Scaredy Cat Films

Creating an Infrared Digicam from a Canon Powershot A20
November 19TH, 2007

First off, I wouldn't recommend doing this with a camera you care about, as digital cameras can be fragile, and not too easy to repair. This mod my damage you camera beyond repair if it doesn't work. I am surprised, but even "lousy" digital cameras of 1.0 megapixel or less will cost you over $20 on ebay, and easily into $30 or $40 when you include shipping. Which is really astounding considering new 6.0 megapixel digital cameras can cost only $136 new. Why would someone pay $45 for a camera from 2000?

The subject for this experiment is a Canon Powershot A20 I bought for $19.94 off ebay from a seller who said it takes black photographs. I had high hopes I could fix it and was not disappointed when I took the cover off and discovered all that was wrong was the ribbon cable from the CCD to the processing boards was disconnected. I hooked it up, and presto, a working digicam. (Suggested Retail Price in 04/2001 - $599.00, YIKES!)

Camera And Box Camera Front Camera Back
Camera and Box Camera Front Camera Back with LCD Screen
Camera Side Camera Bottom Image Taken With A20
Camera Side Camera Bottom One of 2 Images From the A20

Step 1:

Screw Placement

Remove the batteries from the camera first, then open up the digital camera by removing all the small screws on the outside of the camera.

The Powershot A20 takes a small phillips head screwdriver. Take note of what place you remove the screws from, as three of the screws are a smaller size than the other screws. Two of them are on the bottom, and the third is on the right side behind the DC In / Video Out Port.

You will need to open the Compact Flash Card door to remove the back of the camera. There are two ribbon cables holding the back of the camera to the front, so gently wiggle the camera open, don't tear it off. You will be able to disconnect these cables if you wish in a future step. Now onto the insides of the camera.

Step 2:

Ribbon Cables When you have removed the back from the camera, notice the two ribbon cables connecting it to the front of the camera. These can be removed, but take care to note which cable goes to which connector. use a permanent marker or sharpie to mark them if you must. It should be easy to remember which is which as they are different sizes. I don't know what these cables do.

Next you will notice the LCD screen. It appears to be connected to the flash with a small cable. This will need to be disconnected to remove the LCD screen. To the bottom the the LCD screen, and below the metal framework of the camera is a small ribbon cable which is the connection to the CCD. You will need to disconnect this in a future step to remove more panels of the back of the camera. LCD Connections

Step 3:

Next it is time to remove the LCD screen. You will need to disconnect a ribbon cable from the top left of the LCD screen that appears to connect to the flash mechanism (although I am not certain what this cable does for sure). There is also one screw that will need to be removed. The LCD screen has two tabs at its base that fit into the metal framework of the camera, you will need to pull upward and slide the LCD screen out. There is a ribbon cable that connects to the back of the LCD screen. Take care not to wreck this cable, it will be disconnected in the future. For now I just turned the LCD over to get deeper into the camera.

Remove Screw
Lift LCD Out
Roll Over LCD
Remove LCD Screw and Cable Lift LCD Forward Roll It Over

Step 4:

There is a Ribbon Cable that is connected from the flash module on the left side of the camera (pictured) over the metal supports of the main camera, and across over to another circuit board. This cable will need to be removed to get deeper into the camera. There is a black plastic connector on the circuit board underneath where I placed the LCD screen. Release this, and the cable will come loose.

There is another cable underneath that will need to be removed soon too. It also blocks you from reaching the gray metal "skeleton" of the camera.

Remove Ribbon Cables

Remove 2 More Cables

At this point I realized that there are 2 more Ribbon Cable holders at the top of the camera that are holding the plastic backing onto the front of the camera. Since undoing all these cable clasps seemed to be the way to go, I snapped a few pictures of what it looked like and popped the cables free.

Now with these cables removed, the back of the camera is no longer attached, and we can get closer to getting to the inside of the camera, and finding that CCD.

Step 5:

Remove Screws

There are two "large" silver screws and two gray tabs that are holding down the circuit board on the right side of the camera. Now is the time to remove these screws so that we can get to the remaining small gray ribbon cable. This cable will need to be removed to get closer to the CCD.

Also, remove the ribbon cable from the CCD to the green circuit board. This is located just below the lower screw.


After removing the two screws, carefully slide the circuit board out from under the gray tabs. There are still a lot of ribbon cables attached to the camera to be careful of. There are two cables at the top of the board, and the smaller gray cable that goes across the gray frame of the camera. Remember the LCD Screen is still connected too, so be careful of its cables too.

Once the circuit board is loosened up, you can curl it upward revealing the connection for the little gray cable. We'll remove this one next.

Remaining Cables

Step 6:

Next we can remove the little gray cable underneath the circuit board, giving us more room to work, and providing access to the gray metal that holds the lens and CCD.

You can see the battery that holds user settings and date information at this point. It is on the right side of the camera, and was under the circuit board we just removed.

The two silver screws that hold the flash unit down can be removed in preparation for taking that part out.

Remove Ribbon Cable

! WARNING !

At this point it is important to remind you to be careful around the flash unit. There is a Giant Capacitor behind the green circuit board that holds the charge for the flash. It is high voltage, but its amps that kill you not the voltage. You can easily get shocked, I did, and I also managed to discharge the flash, which was quite a surprise. The shock won't kill you, its just as bad as an electrical outlet shock. I don't suggest trying it though.

Step 7:

After removing the silver screws for the flash unit, you can begin to remove the remaining black screws around the metal frame of the camera. There is a connection from the flash unit at the top of the camera that can be loosened to help remove the flash. There is also a connection at the bottom that can be removed so that the whole flash part comes off. The capacitor will still be in the camera, so be careful, but once the flash unit is removed, you can start to pull out the gray metal frame.

The power plug and PC Connection kind of sit in a slot on the side of the camera, so you will need to slide them out and up to begin taking out the gray frame.

Remove Black Screws Remove Flash Unit Slide Out Metal Frame

Step 8:

Work Carefully, and slide the metal frame and capacitor for the flash off the camera. When you do this, you will have free access to the lens and CCD. Be careful not to get shocked by the flash. I removed the battery when I was done, just so nothing was powered up. Next, we open up the back of the camera to expose the CCD. Be sure to have your air spray ready!
Remove The Metal Frame Flash Capacitor The Lens And CCD

Step 9:

There are three little screws on the back of the lens assembly that you should now unscrew. These will allow you to get to the CCD and Glass with the hot mirror / IR Blocking Filter you will need to remove. I think it is best to go in through the back rather than try to remove the lens and work that way.

These screws were fastened pretty good, as you don't want any dust in here. You will be opening up the area where the sensor is placed, so make sure your hands are clean.

Unscrew Back Of CCD

Exposed CCD and IR Glass

After unscrewing the three screws, you will be able to see the CCD and the glass that comprises the filter to keep out the IR light. There is black rubber surrounding the glass, which can be easily pushed aside. I used a tweezers to remove the glass.

Then I used 6 pieces of Congo Blue Filter paper and 2 pieces of microscope glass to replace the glass filter I removed.

Then put it all back together again. Easy. ;)


Here is a picture of the CCD, and the blue piece of glass I removed that is the IR Filter. It actually appears red in color when tilted at an angle towards the light. CCD and Glass Filter

CCD Closeup This is a close up of the CCD. You can find more information than you care to know about on the internet about CCD's and RGB Theory.


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