Infrared digital camera - the real way

Picture of infrared digital camera - the real way
Are you tired of at looking at the world in boring, ordinary colors? Upset about the limitations of your eyeballs to perceive light between 400 - 700 nm? Odds are you have a perfectly good infrared imaging device sitting around and you don't even know it. Here's how to modify your average digital camera to unleash its full infrared capacity. All you need are some lighting filters, a small screwdriver, and steady hands. In no time flat you'll be taking dreamy, surreal IR pictures.
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Step 1: Get yourself a crappy digital camera

So here's the thing about infrared. The CCD on your average ordinary digital camera absorbs infrared light quite effectively, so much that camera manufacturers try their hardest to block IR from ever reaching the detector. Digicams have an IR-blocking filter behind the lens that mops up most (but not all) infrared from getting through. Therefore, possible ways to take an infrared picture are (1) exploit the low IR sensitivity of an unmodified digicam by placing a filter in front of the lens that blocks out everything *but* infrared, or (2) enhance the IR sensitivity of the camera by taking it apart and physically removing the IR-blocking filter.

Option (1) is certainly easier, and a number of instructables use that principle:
Infrared Ir Webcam
Take Infrared Pictures With Your Digital Camera
A better diy infrared filter

But there are some drawbacks to using an unmodified camera. Typically the exposure times are so long (1 second or so) that you need to use a tripod. Option (2) is more effective and you can take better IR pictures, if you're willing to take your camera apart.

Here's the catch. This project isn't difficult per se, but it involves handling a lot of small and fragile camera parts. There's a very real chance that one little slip up could turn your nice digicam into a very shiny brick. So don't try this on a camera unless you're willing to accept the risk of breaking it. I got this used VuPoint 3.1 MP camera at Ritz on the cheap. Used cameras also tend to be very inexpensive on eBay. If you have an expensive digital SLR you want to convert, you might consider paying a professional (like this place) to do it for you, which costs ~$300.

You will also need a lighting filter to block out all visible light except for red and longer wavelenghts. For this I am using "Congo Blue" (Lee #181 or Rosco #382) available from B&H for about $10 after shipping.
beneficence4 months ago
I really enjoyed this tutorial. I have been meaning to do an IR conversion for some time now. So, thanks for the reminder and the detailed instructable!

I do have a question... are the dark spots I see on some of the photos due to a dirty sensor on your camera or is that a result of the IR conversion? Were those there before the conversion? Perhaps the sensor got dirty while converting...
atomiclizard8 months ago
If I take nothing else from this, very well put, Instructable thank you for the ice cube tray idea for screws. I fix computers and laptop repair sometimes leaves "extra parts" This is extremely useful and genius! Keep up the good work!
Way cool! I love IR.
nvnusman1 year ago
So, wondering why you used blue filters instead of red? Doesn't deep blue fail to pass reds? (Um ... yeah ... my Remote test showed one remote's LEDs as blue ...) I expected a recommendation of dark red filtering ... Back in the 70s I bought some of that infrared Ektachrome; the slides were, well, "trippy." Can't find they anymore or I would post.
giocad1 year ago
it's fantastic. I think I'll do the same thing with my old camera
zacker1 year ago
To get rid of the red/pink hue, cant you just cxonvert it in Photoshop into a black and white? or use the HUE / SATURATION tool to remove the red hue?

If one removes the IR filter inside, behind the lens, and uses the blue lenses on the outside, infront of the lens, would it matter?
N3v3rm0r33 years ago
"Big dcary capacitor".... Well, 80uF is not THAT big... In some cameras I've found caps of 120uF... These DO hurt most than other, smaller ones
In my auto technology classes we used to amuse ourselves by tossing charged capacitors (BIG ONES) to each other, saying 'Catch!'

The loser was whoever actually caught one. ;-)

Damn I miss the 1980s.
more painful than that is a 10F super capacitor, OUCH
I hope I'll never "try" that out! Lol! Where you found that capacitor? And in which voltage(I need a capacitor like that, so...)?
can;t find it now, but it's from rapid electronics, it's 2.5v, hence can be charged from solar cell, so now you can tase someone the eco-friendly way.
Blexcroid2 years ago
Just picked up a Sony DSC-P200 point &shoot for $20 at a pawn shop. It included the battery, charger, cables, & manuals. Nice & inexpensive with which to try an IR conversion.
wizzle892 years ago
does this work at night for night vision
372752 wizzle892 years ago
No it wouldn't actually you would need a IR flashlight I have an instructables on this it's reall simple actually
arduinoe4 years ago
now this is DEFINITELY shopped , kitchen towel isnt reflective loooooool
It ain't shopped... CCD's look odd even in real life, and the towel isn't reflecting... it's got a spot of red light shining on it which is reflecting off the IR filter (they are almost like mirrors to the red wavelengths).
I use my spare time convincing people that real-life objects have been photoshopped...
are you stupid or something?
DanYHKim2 years ago
Marking the lens assembly is a great idea. I've neglected this step in the past, and it's a pain to work out the focus by trial and error.
Do you have any Congo blue filter film that you'd be willing to sell? It's a bit pricey for the small amount that is actually used. I'll buy your extra off of you if you're willing :) Thanks
You can get a free gel sample kit from either Rosco or Lee. And you get all the extra colors along with it.
lol, abbout the big scarry capaciter. yeah. dont touch it...
made the mistake one when cleening sand out of my optical zoom.
SirStokes3 years ago
If you touch the capacitor with a plastic handled screwdriver until it sparks you should be fine. It would discharge and, unless the batteries are still in, it will stay discharged.
iguytheguy3 years ago
My brother always said if you see a copper coil be afraid the reason being that he shocked him self in a camera when he was little.
is there an advantage to using multiple filters?
pietzeekoe3 years ago
IM having the hardest time finding a camera that crappy enough LOL
Can some one link me to something like an ebay link?
Also i live in europe so the closer to europe the better cause P&P can get pretty high.
wobbler3 years ago
You can make an IR filter with only two layers by using a blue gel layer and a red gel layer. Now to make this, all I need is some red gel and some blue gel. Oh yes, and a camera. Other than that, I've got everything I need.
Lorellai3 years ago
I finished reading Issac Asimov's 'Nemesis' last night... Nemesis is a red dwarf star that bathes the planet Megas and it's moon Erythro in a pink light (as opposed to our Sun's yellow light). These pictures have helped me to visualise such a work perfectly - Thanks!
Datashifter4 years ago

I used five pieces of the Rosco 382 gel, thinking that the camera might be better at accepting IR low light situations with 5 instead of 6 pieces.  I need to test it in daylight, but from preliminary testing inside tonight, I think I maybe should have gone with six pieces.  The mod went well for my camera though (Samsung S700 Digimax).

The most difficult part for me was cutting the Rosco 382 gel to the right size - not too small, and not too big - all the while, not getting fingerprints on it!  Cotton gloves might have been handy...

Congrats on the great instructable!  Even if it probably doesn't match the disassembly of anyone else's camera, the general idea is all which is needed!

For what it is worth, my camera has zoom and autofocus, but I have not experienced any focus issues at all after removing the IR filter and installing the Rosco 382 gel.

driids6 years ago
After removing the batteries, if you hold down the power button for a few seconds (say 6 to be safe) it should drain the capacitor for you.
ccyg8774 driids4 years ago
That really depends on the design of the camera. The capacitor is for the flashlight and may not be drained by hold down the power button in some models.
I still remember the pain of getting the electric shock when was trying to hack a camera. I was old enough to know that it is a capacitor, but still too young to know the size of  capacitor matters, alone with the voltage and the capacitance......
ngc72934 years ago
I got into Near InfraRed Digital Photography a different way.  I searched via google and found some how-to pages.  Chiefly, they suggested using older cameras vs. taking appart new cameras.  I have an Olympus 2020Z with a Hoya R72 filter.  I got two cameras off of eBay; one for parts and one that was slightly broken.  The camera is sensitive enought that I don't need to replace the pass filter.  Other suggestions are the Nikon 950 and some SLRs.  Here is a link to an infrared webpage I have used

You might want to consider HDR processes along with the IR photos with that crappy camera.
HDR will balance the lighting, but it only works if you can change the exposure or at least bracket. Try EV compensation -2, 0, and +2.
ghostguard75 years ago
Any good inexpensive filters (IR) that I could screw onto my D70? I found one, but they wanted $78, and even with 30 second exposures with 100 to 1200 ISO, and an open aperture. I can't risk any damage on my camera, but I want to be able to take digital IR shots. Film was so much easier, as I would usually used just a red filter (and polarization dark-room techniques to produce great pictures). I just don't have to room in my garage/shop to setup my dark-room (and chemicals can get quite pricey for these). Using the IR film I was using around 8-11 years ago, we rarely would have the proper development chemistry. Most of my best museum prints were involving Infrared photography, or just very abstract and complexity prints. If anyone has an idea on cheaper removable IR filters (for DSLR's), please let me know. Thank you guys. Great Instructable!
A decent inexpensive filter is a Hoya R72. If you're using the Kit lens for your D70 (18-55mm focus, 52mm diam), the R72 filter for the end only runs about $20-$30 US.
If you can get the end of a roll of slide film that was processed but not exposed, it works as a cheap IR filter.
djin Zaius5 years ago
would taking pictures in complete darkness and developing those pics would be the part of the film I'm looking for (without having to hunt for the end parts ;P) it's just that I bought a new film and I don't know if I can just rip it out and use it (it's already black like that) or take pics, develop it, and theeen use it..
Zaius djin5 years ago
The slide film needs to be processed, but you don't need to actually shoot the film. If you talk to a store that processes slide film I'm sure you could get a piece for free.
djin Zaius5 years ago
thanks a lot =) I'll go there tomorrow!

...just to be sure, when you say "slide film" that's any photography film, right? for example a Fuji ISO 400 color film... _°
Zaius djin5 years ago
No, slide film is color reversal film like Kodachrome or Fujichrome. The unexposed area stay black. I don't know if regular film will work, but to make it black the film has to be overexposed. The photo store can help you.

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