Eye-Pi IR camera

By Russell Barnes. Posted

Never mind a portable Raspberry Pi camera – how about a portable Pi IR camera for taking stunning and unique shots?

Infrared (IR) cameras are traditionally used in low-light situations. Typically, IR is used in security cameras at night, and you can also implant an IR camera into your birdhouse for a live view of some hatchlings. Using it in daytime for ‘normal’ photos, though, is something quite unusual. However, it’s what Krzystof Jankowski decided he wanted to do using a Raspberry Pi and the Pi NoIR Camera Module.

The full article can be found in The MagPi 43

“I’ve been a photographer for many years and I’ve always wanted to take surreal (at least to our eye) infrared photos,” Krzystof tells us, “but there was no commercial camera that can do that easily. Also, those cameras for astronomers were always pricey. Using filters was too time-consuming and requires using high ISO.

 Here's the very simple setup used for the Eye-Pi

“When I was ready to buy the [Pi] Camera Module, I chose the NoIR to test how it works. After the few first tests, it turned out it works perfectly fine, but using it with wires, monitor, keyboard, and making photos by command line was absolutely not fun. A camera needs to be small and have a physical button to make photos.”

Krzystof made a prototype “using a lot of duct tape” and went for a walk with it. It worked as he’d hoped, so he began work on a more robust and easier-to-use version.

 The pink hue is from the way the IR camera works - in this instance it's picking up the heat of reflected light

“For me it was very easy as I know Linux, programming, and soldering,” he explains. “I think that even for newbies it will still be easy. The whole thing is fairly basic to make yourself: connect camera, solder button and LED on, put wires to proper GPIO ports, and download my script and install a few required packages.”

His custom script is what makes it possible, and is downloadable from GitHub. It’s only 23 lines long, but it has some tweaks to the way photos are taken to get them to look the way they do, and to optimise the speed as well, according to Krzystof:

“There’s a small lag like in early digital cameras. For landscape photography it’s absolutely acceptable, though. The only downfall is the booting time: as it boots the whole of Raspbian, it takes 30-40 seconds. However, it can work for hours on my power bank without shutting down.”

 Sun glare works differently when you're picking up more of the EM spectrum

Right now, the camera is a little simple, and upgrades are planned for it eventually. Software-wise, Krzystof wants a software shutdown to prevent data corruption, but he also wants to add a small OLED screen for a live preview and settings. These settings would then be changed with additional switches on the build.

Krzystof has done many little Pi projects himself and doesn’t plan to stop here: “I encourage people to experiment with Raspberry Pi – each project is an opportunity to learn something new. And it’s always a lot of fun to make something yourself.”

 Some other colours do seep in, such as the 'blue' of the sky