How to See in the Dark





Introduction: How to See in the Dark

Spy Challenge

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Spy Challenge

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

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

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

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

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.



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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.

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!

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

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.

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.

I forgot: nice job :D

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?

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.

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.

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.