Being able to see with a camera in complete darkness is a challenge. For stills we often have to resort to long exposures. For video it can be virtually impossible. Thankfully, the megapixel race is all but over, and camera manufacturers are focusing on high ISO capability. There’s a couple out there now that can get fairly decent results in near black conditions, but they’re not cheap.
The folks over at N-O-D-E, however have another option. Hacking a cheap action camera to give it some basic night vision ability. The cost in the video says it can be done for around $40, but this will depend where in the world you are. The particular camera he used seems to be much less expensive in the UK than it is in the USA. But, I’m sure pretty much any action cameras can be modified the same way.
The camera used in the video is the Kitvision Splash HD 1080p, which is available in the US for around $65. I would bet that many, though, have other old action cameras laying around doing nothing that they could hack apart to try something like this. If not, you can always hit up eBay to see what used bargains can be had.
Essentially, the process involves removing the filter that blocks infrared light. He doesn’t go into the details of removing the infrared filter, as there’s already quite a lot of information out there on how to do that. It’s what he does next that I found interesting. And that’s strapping a 5 Watt high powered infrared LED to the top of it.
At night, there’s almost no light at all, visible or otherwise. So, bringing your own infrared light to work with the camera is a great way to “see” in the dark without visibly lighting up the whole space. The LED used here isn’t going to project very far, though. Even the “high powered” infrared LEDs are generally only designed for giving a slightly longer range for remote control signals.
But, it proves the concept, and seems to work rather well.
He also added a 10x loupe at the back allow for a viewfinder. The built in screen is obviously quite easy to see already, but blocking it off with an eye piece means light’s not going to spill out and potentially affect your shot. Although, I imagine it probably wouldn’t actually make that much difference. I can’t find the loupe he used, but this one should work quite well. You’d just need to construct something to wrap around it.
While it looks like it would work well for close up subjects, the video’s conclusion suggests that they would go with a much more powerful light next time. And it’s easy to see why. Perhaps if you’re trailing night time bugs in nature then a small 5 Watt LED might be enough. But if you want any kind of distance between you and your subject, you’ll definitely want something more powerful.
Looks like I might have an experiment to try out on the Elecam that’s been sat in a box for months.
Have you done infrared or other conversions to action cameras? Have you used infrared or other lights to help them see at night without producing visible light? Let us know in the comments.