A Bump in the Road

If you’ve been reading my rantings, you probably saw my initial step into full-spectrum photography. I’m really looking forward to building my own full-spectrum homebrew trail camera, but the Olympus model I modified isn’t supported by any of the board manufacturers. Of the thirty-five or so models that are supported, they list Nikon’s L10, L11, and L12. Since Jennifer and I have pretty well gone full nerd Nikon at this point, I thought that it would be fun to build a Nikon-based game camera.

I wound up purchasing a Nikon L14 on ebay for about $15 after shipping. When it came in, I took some test pics and then tore into its housing to pull the hot mirror filter. I saw a familiar rectangle of glass over the sensor, and began nudging it with my screwdriver. This one was quite a bit more secure than the last camera! It did wind up coming off, but in several pieces. Hoping that I didn’t break anything too badly, I wedged the camera all back together. It powered on and I took a few more test pictures.

Trees were green and it was not apparently picking up any extra light. Hhhmmmmm… So, I took the camera apart again. I’m not sure exactly what the piece was that I broke out of the camera, but it didn’t seem to do much of anything. Upon a second inspection of the internals, there seems to be in iridescent coating on the lenses inside the lens assembly. In other words, it looks like the lenses are self-filtered, and there’s not a filter that I can simply remove or replace. When I reassembled the camera yet again, it still functioned correctly, and Teen Bot showed interest in taking it on for his own, so I gave it to him.

I’ve been looking online at some of the other cameras listed by the control board manufacturers, and Jennifer has quite understandably requested that I attempt to learn what I can about specific models to hopefully avoid making the same mistake twice. I have found more info perusing forums and online resources, and of the thirty-fivish models listed, have found specific testimony from other human beings of about twenty of them being converted to infrared. Some of them even posted pictures! Seriously, there’s no way I could have seen this coming. Besides that, it was a $15 gamble, and Teen Bot got a nice point-and-shoot out of the deal. I’d say we’re still doing well.

Oh and, I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to get a Nikon D200 when we can afford it. I found a tutorial on a full spectrum conversion for it, and I think I’m going to take a crack at that myself. I’m feeling a little less gun-shy about modding cameras at this point. The Olympus is fun, and has produced some cool images, but it has always had a color-bleed issue which has only been exaggerated with the full-spectrum mod. Many pics aren’t showing much visible coloration, and I believe it’s a limitation of the camera itself.

5 thoughts on “A Bump in the Road

    • Aha! You sir, have brought up a very fascinating point. Although it is true that pretty well any digital sensor, even in its filtered state, can pick up more infrared light than our eyes, I’m not convinced it’s sufficient for taking infrared illuminated pictures. Both Jennifer’s DSLR and my point and shoot are based on the modern generation CMOS sensors. Who would have guessed that the technology would get to DSLR level? If you shine a remote into the lens of any of these cameras, the CCD-based Nikon L14 as I mentioned in this post, my CMOS-based AW100 or her CMOS-based D3100, or my Samsung Galaxy or my brother’s iPhone, for that matter, you will see the LED flashing through the viewscreen. But, through the unfiltered Olympus, it makes lens flares and nearly whites out the viewscreen. Turn the remote around and point it at the wall, and it looks like a spotlight through the Olympus. I’ve been talking to some of the online homebrew guys and I’m starting to get a better idea of what this is going to look like when it’s done. That being said, I’m starting to nerd out on the idea of building a tiny unit based on either a cellphone board or an i2c module. Once I’ve wet my feet on a more traditional build, I may have to do a subsequent build like that! Looks like there’s more to learn though.

      • Have you looked into the inexpensive CCD IR security cameras? I know that there are many on e-bay that are already setup for use with the IR lLED’s and on some of them it is simple to remove the filter be just unscrewing the lens mount ring and taking out the filter then screwing the mounting ring back on. I’ve seen some of them run for as little as 6 dollars with free shipping. Now obviously you will get what you pay for, but sometimes you can get a really great deal, and also sometimes you have to go with the cheaper one as the higher end ones have the filter actually be a coating instead of a separate filter.

        Just some more stuff to think about. And if you finally figure it out, maybe a small side business modding game cameras can come about :)

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