Instructables

Infrared night vision digital camera/camcorder

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This instructable explains how to convert the Discovery Kids Night Vision Camcorder (which is falsely advertised to use "real infrared night vision technology") into a REAL infrared night vision camcorder.  This is similar to IR webcam conversions published here and elsewhere, but the advantage of the Discovery Kids Night Vision Camcorder is that it already has infrared LED's built in (even though they serve no purpose in the product as sold)!  The procedure involves removing the IR blocking filter from the camera module, and disconnecting the power to the white LED's which are used to provide "night vision" in the product as sold.
 
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Step 1: Buy the Discovery Kids Night Vision Camcorder

Picture of Buy the Discovery Kids Night Vision Camcorder
First you need to get your hands on a Discovery Kids Night Vision Camcorder.  I got mine at a surplus store just after Christmas, it originally came from Costco.  At the time of writing they have it half price ($35) at www.discoverystore.com .  Insert batteries and turn it on, check that when you turn on the camera lights, two white LED's on the front of the camera turn on.  If white LED's do not turn on, it is possible your unit is truly configured for IR night vision, and you do not need to follow this instructable.
You will also need an SD memory card.  Although the camera has a small amount of internal memory, it seems that you can only transfer pictures to a computer if you have a memory card installed.  Even a small one will do, with 1GB you can store more than 1000 pictures or 1 hour of video.

Update:  When I checked Feb. 6, 2010 the camera was no longer half price at discoverystore.com.
Here is another option if you can't get the Discovery Kids camera cheaply, or if you don't want to modify a camera:
http://www.ghosthuntingstore.ca/dvr-digital-video-recorders/42-vivitar-2gb-night-vision-pocket-video-digital-camcorder.html

Step 2: Gather your tools

Picture of Gather your tools
These are the tools I used:
flat-head and star point jeweller's screwdrivers
sharp knife
2 pairs of slip-joint pliers
wire cutters
tweezers
 Couldn't you add infer red LED's in place of the white LED's? 
A good question.  But IR LED's require different voltage and current than visible LED's, so it is not as simple as just replacing the LED's, the current limiting resistor would have to be changed also.  That's why there are separate wires feeding current to the IR LED's and the white LED's, they require different voltages.  Since the 3 IR LED's already built in work just fine, I decided not to attempt adding more.  But it could be done.
Two IR LEDs in series would have about the same forward voltage as a white LED....
Ugifer Ugifer1 year ago
Nice Hack, BTW!
JonahElijah3 years ago
Now, that one, step 13, seems kind of superfluous. The white lights are a great way to gauge (when you're not doing Infrared, which a couple of the steps are reversible, yes? and thus it's still an all-purpose device.) your aim when you're taking a self-portrait.
One of the other other things I use it for is to read mainboard information inside boxes full of Printed Circuit Board, it's usually printed in white letters on a spinach-green background. With the zoom function I can actually read it.
My solution for that would be to simply cover the LEDS with a small piece of Electrical Tape when you're doing IR.
Cutting wires, I avoid when possible.
electric_piano_5k (author)  JonahElijah3 years ago
Personally I think the cool factor is seeing a scene on the camera display even though the room is totally dark. But of course you can modify the procedure depending on your own preferences and needs. Thanks for the comments!
As for the self portrait, the display will swivel around so you can see it while in front of the camera.
if you'd like to keep the white leds for use part-time, you could just add a switch rather than just leave the wire cut.
Why not unsolder them and replace with IR LEDs? Then it would illuminate the area brightly for the camera... but to everyone in the room it would look dark.
the ir leds use a different voltage, thats why the put them on a seperate circuit to begin with.
JonahElijah3 years ago
For steps 11 and 12, remove the lens, take out the IR filter and replace the lens, there's a step that I learned, too late, in adjusting a motorcycle part.which had a factory preset,"screw it in this far and no further.." use a marker and mark two spots where the lens screws in. I used a yellowish-green highlighter pen for it. That way you can have it exactly at the same place it was before you took it off.

The motorcycle part the usual way is to mark it with women's lipstick. That would be a large chunk of grease and wax to be putting on such a small part though. Thus, the marker.
depotdevoid4 years ago
Nice instructable!  Do you have any pictures you could post taken with night vision?
electric_piano_5k (author)  depotdevoid4 years ago
Thanks!  One photo posted.
That looks right for night vision! But why did you resize it down to 300 × 240?
It's a pretty cheap device at that price.

L
electric_piano_5k (author)  lemonie4 years ago
I put all the pictures at 320x240 for ease of uploading.  Not sure why this one ended up at 300x240.  The actual camera sensor is 640x480.  But for the price it works very well!  And the best part, no extra parts needed for the IR conversion!
? Yes I'd expected something larger, I go with you on smaller for illustrative purposes and tend to use something minimal myself.

L
electric_piano_5k (author)  lemonie4 years ago
At first I thought by "cheap" you meant "inexpensive", but now I think you meant "low quality".  You are right, it is made from low grade plastic and definitely has a 'toy' look and feel.  It is what I would expect for $35 but I feel sorry for anyone who paid $70.
I did mean inexpensive, but the low-quality does apply. However, silicon is what it is, and you're getting good-enough hardware in "naff-packaging" - what it does counts eh?

L
I got mine for $22 at a basically grocery surplus store, and picked up the Flash-memory card new (out of my price range usually, but I had the ten bux at the time and it was convenient) for the better part of $10, "only" 2 gigabytes.
The two sets of rechargeable batteries cost as much as the camera did.
A fantastic deal. Taking something to the shop for repairs or alterations, similarly out of my normal price range. Learning how to do it myself, that would be priceless but It would be a copyright infringement on some credit card so I won't say it. Next I'm looking for a GPL *nix based firmware for it for better compatibility with my Linux box computers.
Like y'all say, performance is worth more than pretty.
Sometimes the stuff packaged as toys IS the best deal.
That's awesome, it's way better than my night vision camera's pictures.  Great first 'ible!
D5quar34 years ago
 Costco's my favorite!!!!!!!!!

lemonie4 years ago
Pictures taken with the modified camera are really essential - can you add some?

L