Infrared Cameras!

New file 3/4/2013, updated 3/6/2013.

This web file is about cameras that make use of "near infrared" wavelengths, generally between 700 and 1100 nanometers. It is mostly about webcams, security/surveillance cameras, digital cameras and cellphone cameras, rather than film cameras.

In general, cameras that have silicon CCD or CMOS sensors can see infrared at least to a small extent. The silicon sensors tend to be very sensitive to infrared.

Most of these cameras have infrared blocking filters that reduce their sensitivity to infrared. Even with such filters, these cameras can usually "see" infrared to a small extent. They can be used to check if an infrared LED or a remote control device using infrared LEDs is working.

However, a few of these cameras are made without infrared blocking filters, and such cameras are usually even more sensitive to infrared of wavelengths from 700 to 960 nanometers than they are to visible light. Some others can be hacked to remove their IR blocking filters.

Available Cameras with High Sensitivity to Infrared

Most cameras that have high sensitivity to infrared are security and surveillance cameras. Most of these infrared-sensitive cameras have IR LEDs. Most security and surveillance cameras have outputs of types suitable to connect to television receivers or video recording devices.

There are a few webcams that are made with high sensitivity to infrared. These mostly have infrared LEDs to provide illumination in darkness.

Links to available IR sensitive cameras:

One with an ethernet connection.
One with a usual USB connection.
Another with a USB connection.

Hacking Cameras to Make Them Sensitive to Infrared

It is possible to remove the IR blocking filters from cameras that have them. Sometimes it is necessary to replace the filter with a piece of glass or other transparent material or else the camera will be out of focus.

The cameras that are easiest to hack are webcams with manual focus. One advantage of manual focus webcams is that they usually don't need any transparent material to be used in place of the IR blocking filter in order to achieve focus.

One webcam that is extremely easy to hack is the Inland "Web Cam 2000". The lens assembly can simply be unscrewed from the camera. The IR blocking filter is on the inside end of the lens assembly. It is easy to pry the filter away by using a very small flat-blade screwdriver or a large sewing needle. The filter is likely to break in this process.

Other manual focus webcams may need disassembly that is more involved. The infrared blocking filter is not necessarily attached to the lens assembly. The filter is usually a piece of glass that has a bluish, pink-reflecting, or red-reflecting appearance.

Sometimes the filter is a pink-reflecting or red-reflecting coating on a lens surface. Such a coating can usually be scraped away with a sharp steel knife or a suitable razor blade. When only a coating is removed from a camera, the camera's ability to focus is usually not significantly changed.

Links for hacking cameras, mostly webcams:

This one at Wikihow.
A similar how-to at instructables.com.
A similar how-to at YouTube. (The IR blocking filter in that one is between lens elements, but it is still easy to remove.)
This metacafe.com video shows hacking of a webcam.
This one and this one show how to hack an adjustable focus webcam that needs to be opened up in order to remove the IR filter.
Modifying a Logitech 910 or 920 webcam
Hacking a cellphone camera to remove its IR blocking filter
A digital camera hack at instructables.com.
A digital camera hack at geektechnique.org.


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