Scaredy Cat Films

Digital Camera Mods, Hacks, also known as: Creating an IR Camera
January 24TH, 2010

Cameras Successfully Operated on So Far:

Canon Powershot A20 | Fuji Finepix 2650 | Canon Powershot A200 | Samsung Digimax 200 | Kodak DC280
Kodak V550 | Canon Powershot A400

Cameras Not Modified, or Failed Modifications:

Kodak DC220 | Kodak DC260 | Kodak EasyShare CX4200 | Olympus Camedia D 390

Digital Camera IR Basics

I recently found out that digital camera sensors or CCDs (Charge Coupled Device), can actually capture more than just the visible spectrum, they can capture what is known as Near Infrared or Near IR (NIR). This is a portion of the spectrum that is out of the visible sight of most humans. Human eyesight is limited to the range of 350nm-750nm, but digicam sensors can capture the additional NIR spectrum of around 700nm-1000nm (depending on the CCD found in your camera).

Electromagnetic Spectrum
Image From:

Most digital cameras have special filters built into them to block the IR wavelengths, and if they didn't your pictures would come out over-exposed with visible and IR data. There are filters that you can buy as attachments for cameras that amplify the IR wavelength so that regular digital cameras can be used to photograph these wavelengths. These filters typically require longer exposure times, and will cost you some money, IR filters and lenses can be $70-$100 or more.

Great, But What Does it Look Like?

So, what does an Infrared Photograph look like? Well IR operates in the spectrum beyond visible light, so it does not have a color. It is beyond the range of red. Images are basically black and white. Foliage, skin, clouds, and many materials give off a white glow. The sky will be black, as is pavement. Here is an example of some infrared photographs that I took with my DIY Digital Infrared Camera, and what the scene looks like normally. I used a modified Canon Powershot A20 Digital Camera (2.1 Megapixels with 3x zoom).

Original Photograph
Untouched IR Photograph
Grayscale IR Photograph
Natural Scene
Infrared Photograph
Grayscaled IR

This is a scene of some conifers and larches that I took at a park near my house. I was curious if the Larch trees had different IR properties than the other pines. You can tell from the IR photographs that they don't. The moon was coming up in the center of the pictures.

What you see in the second photograph is the IR image as captured from my IR camera. The photograph has a red tint because some of the natural light still makes it through my makeshift filter. Since Infrared light is close to the red end of the spectrum, the light that sneaks in is red.

In reality infrared is beyond the color red, so the third picture, in which I used Adobe Photoshop to remove the color information, is most likely closest to what an actual IR photograph would resemble.

So How Do I Make A Digital IR Camera?

That's what you came here to find out right? Well Here you go, step by step instructions to modify a digital camera to be an IR digital camera. A warning, if you perform these operations on a digital camera, it will no longer be able to take regular photographs again. I will be posting instructions for a variety pf cameras I attempt to modify. With luck they will all work, and I plan on doing each one slightly differently.

Image Processing

Because we are working with handmade "optics" and "filters" there is understandably some image post processing that needs to be done on images captured with any of the IR cameras I modified. Unless the camera comes with a "Black and White" mode, or a manual white balance, your pictures will have a red or purple tint to them.

This image of an old train station was taken near Thornton PA. The original image has a purple tint to it, and will need to be grayscaled using Adobe Photoshop.

Original Train Station
Grayscale Station

Now that the image has had a grayscale applied to it, we can move on to either leveling the image or adjusting the contrast settings. I usually go in and manually or automatically level the image with Adobe Photoshop. The histogram to the right shows what the above image looks like before an auto-level operation is applied.

There is plenty of room for image correction on this image.

The first image shows the grayscale version of the train station. The image to the right is the station after auto-leveling using Adobe Photoshop.

Station Grayscale
Station Grayscaled and Leveled

Occasionally images will benefit from noise reduction, as again we are using handmade filters here so they aren't the best performers in low light, or high light situations. I've been experimenting with Neat Image and like the results so far. Here's a couple examples of images before and after Noise Reduction using Neat Image. You will need to click on each image to get a large size version to see the difference with noise filtering.

The first picture is a Christmas Tree taken with the Canon A20 2.1 Megapixel Camera. The second image is a sign taken with a Kodak DC240 2.0 Megapixel Camera.

Tree No Noise Filtering
Tree Noise Filtered

Sign No Noise Filtering
Sign Noise Filtered


Infrared Images Gallery

Here is a link to my gallery of Digital Infrared Images so far.

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