Floppy Disk IR Camera Hack





Introduction: Floppy Disk IR Camera Hack

About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

For the past seven years, I've had a broken digital camera lying around. It is still able to take pictures, but it is almost impossible to use on account of a broken screen. The fundamental problem is that sometimes the menu will accidentally get turned on, and not being able to see the screen, I can't turn off the menu and take pictures (without removing the batteries to reset the camera). I've been trying to figure out what to do with this camera as long as I can remember.

For a while I was considering converting it to a near IR camera, but I was reluctant to make another one after having already made one for 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer (p. 200). However, I changed my mind about this when I learned that it was possible to use the material inside floppy disks as a visible light filter (for viewing near IR light). This sounded really cool and so I decided to give this a try. Not only does this totally work, it also adds another level of computer reuse to the version demonstrated in the book (as it provides a way to reuse floppy disks in addition to cameras).

It has been fun going around shooting pictures and discovering all of the interesting results when I upload the photos at home.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

You will need:

An obsolete digital camera
A floppy disk
A mini screwdriver set

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Step 2: Make a Visible Light Filter

You can make a visible light filter using a the plastic inside most floppy disks.

Rip apart the floppy disk and be careful not to get your fingerprints on the plastic disk.

Take the disk and cut a small plastic square that is slightly larger than your CCD.

Tip: To make sure your floppy disk lets IR light through, go to a window and look outside with the plastic held up to your eye. You should be able to see through it.

Step 3: Open the Case

Open up your camera case. Place your screws aside somewhere safe.

Step 4: Locate the Lens Assembly

Once the case is open, locate the lens assembly on the front of the camera.

Step 5: Find the CCD

Carefully detach the lens assembly from the circuit board to find the CCD chip. Set aside these screws somewhere safe as well.

Step 6: Remove the IR Filter

The visible light filter is a thin piece of glass located either directly atop the CCD or behind the last lens of the assembly. It is easy to spot because it looks reddish to purplish and changes color when it is rotated.

Simply pick it free with your fingers (being careful not to touch the CCD/lenses).

Your camera will now let more IR light through.

Step 7: Attach Your Visible Light Filter

Place the visible light filter that you just made over top of the CCD.

Using your pin, place a few tiny drops of glue in each corner to hold it in place.

Step 8: Put It Back Together

When the glue has dried, reassemble the camera using all of the screws that you set aside earlier.

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96 Discussions

I picked up a samsung 10mp point and shoot camera with a slightly broken lens mechanism on ebay for a steal then repaired it and did this floppy disc modification to it. results have been great! photos are very surreal and it is fascinating to see a things all around that your eyes cannot see. Finally those old AOL floppy discs have come in handy lol

4 replies

WOW... those are truly amazing... nice shots... I have to do this now.

WOW... those are truly amazing... nice shots... I have to do this now.

Thanks! I was surprised how much of its focusing ability the camera retained after I modified it, I guess because the IR cut filter on this model is very thin, only a tiny bit thicker than the floppy disc section that replaced it. I did tweak the contrast, levels and saturation a bit in these photos, but other than that they are pretty much unmodified. The first two I took above at Cal Poly Pomona are probably my favorites. The camera is a Samsung SL202 and it was very easy to disassemble and modify. Tried to do it to another point and shoot I had lying around first but it seems that the IR cut filter was coated right onto one of the lenses instead of on top of the CCD like this one and yours.

The filter over the CCD sensor is actually a polarizing filter. It let pass the reflected light (polarized) while blocking the direct light (non polarized). It improve contrast in high luminosity environment. An IR & anti-reflective coating is likely to be included on the front side of this filter

has anybody thought of making an IR laser sight with this? have the laser sighted in like a normal laser sight, but only you will be able to see the dot because you have the screen. I've been working towards a hunting-capable blowgun, so I wanted to know if anyone could advise me on that.


I.R. is radiation, All light is radiated, the visible you can detect with your naked eye, the invisible on either end of the spectrum you can't see. I.R. and U.V. I.R. is radiated by heat sources. Your body generates heat and therefor produces I.R. radiation. I.R. can be filtered and reflected like visible light. It has a longer wave length (shorter frequency) than visible light and can penetrate objects that would absorb visible light.. Microwave radiation is even longer wave and can pass through objects that IR can not, Radio waves are even longer wave radiation and can penetrate objects that microwaves can not get through. The longer the wave length, the higher the penetration. If you can filter (convert) that frequency of light to a visible (shorter) wavelength using an optical fliter, then you can see what that frequency of radiation is reflecting off of or being emitted from. We used to play laser tag as a kid in the park at night. A friend of mine had a pair of night vision goggles (chinese military surplus) and he could see heat signatures from the other players, and when we'd fire our guns, he could see the I.R. beams like they were flashlights.
Some airports are using IR boosted imaging scanners to show a thermal differentiation between the body and the clothing worn To filter out more of the visible light, you can stack the filters so that your visual representation of the I.R. spectrum is more pure.

6 replies

The modern and widespread use of the word radiation refers specifically to ionizing radiation, which does not include IR.

Just because a word as been adopted in this way to refer to a specific "Bad" radiation doesnt mean it cannot be used to describe the process that is radiation of which there is no better word to describe it and is the correct current scientific term! :)

Wrong. That would be like using the word gay to mean happy. It just isn't done that way anymore. What a word has been adopted to mean is completely relevant.
There's no better way to describe it? The better way to describe it is to be specific as to non-ionizing radiation...

This is not true at all, if someone says Infrared radiation it implies you are talking about non-iornizing radiation. You don't need to say it is non-iornizing because it is a known fact that it fits into this band of radiation.

You are saying the word radiation cannot be used with non-iionizing types of radiation because the layman term radiation now only means ionizing radiation.
Where as the scientific meaning has been unaltered.

I better go and turn my non-ionizing radiators down as it's hot in here....

You ARE specifying non-ionizing by saying infrared. You didn't just use the word "radiation" standalone. You're not disproving the point...

Okay, I know I'm necroposting. However, for anyone who reads this, PLEASE, do not be like this "Vengence" guy. In this case, he was just being obtuse, rude, and pedantic over an issue that is ultimately inconsequential, and in doing so derailed a perfectly coherent conversation. DON'T DO THAT: everyone hates it, and it blocks out constructive discussion.

Not only that, but the other people he was trying to argue with in this case were RIGHT. You CAN use the word radiation to indicate any type of EM emissions, including radio, microwaves, terahertz, infrared, visible light, X-rays, gamma rays, and probably many other forms that I have neglected to mention or have not been discovered yet.

I encourage you, in fact, to use the word to the fullest extent of its' technical definition and scope, and not just to spite this guy.

*rushes to ebay for the cheapest digi camera possible*

So, does this make it a thermal imaging camera?

does anyone know of a way to get this effect with a DSLR?

To my knowledge, this would not work with film, so for a disposable camera? no, it wont work.

This is, I think, exactly what I was looking for. I have an old Sony Cybershot F717 from 2003. However, the CCD chip is bad, I believe. (It used to take glitchy pictures, but now it's just black...except for the menu.) I am a video artist and am interested in hacking it for creative purposes....with the CCD chip dead, will this hack you posted still produce an image? I'm new at hacking this stuff, so please forgive any silly questions.Thank you SO much. Any advice is appreciated.