Introduction: IR-Modification of the Nikon 4300

About: I like to explore new things and try out stuff. At the moment I'm in to electronics, BLE and LEDs.
This is the description of how to turn a normal working Nikon 4300 into a IR-Camera for fantastic new insights.

The Nikon 4300 is now roundabout eight years old and you can get the used camera rather cheap. I hope the prices will not rise too much because of this instructable. The quality of this camera is really good and so you can expect to have another few years of fun with your new IR-Camera.

Only disadvantage: It uses Compact flash for storage.

Advantage: The age. The older the camera is the simpler is it built. In 2002 there were a lot of parts much bigger than today, maybe except the display. That means it is much easier to dis- and reassemble this camera than an up-to-date model. If you need more Megapixel try to modify an Nikon P6000 and write an instructable. ;-)
Second advantage: The filter-adapter. For many modern cameras you won't find a good solution to attach a filter to the camera, and for IR photography you need a real good connection without light leaks.

Ah, before I forget it: NO, this is not thermography! It uses only light up to 900nm, much to short for thermography. They use 1400nm and more...

Step 1: Tools and Things Needed

What you need is:
  • a good screwdriver (cross slot)
  • a good pair of tweezers, flat ends
  • a plectrum
  • a sorting box (for all the different screws)
  • a piece of clear glass in the size 10 x 11.3 x 0.3mm
    (This is the replacement for the original IR-filter. You can take nearly every normal window glass. I cut mine from some old picture-frames)
  • and a working Nikon 4300
If you doubt about the conversion, buy a broken one first and try it.

Step 2: Unscrew the Housing

Before starting to unscrew the parts we have to get the battery and the flash-card out.

As every time when I work with small parts, I work in a special box, pictures 1, so that screws falling down won't roll away and disappear.

Start unscrewing the housing.
Screws 3+4 are under the lid of the battery case.
Screws 5, 6, 7, 8 + 9 are longer than the others and should be kept separately.

Step 3: Dismantle the Camera

Now start to separate the two half's at the bottom. When there is a small slit you can use a plectrum to open it a bit further.
You feel a release at some point when the cases get loose. But don't pull too much, because the buttons and indicators on the case are still connected to the body.
Look at the pictures to see how to release this wires.
The front part is only connected via a small ribbon cable, pull it out with the pair of tweezers. This is the hardest part to reassemble as it is so small and there is not much space to operate.
The backside ribbon cable is locked in the socket. You have to release the black spacer beneath the cable by pushing it to the right, after that you can easily take the ribbon cable out.

If you are not sure if the flash-capacitor is still charged or not: KEEP YOUR FINGERS AWAY!
The power inside such a capacitor is potentially deadly! Don't try to discharge it with a screwdriver or something else, it is more likely that you damage the whole device. Just keep your fingers away from it!

Step 4: Next Step: the Display

Now the naked camera lies in front of us it is time to take the display out of the way.
The display is only pinched to the holder. To move it out of the way, release the ribbon cable beneath it and flip it out of the holder.
Although the power supply for the display is also just plugged in, I found this hard to separate and left the power cables connected.

Step 5: The Plate for the CF-card

Now we unscrew the plate for the CF-card socket.
First unscrew the small part on the right side with the two screws.
Then unscrew the whole PCB with the remaining five screws. Screw 1 of picture 2 is not visible, I forgot to make a picture here...
If you unscrew this all, carefully release the PCB from the rest of the camera. The PCB is connected via some small socket beneath the CF-Slot.

Now we are very close to the heart of the camera, the CCD-chip which actually takes the pictures!

Step 6: Unscrew the Optics Unit

Now we unscrew the last 5 screws and are then able to tilt the whole lens unit to the side and out. Take care of some power cables at the top. I used my soldering iron to part it, that makes it much easier.
You have to be very careful in this step as this is really like a surgery at the open heart!
If you damage the CCD the whole camera will be broken. If you bring dirt in, the quality will decrease massively!

Step 7: Take Off the Optics and Remove the IR-Filter

You should not hurry too much at this point, but it is also not very wise to leave the camera open for more than necessary. If possible, work in a place where there is not much dust in the air, because every dust-particle will be seen on the pictures.

If you took the optics part away it will look like this.

Now change the original IR-filter to the prepared plain glass filter. With a glass cutter it is difficult to work in sub-millimeter range. So I just cut a whole bunch of filters and chose the one which size was closest to what I needed.

Step 8: Reassembly

Put the glass filter in the opening of the lens unit. The filter should slide in very easy but have not much room to jiggle. If you want to be on the save side, insert a small piece of paper between the filter and the housing. That should finally fix it. Now keep the lens unit head down and get the rest of the camera body over the lens unit back in place.
This way is much easier than putting the filter on top of the CCD and try to get the lens unit fixed. That won't work. Believe me I tried half an hour... ;-)
The rods of the lens unit have to fit into the holes beside the CCD, then everything else should fit. One hole of the rods is bigger to allow some adjustments, but the screws finally fix it.

The rest of the steps are just the last 5 steps backwards. I hope you kept track of all the screws?

Step 9: A Good Hint!

One last thing: Because the IR-filter is now missing please DO NOT take pictures with the sun in the frame!
 WHY? Because the optic will focus the sun to the CCD and burn a little hole in there. Like it does with a burning glass and a sheet of paper. If that happens your camera will surely be blind there. If you do this too often, your pictures will be full of dark, black spots. ;-)

 I will not show a picture of this of course!

Step 10: Now What Can I Photograph? Examples!

Now your camera is much more sensitive for IR-radiation than before. But what does that mean?
Well go out and try!

O.k., I give you some hints:
- Normal photography results in rather dull colors and some strange color shifts. You can try with the white balance a bit, but your camera will surely be different than before.
- When going around in the dark you see the bright light of surveillance IR-lights. Like the guys with the night view goggles or surveillance cameras at public places. Some places are even so bright illuminated you can take pictures at night...

 But I would really advice you to use an IR-transmission filter. This kind of filter is quite the opposite of that you just removed from your camera. It blocks nearly all visible light and lets only IR-light pass. All pictures presented here are taken with one of them. Look at this website for what else is possible :