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Are IR cams too expensive? You might be surprised…

To many ghost hunters, catching ghost evidence on video is the “holy grail” of ghost hunting. The problem is that getting advertised-IR cameras can be expensive and if you buy a cheap brand you generally get cheap results. I’m here today to share with you a small “secret” I’ve kept to myself for some time now. This secret has saved me hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars on video equipment and my fellow writer, Adam, has talked me into sharing it with our readers.

Many people don’t know that most cameras naturally see IR lighting. In fact, companies add a filter to block it out. Maybe they do this because of some hardware flaw? Or maybe they do this to be dicks? Who really knows (except for them), but IR viewing typically exist in cameras.

Before I go on, this is not a “how to” on removing the filter. This requires no modification of any device in your arsenal.

At present, I have the following IR-ready cameras:
4 camera CCTV system
2 VHSC handheld camcorders
2 Digital Video Cameras
2 Digital Camera

For many teams and people, this is actually a lot of video equipment. It isn’t even all the video equipment my team has access to. This is my personal collection and each piece sees IR lighting.

Natively, as advertised, 1 of the digital video cameras, and the CCTV system records in IR. The rest of my equipment are standard cameras that I happened to have or got from family and friends.

On a whim, some time ago, I was playing around with one of my VHSC cameras. I had gotten it from a family member because it was older technology that she no longer had a use for. My girlfriend and I have many things in our house that, one way or another, uses IR to function. In this case, it was the Nintendo Wii which allowed me to make the discovery.

I was panning around my living, testing the camera, when I noticed 2 very bright lights coming from the Wii receiver. I quickly lowered to camera to see the lights with my own eyes when I seen nothing and remembered Wii uses IR. I brought the camera back up and recorded a minute of video toward the Wii receiver… to my surprised it recorded the very lights which, as is IR, I couldn’t see with my own eyes.

I tested it further that night with my external IR lights… the same result. I was able to see in dark places using the camera, with no special features, and my IR lights.

I decided to start testing every camera, video or photo, to see if this was common. Every available camera in my home except for 2 could see IR lights. Some were strong and some were weak but the point is I could see IR lights with nearly every camera I had.

What lesson should you take away from this?
You most likely have cameras hanging around your house or that friends and family no longer want that may see IR lighting.
You could, perhaps, go to a store and buy a new camera that may see IR lighting.
No longer do you necessarily have to be stuck paying an extra $100 for a camera with IR/Night Vision available.

I have one word of warning, though. My results have varied in the sense that some cameras see IR better than others. The ones that barely pick it up would most likely have to have a lot of external IR lighting to function remotely well. Then some have nearly no issue with this and see it as brightly as if I were pointing an LED flashlight at it.

So experiment, play around, and see what you have lying around your own house.

About the author

Billy

Billy is an active paranormal investigator with more than 10 years experience in the field. He's currently the director of The Paulding Paranormal Society and has completed work on two full length paranormal documentaries.

7 Comments

  • Great info man, glad I could finally talk you into sharing it.

    My Canon Power Shot ELPH300HS eats it up like a hungry baby elephant and because of it’s already incredible HD nature, it comes in real handy when my video camera batteries go and I still want to roll on with HD video in the dark.

  • The problem with this is that it provides what is referred to as Lo Lux viewing. Essentially you will be able to see in low lighting and very dim areas only with a concentrated IR beam. With this method you are actually closer to viewing the full spectrum except all UV rays are blocked. Any camera can be converted to IR and even full spectrum modes regardless of age, film or digital, video or still. The removable IR filter installed at the factory is put into place to enhance video quality as I am sure everyone in the market for a camera doesn’t want either the Sony nightshot “green” or other models “blueeish to black and white” hue added to their footage or photos as well as if the user removes the IR filter on a standard “visible spectrum” camera it becomes impossible to focus the camera. The IR modification can be performed by any technological person with the proper tools,such as a micrometer, glass cutter, and a healthy supply of lens quality glass. Also the extra $100 charge is for the high powered IR L.E.D that is installed directly into the IR capable cameras housing as to where that L.E.D is not present on your basic “visible spectrum” camera.

  • Joey,

    While it isn’t a perfect method, it can really save time and money by just turning off the flash and shooting in the dark (with a heavy IR blanket). Also, a great tool for cheap IR lighting are those mil-spec L shaped flashlights. Screw off the top to the battery end and they have 3 lenses underneath, if you double up the blue and red you’ve got yourself a cheap, light and durable source of IR (there is a faint purplish visible light cast, but it’s negligible when compared to the benefits.

  • I totally agree with you Adam but you are still only viewing part of the IR spectrum. To view the complete IR spectrum and in complete darkness without any light source an IR filter needs to be installed either the style that snaps onto the lens, screws on or by internal modification. Other tips for boosting your IR capable cameras viewing area is to set longer exposure times and the simplest of them all is to set the color effect to sephia before recording or taking photos. You have to deal with the yellowish tint but you will be suprised by how much brighter your footage is and by how much you increase the viewing area.

  • Great tips Joey. And you’re right, it’s not the full IR spectrum, but it’s better than packing up early or missing out on something sweet, and the effectiveness of the tip really varies from camera to camera. It’s always worth exploring though.

  • I have to agree with you again. New methods are always worth exploration. Another cheap tip for IR illumination is the screw in black light party bulbs that usually run around $5. Another cheap illumination tip is IR heat lamps like you would use in a reptile aquarium, they cost a little more than the black light bulbs but are still cheaper than the mediocre(at best) IR illuminators on the market that run you around $40.

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