The objective is to modify a normal digital camera available in the consumer market, and use it to capture infrared (IR) light. Infrared light is capable to passing through many thin materials such as clothing (I ain’t thinking dirty, really!) and is not detectable by the human eye. It is proportional to the temperature of the object, so generally, the hotter an object is, the more infrared light it gives off. I think.
Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cost: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Time: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. Digital camera you have no feelings for
2. 35mm film
I happen to have an old digital camera lying around. Its LCD screen is spoilt (cracked) so my dad attempted to throw it away, but my brother picked it up, planning to dissect it one day. That day never came.
So… I decided to use it. It’s a Fujifilm digital camera, everything works perfectly except that you don’t get a proper display on the LCD screen. 2.0 megapixels, with optical zoom and stuffs.
Nice crack eh?
This is the display I get when the camera is switched on.
The screws around the casing were rather worn out, so it was quite difficult to unscrew them and remove the casing to reveal the electronics.
Now, I need to reach the CCD chip beneath the circuit board, so I continue unscrewing the many screws to remove the circuit board.
If you look at the top right corner of the LCD screen, you’ll notice a black tape. I’m guessing, this black tape is pasted over the high voltage portion of the board from being pressed against anything that can cause it to short out.
The flash on a camera is driven by an electrolytic capacitor. These are capable of storing a lot of electrical energy and releasing it very quickly, which is why they are used for a flash. The downside is they can store their energy for a long time which makes it difficult to work on to say the least. An electrical shock from a capacitor is at least very painful. It could burn skin, disrupt electrical signals from your brain, and even cause death.
The circuit board didn’t came off, and I realised that there were more screws behind the LCD screen. So I twisted it off, and dealt with the screws.
The whole assembly just came off without much difficulty.
Here, you can see the electrolytic capacitor. It’s a 320V thingy, not something I would want to play with. For safety reasons, I actually removed the batteries from the camera 3 days before this dissection, so as to ensure that the electrical energy stored for the flash is drained completely (at least I hoped so).
Ohohohoho I was wrong. For the record, I was electrocuted 5 times in total in the process of the construction of the camera.
Anyway, back to the project. The zoom lens covers the CCD chip, and I simply flipped the zoom lens off as the screws were already out. And the CCD chip was smiling at me there.
In order to make IR photography work there is a small piece of glass over the CCD. It is either green or blue and very clear. I wasn’t able to take a picture of it because it shattered when I tried to remove it. This filter is called an Internal InfraRed Cut Filter (IIRCF). It removes the IR light to get the best balance of color on the picture.
With a little difficulty the filter came off, and the glass chipped somewhere. So this is the point of no turning back.
For the infrared filter, I used the burnt tail of a 35mm film. They allow very little visible light to pass through and does not block off infrared light.
Here’s where the most tedious and troublesome part begins. I needed to have at least 2 or 3 layers of the filter for the camera to work, and the filters do not stay in place. After trying with tape, which… didn’t work very well, I resorted to glue, which might sound like a totally stupid thing to do when working with optics. The toothpick is used to apply the glue in all the tight spots.
I screwed up quite a bit here and there, but finally I managed to get the filters in place. Not very well though.
This was my first attempt after assembling back the entire camera (I’ll skip the pictures because it’s simply backtracking).
Here’s where it got really irritating. I tore apart the camera, adjusted and replaced the filters, assembled back again, tested again, tore apart again, etc etc etc to find tune the camera to get a proper image.
This was my 8th and final attempt :-)
Well, to say the least, I’m very very happy with the results. Everything you see in the picture is PURE infrared, as I looked through the 3 layers of filter and it was TOTALLY BLACK.
So, I captured a few more shots of before-and-after pictures. Some of the photos are converted into grayscale to lose the pinkish hue.