How to Make a Portable Infrared Night Vision Scope




Last weekend I decided to make an infrared nightvision scope and here it is. The reason why it works is that the infrared camera can see the infrared lights, but human eye can't. I attached the infrared camera to an old VHS camcorder's viewfinder, so I could see what the camera shows. Three 9 volt batteries support everything, so it's portable.
It can be used outdoors and indoors too and can built in a single weekend.

Step 1: What Will You Need

What will you need:

-a project box / hobby box (mine is 7cm x 11cm x 5.5cm)
-a viewfinder from an old VHS camcorder (I used Grundig vs170)
-a low lux black and white infrared camera
-a 5W IR LED (If you a use 940nm LED it is fully invisible for human eye, but cameras see less light, so it's perfect if you use it indoors. If you want to use the scope outdoors it's recommended to use 850nm LED. 850nm LED's light looks like a very small red light, so it's the best choice for big distances. I used a 940nm LED.)
-the front part of a cheap flashlight
-3pcs 9v batteries
-copper clad circuit board
-heat shrink tubes
-a piece of aluminium as a cooling gill
-electronic parts:
-1x 7805 regulator
-1x 78L12 regulator
-1x lm317 regulator
-2x 0.33uF capacitor
-3x 0.1uF capacitor
-1x 10uF capacitor
-1x 240ohm resistor
-1x 1,5K ohm or 2.2k ohm variable resistor
-3x battery clips
-1x video plugin

The tools:
-a hot glue gun
-a soldering iron
-a multimeter

Step 2: Remove the Viewfinder

I removed the viewfinder from the camcorder. Fortunately, I could do that easily, I had to pull it's cable from the side and screw the screws out. I unsolderd the other side of the plugin which was useful, because I did't have to cut the viewfinder's cable in half.
In every viewfinder there are 6 outputs: VD, HD, DATA, Video, Ground and +5v. We need only the video for the input, the ground and the +5v. (If the fourth picture is too small here's a link to a bigger picture: )
You should solder a wire to the video, the +5v and 2 wires to the ground.

Step 3: Make the Circuits

In this step you have to make the circuits, which will support the camera(12v), the LED(1.5v) and the viewfinder(5v) with power. The LED has got an own battery. The viewfinder and the camera uses the other two batteries together as you can see on the third picture.
After I have finished with the circuits I made a U shape from the aluminium and screwed the back of the regulators which need cooling (5v and 1.5v).

Step 4: Prepare the Project Box

I drilled two round holes to the right side of the box and two square holes to the other side. After that I drilled two small holes to the top of the box for the viewfinder.

Step 5: Install the Parts

After you have drilled the holes you can install the switches and connectors easily as I did on the pictures. You should hot glue the regulator circuits, so they won't move, but you don't have to glue the batteries to the box to make them easily changeable. I haven't taken the camera out of the casing first, I just tested if everything works.

Step 6: Install the Final Parts

Finally I drewed the LED to the piece of aluminium, drilled two holes in the front to install the LED whith the flashlight part and the camera. I used a black painted bottle cap to save the camera's front and put an old camera part in the front of it.

Step 7: Use It :)

Congratulation! You have made your own infrared night vision scope. Here are some pictures, how it works. It is hard to show in a photo, but it works great and the most amazing thing is that human eye can't see it. I hope you will have as much fun with it as I had! 

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    32 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Nice, I think it is a good addition to paint ball in the dark


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job overall. Some suggestions/observations.
    Your IR diode power supply is specified as 1.5A. I assume that you used a 1.5A regulator so that self heating wouldn't be a problem and that you aren't really trying to suck that much current from a puny 9V battery.
    I also would like to suggest that you will get more consistent performance if you set the LM317 as a current source. That way the diode current doesn't change with temperature. It is easy to do. Have the 317 regulate the Voltage across a load resistor and put the diode in series above it. That also puts part of the Voltage drop/heat load in the resistor instead of the 317.
    I think I may have to build one of these myself. That way I can see the deer eating my flowers at night.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    So a 1,5A power source @ 1,5V gives only 1,5V*1,5A= 2,25W. So the LED is running under half it's rated max. 2,25W is just 0,25A @ 9V. Plus losses.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You might be able to open up the camera and see if there's an infrared filter in it. If there's an IR filter in front of the sensor chip (or in the lens), removing it will improve the camera's sensitivity to IR light and improve detection range. Hope this helps! :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Since those old VHS video cameras are getting hard to find, there is a substitute that is easier to find, and in fact, is easier to build. Get a video camera that uses the mini tapes and that has the switch for the black-and-white option. The last one I bought 4 years ago cost $30 on ebay. The camera, which is powered by its own rechargeable battery, sees the light from the built-in IR leds, and displays the image on its flip-out screen. The range is about 12 feet, or around 4 meters. A flick of the black-and-white switch, and it's a regular video camera, with no modification needed. A 3 inch circular bank of about 25-30 IR leds can be bought on ebay for less than $10. It runs off 12 volts, which could be had by connecting 2 4-cell AA or AAA battery boxes in series, This would increase the range to around 30 feet, or 10 meters. The light bank and battery boxes could be simply taped to the top of the camera, and turned on and off with a switch. I ran a 30 foot wire from a 12 volt wall wart to an led bank attached to a tree in my yard and used a webcam and a small tv as a very effective security system. Another 30 foot wire from there to another led bank gave me a range of 75 feet, or 25 meters, with a width of about 30 feet, or 10 meters.

    Project 23

    5 years ago on Introduction


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Linear regulators don't work that way. The input and output current must be equal.
    Only a switch mode regulator can perform the transform that you are describing.
    The diode forward Voltage is about 1.5V but is dependent on forward current and temperature. To get stable output, either drive it with a higher Voltage and use a current limiting resistor or use a current regulated supply.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That's the nice thing about the image detector of mos digital cameras, they're IR-sensitive, and need just that little IR source to see.. to see how well it works, take a digital camera that gives you a live view through the LCD screen, or use a webcam with a live-image producing program (You-Cam, etc.) and a IR remote control for a television, DVD player, etc. point the end of the remote at the camera's lens, and press a button. depending on the remote, you'll either see a single white flash or a blinking white flash from the remote. (Old tech trick to see if a remote is working.) most IR led's in these remotes are fairly small, diffused.. But the high power LED used in this project, must produce a broad-distance coverage. Very nicely done, to the maker!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I looked all over the internet for a project box, but I couldn't find one. I ended up using cardboard, haha!