The basic principle of enabling ‘night vision’ on a webcam involves taking the webcam apart and removing the infra-red filter (and then putting it back together again).
I first tried this with an old Philips webcam that I had lying around but the filter was difficult to access – so I purchased this webcam from Amazon for less than $7.
Do not expect too much at this price – there are no CDs or documentation supplied with this webcam. The good news is that Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.4 Lucid had no trouble detecting it.
The ‘night vision’ that comes with this webcam uses the 6 LEDs on the front to illuminate the darkness – so this was not what I was looking for at all. There is a small dimmer switch built in to the USB cable that turns the LEDs on and off but it does not offer enough control.
On the rear of the webcam there is one small screw on the left holding it together. What you cannot see is the plastic post inside the webcam on the right hand side that holds the front and the back panels together. I found that prying the webcam apart meant breaking the plastic post inside the webcam.
Once inside there are only four more screws to deal with – two hold the circuit board onto the front casing – and the other two secure the lens barrel to the circuit board.
Before unscrewing the circuit board pay attention to its orientation – if you put it back the wrong way your webcam image will be upside-down on your screen.
Once the barrel is removed from the circuit board you will see a small square piece of glass on the bottom. This is the infra-red filter. I used a knife the scrape the thin surrounding plastic from the corners and then dug the glass out with the tip of the knife blade.
Then all that is left to do is to put the webcam back together.
The screws that hold the webcam together are quite small and they have two different heads between the five screws. I needed a couple of different bits from my screwdriver set to take the webcam apart.
Even though I took this picture during the day you can see that ‘night vision’ lets me see the dark mess of cables under my desk quite well.
Update: Well, in a very dark environment removing the infra-red filter does not make much difference, but then what do you expect for $7?