Hack a Camera Into a Infrared \ Night Vision Camera

Introduction: Hack a Camera Into a Infrared \ Night Vision Camera

About: Jungles my home _ College now my life _ Mechanical Engineer to be _ An adventurer at heart

Now, I know there seems to be a ton of instructables on infrared cameras, but I will add my project anyway. Hopefully it will trigger a new thought in your head or help you to more thoroughly know how to hack an ordinary camera into a night vision nightmare.

Reason: I had a little time on my hands so I decided to try to turn a camera into a infrared camera. I had the thought of a infrared night-vision trail camera in the back of my head. Maybe one day I will actually make a trail camera to see what lurks in the northern Amazon rain forest.

Concept: This project is very simple. Basically, we are taking the infrared filter out of a digital camera to allow it to pick up full infrared light. After we are successful at that, we will be adding a ring of infrared led's to give it night-vision capabilities.

How it works: If you don't know a thing about inferred cameras, they are simply cameras that pick up infrared light. Light is divided into different spectrums. Some of those spectrums are beyond the point that humans can see. Cameras, on the other hand, can pick up infrared light. Infrared light causes pictures to appear red-ish. Thus camera's contain a smaller infrared filter that filters out the infrared light allowing the pictures to appear normally colored to our human eyes. All the hacker has to do is remove that filter.....

But before we start.....

Any time a camera is taken apart, most likely the capacitor is charged and waiting to shock you. Cameras contain a high voltage capacitor to power the cameras flash. That capacitor can hold a charge - around 330v in the camera I was using - even when batteries are not in the camera. To discharge the flash the leads of the capacitor can be carefully shorted out. I doubt a shock from this would normally hurt anyone, but it will give you a rather unpleasant shock. It isn't anything as serious as microwave capacitors, but do be careful! I am not responsible, in anyway for any harm this project could cause. Also, trying this project risks ruining your camera and possibly a warranty. That is why I used a $2 dollar camera I picked up at a thrift store in the States! I am not responsible in any way for what could happen to your camera. Proceed with caution.

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Step 1: What You Will Need

If you simply want an infrared camera all you will need is:

1. screw driver

2. and possibly a soldering iron or knife.

If you want a night vision camera, such as shown in the pictures, you will need, in addition to the above:

Infrared leds. ( I bought this ring of them off of Amazon, but you don't need a ring of the leds. It just makes things simpler. I actually, recommend you get some sort of reflector to give the leds a further range than just an array of them like mine has.)

Step 2: Tear It Apart...

Tear down time! Remember that there is a potential shock lurking in there! Once you get the cover off you probably will want to jump to the next step to see how to discharge the capacitor awaiting you!

Now, I know most people won't have a camera just like mine, but the concept is about the same - take out screws till you get to the lens.

Just take out every screw you see so that the cover comes off. From there, locate the lens, and try to figure out where it attaches. I took apart my whole lens, but later realized I didn't have to. I did have to unsolder the lcd screen to get to a screw to get the whole lens part off.

Anyway, just take your time and be careful, and you will get it. Just don't ruin your camera by some stupid move!

Take a good look at some of my pictures to get an idea of how to do it.

Step 3: Discharging the Capacitor!

Take a look at that picture. There is a nice little shock stored in that capacitor. I was shocked once with a camera capacitor, and I gained a little more respect for them.

All that you have to do to discharge the capacitor, is to short it out by touching something across the two leads of the capacitor. I used a knife, but just about anything that conducts electricity would work - just make sure it is insulated where you are holding it. :)

You can also discharge a capacitor safely by using an appropriate resistor to short the leads.

However you do it, once you are sure all the charge is out of the capacitor, it is safe to move on.

Step 4: Remove the Infrared Shield

Once the lens is removed it is rather easy to spot the infrared shield. It will look like a clear piece of glass that glows red when looked at just right. It should come out easily. Mine was basically just set in a rubber base. Once that is out, your camera should pick up all infrared light!

Some infrared camera instructables put a filter in place of the infrared shield. I did not have any, so I didn't put it in. It works as well as I thought it should without a filter. I don't know what the benefits are of putting the filters in, but you don't need it in there.

Note: It is a good idea to keep the infrared shield in case you need to put it back in the camera, like I eventually did.

Step 5: Put It All Back Together and Test....

Time to put it all back together. Remember to get everything exactly back the way you took it apart, excluding the infrared shield.

To test it once it is together, simply take a picture in an area with a lot of light, especially outside. The pictures should show up with a distinctive red hue. Also you can test it by shining an infrared remote at it, and see it pick up the bright light.

There you have it, a fully functioning infrared camera!

Now to find a use for it.....

Step 6: Adding the Leds

So, conveniently Amazon has a nice little ring of leds that sells for a pretty reasonable price. Sure you can get them cheaper on eBay or some where else, but you don't get the fast shipping and service Amazon offers. Anyway, although this led ring works great for a flood light effect up close, it is definitely not good for any real distance. If you want long range infrared, you probably will need more powerful infrared leds or either some type of lens to put them in.

All I did was solder two wires (from Christmas lights) onto the positive and negative part of the pcb and glued the ring around the lens hole with hot glue.

Pretty simple in my case, but yours may require a little more thought.

Step 7: And the Battery Case....

To power the leds I chose to use a 9v battery. The case was something I cut out of a RC remote, so I don't know what yours will look like.

All I did was use a longer screw to screw the battery case to the side of the camera using the camera's original screw hole. Pretty simple. :)

Step 8: And at Last You Have It...

There you have it. Now you know how to do it. All that is remaining is to actually try it yourself! Be creative, have fun, and be careful!

An infrared camera is just the start of a whole world of awesomeness that the infrared unlocks. I imagined a trail camera for the animals that lurk in the jungle or night vision for fish spearing adventures in the dead of night.

Anyway, there you have it - your own home hacked infrared camera!

P.S. Apologies for the lack of pictures with infrared. Trust me, I love to take pictures, but I didn't think about it before putting a infrared filter back in my camera.

Until I appear again,


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    7 Discussions


    2 months ago on Step 8

    I have actually built an IR camera from an old Cannon digital I had laying around. But mine used a single row of IR leds. and I mounted the camera, IR leds, and battery pack into a homemade helmet I made from cardboard. I have plans to take this to the extreme with audio amp and some other goodies I thought of. You can also use the old cheapie mini video camcorders that use a mem card brand new they are around $20 from any auction online sometime even cheaper! But I got some better ideas from your article for upgrades to my project. Fantastic article! thanks!


    2 years ago



    5 years ago on Introduction

    Discharging the capacitor -- best to use a low value resistor as you suggested. You will notice the missing bits of knife blade -- I have a screwdriver with a missing corner due to accidentally shorting a PCB track on a camera flash. Bits of metal and solder flying about is not a good look :(

    You can always go in with the screwdriver/knife AFTER the resistor for 30 seconds.

    They should call them camera flash bang oops capacitors!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! The bird is a black curassow. They make very nice pets, but they can be quite mean to strangers - one reason we gave it away. :( I have a picture of it when it was small in my first "audio amp" instructables. I also attached a better picture of it. :)

    By the way, thanks for following me!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice instructable, very classic :) also nice, what you have shown with the cap and the knife! :)