CVS nightvision camcorder

cvs nightvision

Our loyal reader [Everett] has hacked up a CVS single-use camcorder to use as a nightvision scope. This is his second prototype. The first one only had 4 cruddy IR LEDs from Radiohut and a front mounted battery pack. For the second one, he separated the batteries from the camera. He removed the IR filter from the CCD and added 8 higher quality IR LEDs. On the backside of the camera is the eyepiece from a Handycam. It keeps the the LCD screen from leaking light and has a lense to help the eye to focus on the screen. The LCD is to bright to use without adding a dimmer pot. The camera is mounted to a headlamp rig with the batteries on the backside of the head. It may not have the best image quality, but at $35 you can’t go wrong when it comes to nightvision fun.


  1. grayskies says:

    he’s a regular old sam fisher.

    Thats awesome, I’d like to see some shots from it as night vision, performance wise.

    Great hack!

  2. jared says:

    Wow. That is awesome. How is your 3D/depth perception affected? Is a two eye’d version next?

  3. fucter says:

    thats the coolest thing i have seen in a long time. Plus any beginner can make one. Really good!

  4. everett says:

    i’ll put some screenshots up soon, they’re easy enough to snip right from the dixv videos it takes. depth perception sucks, just like any night vision system. my original idea was to connect a second screen to the same camera, but it would have meant soldering to ridiculously small pins.

  5. everett says:

    i’ll put some screenshots up soon, they’re easy enough to snip right from the dixv videos it takes. depth perception sucks, just like any night vision system. my original idea was to connect a second screen to the same camera, but it would have meant soldering to ridiculously small pins.

  6. Heathkit says:

    Do you have a writeup on that underwater camera? I’d like to see how you waterproofed it.

  7. VERY COOL, I’m tempted to try building one myself.

    For two eye vision and depth perception would you need a whole 2nd camera rather then just two screens? After all we perceive depth as the difference between two images.

  8. tiuk says:

    I live in Canada, but close to the border, I’ve been meaning to import some CVS cameras for stuff like this. Are there any particular versions to watch out for, or are they all equally hackable?

  9. IMWeasel says:

    “my original idea was to connect a second screen to the same camera”

    But a second screen displaying the same image wouldn’t give you depth perception.

  10. av1d says:

    that is hardcore. maybe you could put more ir leds and some kind of wide angle lens so the ir spreads out more? it doesnt seem like it would be all too bright

  11. Mike says:

    no the brightness comes from the lcd screen in the back, with your eye that close to it you need it dimmed or it will hurt and be hard to focus.

  12. pragma says:

    @imweasel: dead on. You’d need two cameras.

    Take a look at the picture for this thread: shift the original camera over 1cm and you could mount two of ‘em on the same rig – one for each eye.

  13. Kevin says:

    Cool hack!

    A dual version for 3D vision would be awesome, but hard to get right. I used to maintain pilot night vision goggles, and the hardest part was getting the two tubes collimated. If they’re not perfect, it’s extremely headache-inducing.

    This could inspire some silliness, though. If you separated the displays from the cameras, you could increase the intra-ocular distance significantly, which would make you feel like a giant walking around in mini-world.

  14. carpespasm says:

    you could also get an IR led cluster from ebay for relativly cheap, and really light things up

  15. Hutch says:

    This is an amazing hack, major props
    I can just picture someone walking around campus with one.
    The brightness adjustment on the LCD was a great idea to add, especialy if one’s vision is going to be dark adjusted when they want to use it.
    I definitly want to try it myself, maybe combind it with a high powered flashlight with a visible light filter.

  16. william says:

    that’s great, it seems easy enough. cool idea.

  17. morcheeba says:

    tiuk – the older the camera, the better. They’ll all work for the night vision without hacking, but if you want to retrieve your recordings, you’ll need to hack it. Check out for more info… v3.62 isn’t hacked yet, previous versions are.

  18. everett says:

    sorry, i wasn’t clear. the idea of adding another screen was just to make it more like commercially available setups, which also have crappy depth perception. i have now added a screenshot.

  19. I like the Idea, but I personally would have stripped the system and buily a custom housing from steel. I would be using it for paintball and Laser Tag out in the woods and It would come in handy, Plus it needs to be water proof. Thank God im an autobody technition. I can build anything out of steel and fiber glass. Then Id give it a camo paint job. Just to make it look cool. Creating custom parts isent hard if you have the materials and the tools. Not to mention the know how to do such a task. And a tip for getting a great looking paint job, Take the parts to a professional shop. They have the expertise and the skill to paint the pieces beautifuly. You may spend a bit of cash. But then again, if its to have a reputation as a modder and a hacker, isent it worth it.

  20. furtim says:

    Now I’m wondering how it compares with this:

    That one’s been on my to-hack list for a very long time. (I’m waiting for MIT SwapFest so I can get the parts for cheap.) Advantage to the scratch hack is that, well, you built it from scratch, which is hardcore, and that you won’t blind yourself with the bright LCD from the CVS camera. Disadvantage is that you may shock yourself with the flyback transformer, and that of course you have to build it from scratch, which takes time and effort.

  21. hawkeyeaz1 says:

    It looks like you could remove some of the bulk, and do a few other things if you pulled the camera from the case, and possibly re-positioned the LCD display. You could even put the camera up, tap into the battery case for the LEDs (at risk of killing one battery faster), and use mirrors (like a parascope) to allow the camera to see from behind the LCD while being above it or something… Maybe that can be a future version :)

  22. olly says:

    cool little hack, its nice to see something good come from RPI, Troy what! …I liked the rap video as well ha!

  23. Kevin says:

    We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

  24. Xan says:

    Buy an ‘Infrared’ Flash Light on ebay they have them with rows of LED’s in a circle =P Plz post pics of outdoors use please

  25. Xan says:

    errrr no edit function but like hawkeyeaz1 said (or im just exPanding on his idea)…
    is there any way to have the lcd like in front of your eye while the camera is maybe on your back or something =P(he was, i think saying ‘reduce the bulk’ by having it[camera] like on your head.

    //sry for speaking noob but posting on a ppc is annoying

  26. Matt says:

    My friend made an infrared CVS camera a while ago, but oddly enough — doing that with the camera afterwards never crossed our minds. If he still has the camera sitting around, this alteration would take almost nothing more than a head mount…nice idea.

  27. Justin says:

    I have a bunch of these left over from a similar project and I’m trying to sell them off. There are 15 Leds at 870nm, which is perfect for these cameras. Absolutely easy to power with either battery source or wall wart at 12volts.

    Email me if you’re interested

    Email address is on webpage

  28. chall says:

    one johnny 5 eye

  29. jjob says:

    I have a camera on which I completed the hardware hacking, but the software is telling me there’s no known way to unlock my camera. Is anyone else having this problem? What did you do to get around it, if anything?

  30. char says:

    i am having trouble removing the infrared filter, and i’ve already broken one camcorder (grrr…) i would appreciate someone telling me how to safely remove the filter before i start trying again on my new cam

  31. gags says:

    ummm i am kinda retarted so could u explain it easier ?? it looks cool as hell

  32. garbage_pail_kid says:

    Hope this is still active. If anyone has done the screen brightness mod, can you link to a picture showing which resistor is removed and where the leads are soldered to? Everett’s tutorial says it’s a 50k but the only 50k resistor I see doesn’t seems to be connected to the backlight power lead. Thanks!

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