferreira184 (author)2012-05-30

the link to the turning an old webcam into nightvision camera doesn't work.
can you fix it and tell me when you fix it please?

elkliko (author)tgferreira1842012-06-04

fixed it thanks for mentioning it!

sageserver (author)2012-05-30

cool. Just wondering but what is the view angle of the camera.

elkliko (author)sageserver2012-06-04

that depends of the camera you are using.

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