Make a point-and-shoot see infrared light

[Daniel Reetz] has caught the Kinect hacking fever. But he needs one important tool for his work; a camera that can see infrared light. This shouldn’t be hard to accomplish, as the sensors in digital cameras are more than capable of this task, but it requires the removal of an infrared filter. In [Daniel's] case he disassembled a Canon Powershot to get at that filter. There’s a lot packed into those point-and-shoot camera bodies and his teardown images tell that tale. He also ended up with extra parts after putting it back together but that didn’t seem to do any harm.

After the break you can see video that shows the Kinect’s speckled IR grid, which is why he needed IR sensing in the first place. But there’s also some interesting photos at the bottom of his post showing the effect achieved in outdoor photography by removing the filter.

The flash never made it back in the camera. That’d be a perfect place for an IR light source. You’d end up with a night-vision camera that way.

Comments

  1. Nabil says:

    Cell phone cameras are another way to achieve this as they are all able to pick up light in the infrared spectrum even without a hack!

  2. Nice to see a visualization of how the Kinect works. Did this with an old HP a few years ago except that I also added a visible light filter to mine as well.

  3. Blaughw says:

    The CHDK firmware wouldn’t be good enough for this task?

  4. Hackius says:

    An old nightshot Sony camera will do the trick nicely

  5. Luke says:

    Blaughw, the firmware is not the issue. There’s a hot mirror in front of the camera sensor which blocks infrared light and passes visible light. Only way to let the infrared light through is to remove the hot mirror.

    This is a common practice for infrared photographers and there are commercial services to convert cameras. I’ve modified a few cameras, but for the purpose of infrared photography instead of hacking. I guess the Kinect hacking is why this is featured.

  6. Gen says:

    My God, it’s full of stars !

    :p

  7. Necromant says:

    Woah… Well, 3k buck bounty was the catalyst for the hackers… Guess at this rate by summer we’ll see chineese ‘cinect’ and ‘kynect’ for no more then 30 bucks on dealextreme.

  8. R. Barrabas says:

    When digital cameras first came on the market, people discovered that some bathing suits are largely transparent to infrared. This led to some interesting (and illegal) beach photos.

    The IR filters were added to prevent this.

  9. Casey O'Donnell says:

    newer cameras are better at filtering out the infrared. at least for my old canon for outside where its bright you can use the end piece of film negatives and put it over the lens. same thing but lower quality and needs to be shot in bright light with slower shutter speeds. pretty nice for some experimentation without having to get rid of the other features of your camera. i see for dslrs there are lens filters with sorta the same material. infact i think i saw some of this material on a popular auction website with different rated wavelengths.

  10. goldscott says:

    The IR pattern is interesting. Large “squares” with a bright dot in the middle. You can see a checkerboard pattern…

  11. ENKI-][ says:

    I’m not terribly surprised that the pattern used by the kinect is a checkerboard. Isn’t the pattern used by one of the Makerbot 3d-model-making machines an array of stripes? Now, why don’t we get going and figure out how to replicate the kinect’s features with a hacked webcam, some IR LEDs, a bit of plastic, and a shell script?

  12. Funky Gibbon says:

    I was under the impresion that if you remove the IR Filter it stops the auto focus working properly

  13. Luke says:

    Funky Gibbon, that’s correct for most cameras. Typically a piece of glass that doesn’t block infrared or visible light is installed in place of the original hot mirror so the focus will be similar. In the past I’ve used various thickness of microscope slides cut down in size. Or some people replace the hot mirror with a filter that blocks visible light if they want to shoot only infrared, like the Hoya R72 or similar (cut down to size of course).

    It varies from camera to camera though. Some will have the focus off by a lot after the conversion and some it will be barely any different.

  14. joe says:

    here’s another writeup on a newer Canon SX130 IS http://www.paintballsentry.com/Instructions_Canon_Disassembly.htm

  15. Hirudinea says:

    I noticed you said that “He also ended up with extra parts after putting it back together…”, whats the big deal that happens every time I take somthing apart and put it back togther, they’re called “Spare Parts”! I figure if I take somthing apart and put it back togther enough times I’ll eventually end up with somthing with no parts at all! Now THATS HACKING!

  16. Jack Sprat says:

    It looks like it measures the distance between the dots. As the object gets farther from the kinect, the dots spread out more. I guess the checkerboard pattern helps the kinect when it can’t see certain dots because the emitter isn’t exactly where the camera is.

  17. Alex says:

    I can’t help but notice you didn’t put an IR pass filter over the sensor. Three pieces of exposed (and developed) film negative work wonderfully, but cut everything short of 900nm.

    900nm is perfect for IR work, but you won’t achieve any sweet false colors like that, just red.

    I did this to a Fuji Finepix A340 and always convert to black and white.

    Rachel's Sister

  18. Xb0xGuru says:

    Excuse my ignorance, but surely the post-IR filter shots are such coloured because you’ve removed a blue filter? Recalibrating (where possible) should bring things back into whack.

  19. strider_mt2k says:

    I’ve used the camera seeing IR effect for years.
    It still surprises people when I show them their remote control emitter on their cell phone camera.

    Hey, just a month ago I dropped that little chestnut on the guys at work who repair industrial light curtain safety devices.
    Now they have a quick and dirty way to size up the emitter side when they get a set in for repairs.

    I love this crap.

  20. mic says:

    If you take a pic of trees during the day they are all trippy and glowing white. (If they have leaves!)

  21. Taylor Alexander says:

    I actually made some googles when I was in high school that blocked all visible light. Our eyes are slightly sensitive to near infrared, but normally our pupils are adjusted for the much more easily seen visible light. Filter that out and your pupils open up, letting you see in infrared. The sky is black, plants are white, and as someone said, not all clothes are opaque…

    Here’s the link:

    http://amasci.com/amateur/irgoggl.html

    I still have the box of supplies from that project.
    That website was a whole lot of fun!
    -taylor

  22. Reggie says:

    hmmmmmmn, can someone explain what a ‘hot mirror’ is? I have a canon dslr, it has an IR filter over the sensor, this doesn’t cut out all of the IR, only some of it, removing the IR filter from in front of the sensor gives about 5x sensitivity to IR light and will make the image very pink (naturally), custom white balance will sort it out though. In all of the IR mods to cameras and webcams I’ve never heard of a hot mirror (don’t expect to with a webcam though).

  23. cgimark says:

    Be careful opening cameras with built -in flash. I was a bit careless and got the crap shocked out of me when I brushed my hand over the capacitor used for the flash while taking the casing off the camera. Even though the camera had been unpowered for some time it still packed quite a charge.

  24. steven-x says:

    Just removed the IR filter from my Canon “Coolpix” I got off eBay for a buck (low risk, the SD card in the camera was work the purchase price!). Anyway, I look forward to playing around with it. Maybe I’ll hack a few old webcams as well.

  25. Frogz says:

    ….uh….
    coolpix = nikon
    i would never hurt my nikon this way…

    but, i have a old vivitar camera i pulled the hot mirror out of years ago and it has a little ir passing filter that can be slid in and out of the lens path(it was from a old SNES ir wireless gamepad) so it can take weird funky visible/ir pictures and ir only pics

  26. steven-x says:

    My mistake. I would not ordinarily hurt a good camera, but I purchased this as a “parts or repair” and found it basically worked. I was goiung to steal the battery door to repair and Identical camera I dropped (ended up buying a replacement door for 5x what I paid for the camera).

    Now that I got “parts or repair” cell phone for $3 dollars that matches my phone, I can play with it “without fear”. The camera’s IR filter is first to go!

  27. Wondering says:

    Seem to be a number of IR experts on here, any info you could help me with? I was wondering if an IR camera mod would help me to see heat loss from a house? like exiting via windows etc, walls etc. My heating bill is ridiculous!

    Any help appreciated!

  28. Alex says:

    unfortunately no, digital cameras see near-IR, bu thermal imaging is based on far-IR and is an entirely different beast.

    Might look in to a heating/cooling specialist, they’ll often use thermal imagers as part of their inspection process.

  29. Kyle says:

    This is really cool. I’ve been wanting to mod a bunch of my old cameras for IR, but one thing has been holding me back:
    Where would I find a piece of glass the right size/thickness to replace the IR filter that I’ve removed?

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