Own the Night with this Open Source Night Vision Monocular

If you’ve always wanted to see in the dark but haven’t been able to score those perfect Soviet-era military surplus night vision goggles, you may be in luck. Now there’s an open-source night vision monocular that you can build to keep tabs on the nighttime goings-on in your yard.

Where this project stands out is not so much the electronics — it’s really just a simple CCD camera module with the IR pass filter removed, an LCD screen to display the image, and a big fat IR LED to throw some light around. [MattGyver92] seemed to put most of his effort into designing a great case for the monocular, at the price of 25 hours of 3D printer time. The main body of the case is nicely contoured, the eyepiece has a comfortable eyecup printed in NinjaFlex, and the camera is mounted on a ball-and-socket gimbal to allow fine off-axis angle adjustments. That comes in handy to eliminate parallax errors while using the monocular for nighttime walks with both eyes open. One quibble: the faux mil-surp look is achieved with a green filter over the TFT LCD panel. We wonder if somehow eliminating the red and blue channels from the camera might not have been slightly more elegant.

Overall, though, we like the way this project came out, and we also like the way [MattGyver92] bucked the Fusion 360 trend and used SketchUp to design the case. But if walking around at night with a monocular at your face isn’t appealing, you can always try biohacking yourself to achieve night vision.

22 thoughts on “Own the Night with this Open Source Night Vision Monocular

  1. Even CMOS cameras have come a Long way and cheap ones like the nightowl cheap wide angle drone camera would be allmost as good as a genuine starlight camera. Nightowl flying in moonshine behind clouds is fast and single bulb streetlights marked the White scenery look like moonshine.

    1. Not really. The best digital CMOS cameras out there cannot run in starlight at the frame rates an analog night vision tube does. At best, they need 100x the light of a tube. Else, the military would have already switched. CMOS is MUCH cheaper than making high voltage, vacuum tube electronic systems.

      1. It actually doesn’t really matter. The military needs to use ambient light to avoid detection. There is no reason for a hacker to avoid detection. Therefore, using the IR LED will be good enough for all intends and purposes other than to do shady stuff like alquaidaing and breaking into houses…

      2. You clearly haven’t seen what pro dslr cameras from Nikon and Canon are capable of – and doing so at 20+ megapixels. Put similarly sized optics and sensors with lower resolution/larger photocells together, with no-costs-spared electronics…

  2. How about using a rasping zero and camera and doing a little bit of image processing on the zero?
    Surely magnification and image intensity can be done in software to a certain degree?

  3. Removing the red and blue pixels on the camera would have left you with a pattern of off subpixels that without some form of processing to reconstruct the image, would have contributed to an effect VR users know as “Screen Door”. However (and this would be tricky) removing the bayer filter, the ones that only allow red, green or blue light to strike a specific pixel, would have allowed for better sensitivity on some photo sites (namely, the green and blue ones), effectively giving a sub-resolution bump at the cost of making the image greyscale. If you were then able to have this display on a true monochrome screen, the detail would be higher.

    Using a green filter is actually close to how NVG devices work, a dim source photon hits the initial photocathode, these emit weak electrons to a secondary stage, which releases high energy electrons to excite green phosphors. Green was chosen because the eye is most sensitive to this end of the spectrum.

    1. Photopic vision is most sensitive to green, but not scotopic. If you’re having an assistive vision device used for night, one should pay attention to scotopic vision else you’re blind in that eye of the device shuts down or is removed

  4. “we also like the way [MattGyver92] bucked the Fusion 360 trend and used SketchUp to design the case”
    Promoting SketchUp whenever 3d printing is involved is a bad thing to do. It just causes headaches because the export is so shitty.

  5. Building a cheap active digital nightvision device isnt hard. Making it good are. Use a good sensitive greyscale camera as the base it the key, Watec 902h can be had relatively cheap on eBay, and with a good monochrome screen, about 20mm wide would be best due to optic/ocular/long focus restraints and size problems, and the results are much better than the above in preformance and handling. It will be able to be used without IR in moonlight or a bit stray light from a streetlamp. And since its much more IR sensitive will work very well with a 940nm LED, but a basically unfocused 950nm 50mW-200mW laserdiode illuminator for wide area illumination are better depending on range requirement. Most Gen2 and Gen3 will only be able to see 950nm laser as a weak slightly glowing dot when looking directly at it even strong and focused as a torch directly against them, much less visible than wideband 940nm led, Gen2/3 wont be able to in most cases even detect the area are illuminated and cant use the 950nm light themselfs, theyre not sensitive enough that high in the IR area. If you want to avoid illuminator detection against Gen2/3 I2 nightvision a 950nm scatter illuminator works fine for the camera. A 1064nm laser illuminator would be even better to stealth from normal nightvision cameras, but not cheap as 950nm laserdiodes and more power would have to be used. The watec can see 1330nm laserlight but too weak so it will have to be really powerfull illuminator that high up in ir range.

    I have built way to many nightvision monocular/scopes (30+), with different image intensifier tubes, and a few solutions with CMOS and thermal cameras, including fused (which is a bitch to get well made when ordering custom one of parts cost too much).

    The best cheap homemade nightvision system have in 2000-2008 era been EEV P8079HP cascade tube with simple optics and housing. They could be built for about €90 and have a really nice image contrast. With a focused 3mm 850nm LED illuminator they work fine out too several hundred meters in no light conditions.

    Some collect stamps, I among other things, collect and build nightvision tubes and systems.

      1. I dont use facebook, and dont have a webpage or build log online, but I always take plenty of pictures and write design/info files for me, but the textfiles are in swedish and several digital cameras have given up the ghost. 3290 files in 109 folders just in the “custom” section of ElectroOptical folder, and thats sorted organised files…. >_< And then I have Electronics, Robotics, Radio, 3D printing and many more folders. I would take serious amount of time and work putting it all online, time I rather spend making stuff.

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