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Author Topic: Disable FOSCAM IR LED Illuminators  (Read 85820 times)

June 17, 2012, 09:42:14 pm

I have a mix of wired and wireless cameras, mostly FOSCAM, on my rural ranch property.  The FOSCAM IR LEDs do a fine job in many applications, but outside there are some practical considerations.

IR illuminators tend to fall into two spectrums, the "near visible" 850-880nm range and the "almost invisible" 940nm range.  FOSCAM uses the cheaper 850-880nm range LED technology and that is what creates the issues in my application.  Insects can see this and they are attracted to it.  Bats may be able to see it, but maybe it is the insects it is attracting, so bats will make circuits in view of the camera triggering motion activated recording and alarm functions.  Finally, in the complete darkness of rural applications the "near visible" is very visible when you are straight on the bore axis of the camera lens and the IR illuminators that surround them.

Why this treatise on spectrum?  Two items:
  • I want to disable the IR illuminators on my FOSCAM FI8903Ws, FI8904Ws and FI8905Ws as can be done with the FI8918W (non-weather resistant pan/tilt camera).  I have contacted FOSCAM technical support and they first said they would do this in a future firmware update, then when I followed up after a couple of firmware updates were issued and inquired about it they indicated they were not going to be able to.  I opened the case on a FI8904W and tried various wiring combinations and surmise they have series wired the LEDs and the sensor.  If you disable the LEDs the camera never shifts into night mode (i.e. B&W) where external IR illumination can be utilized.  I have resorted to using black electrical tape to cover the LEDs on the cameras where I wish to use external illumination, but this is a time consuming effort and I would like to know if anybody knows of either a hack or a wire I can cut in order to disable the IR LEDs while retaining the sensor function?
  • My second issue is related to not knowing how to easily discern what external IR illuminators will fall into the "flood light" versus "spot light" category.  Is there a table that exists that breaks down what aftermarket IR illuminators function at specific distances?  Alternatively, how about a nicely developed list of IR illuminators and their practical uses (i.e. flood versus spot)?
The flood versus spot is important to know because for a gate approach a person might want to use one, two, three, etc., flood lights to cover a wide area.  A spot version could be used to illuminate a specific item at a longer distance.

Any sharpies out there wish to address these points?


« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 11:45:40 pm by Skyking »

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June 18, 2012, 01:39:10 pm
When I attempted to use my waterproof Foscam camera outdoors to capture photos of bears at night, the motion of bugs attracted to the IR lights caused images to be constantly mailed to me. Reducing sensitivity didn't help because, up close, the bugs are huge to the camera's sensor. I have a 850nm floodlight that I could place away from the camera, combined with turning off the camera's LEDs, which should solve the problem. The bugs will flutter in front of the floodlight, well away from the camera. I haven't tried this but expect it to resolve my problem. The IR Floodlight that I use works well and only costs around $11. Search eBay for " Illuminator light CCTV 48 IR Infrared LED"

If you can read French, there is a very good website that describes how to modify a Foscam to control the IR LEDs via the WebUI. It is HERE.

A user at the French site, gyls29, posted a link to photos of his modification on PicasaWeb. His post describes the mod as "I turn the IR LED with Switch ON, I put it out with the Switch OFF I put a 22 ohm resistor (I had it on hand) and I deliberately placed on the base PCB to avoid having to disassemble everything if we had to change ... Despite resistance of 22 ohms, I do not really see the difference in range of the IR by the effort to reduce heat."

June 18, 2012, 03:13:37 pm

I used a Firefox French-to-English plug in to translate the text.  The salient part is:
Paillassou [mode hacker ON]

As this has to have IPCam (clone) disassembled, I took the opportunity to implement my little trick of extinction IR LEDs (I speak in the first page)

    I soldered two long son in / / the LDR "R1" [side chip] [...] 060651.JPG

    I passed this pair of son (added) with all other existing cabling
    I soldered the end of this pair of son (from the LDR) on the main PCB board, in / / the contacts 1 and 2 (relay)

=> I can now order, successfully switching on and off the IR LEDs (in darkness) via the relay control available on the webui ;)

Paillassou [mode hacker OFF]

This isn't entirely clear to me, but it looks like he is soldering a resister in because he was having a problem with the IR LEDs overheating his camera.  Completely unclear to me is how the WebUI could then be used...  But, it does appear to confirm the ability to turn the LEDs off and on is a hardware issue and not something that can be done with a firmware hack.  Anybody else have any thoughts on this?

The crazy part is I know many, many, users would like the option to turn off the LAN lights (a feature of their FI8918W) and and the LEDs for the reasons I listed, so why they wire the daylight sensor in series with the LEDs is beyond me...

Thanks again and I continue to be interested if anybody else has ideas about how to solve this.


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June 18, 2012, 03:46:44 pm
Re "...Completely unclear to me is how the WebUI could then be used... " He is wiring the LEDs through the the relay output of the camera. He operates the relay via the WebUI to control the LEDs. His goal is to reduce a transformer from overheating but the outcome is the same - control of the LEDs.

There are a couple of mod versions discussed there. I haven't tried to figure out his exact wiring but it appears that Paillassou is using pins 1 & 2 of the internal relay to short across the photoresistor to turn the LEDs off. Here is more info:
The more light, less the resistance of the photoresistor and vice versa.
So no light = IR = low resistance, IR = dark = high resistance
If you put a relay contacts in parallel with the photoresistor
  open = resistance of the photoresistor: normal
  closed = zero resistance <=> light: no IR
So you activate (close) the relay to turn off the IR

Also, he is using a Heden camera, not a Foscam, but they are extremely similar.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 05:03:32 pm by celem »

June 18, 2012, 11:45:05 pm

OK, that makes more sense.  The FOSCAM FI8918W has an audio input and output, so maybe that could be used, but my cameras are a mix of FOSCAM FI8903Ws, FI8904Ws and FI8905Ws.  None of them has any type of output trigger that I am aware of.  When I think of output trigger I think in terms of an output to an alarm or audio or some such thing.  If there is a trigger out on the circuit board that turns the LEDs on and he is essentially shunting them out with the resistor, I am still unsure if that leave the camera able to correctly change from daylight to dark mode.   :o

Can anybody shed any more light on this?  Pun intended.   :-[  And wow, what a lot of work just to get the LEDs turned off...   :-\


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June 18, 2012, 11:53:05 pm
There is an icon on the webui that you click on/off to operate the internal relay whose contacts appear on the port on the rear of the camera. The French guy is wiring to the relay contacts directly on the PCB.

June 19, 2012, 12:00:47 am

OK, so with no port on the back of my cameras this isn't a solution that would work for me, right?   ???  I don't mean to come across as an idiot, but I am not seeing how this translates to a solution to the question I posed.  If I am missing something, my apology...   :-\



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June 19, 2012, 12:31:07 am
In Foscam's newer firmware there is a CGI "set_extra_io.cgi" that lets you set bits on the pca8574 8-bit I/O expander. With a soldering iron and some research you could wire to this.

For a simple solution, why don't you just short out the photoresistor with a low value resistor, forcing the lights off.

June 19, 2012, 12:57:33 am

Thanks for all the hand-holding on this, I do appreciate it.  I opened a camera up and carefully cut one wire, tested, reconnected, cut another, etc., until I had tested them all.  I found the sensor and LEDs appear to be wired in series because when I got the LEDs to not light, the camera would stay in daylight mode in complete darkness.  I have wondered at just twisting the two LEDs closest to the sensor off at the PCB to break the connection, but absent a wiring diagram I am hesitant to take such drastic steps. 

I could just mask the lens opening and a spot over the sensor and shoot black spray paint onto the glass over the LEDs, but then I have to line it up precisely when I screw it off and back on.  I also wondered about light emitting around the sensor, behind the glass, leaving a glow and perhaps fooling with the sensor, so I haven't tried this.

If someone has a wiring schematic for the PCBs used in these three cameras I could figure out how to disable the LEDs.  Without a diagram I hate semi-destructive testing, which is what it basically is when you disassemble one of these things and start cutting this and that and then try to put each thing back as it was.

Maybe someone else will see this post, have had the same issue and they will have either a simple solution, or a step-by-step process that they have used.  And they can provide all of that with easy to understand English.   ::)

Thanks again,


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June 19, 2012, 01:02:51 am
For a simple solution, why don't you just short out the photoresistor with a low value resistor, forcing the lights off. It is non-destructive and reversable.

June 19, 2012, 01:25:57 am

You are certain the day/night switch feature of the camera would continue to work if I did this?



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June 19, 2012, 10:59:59 am
Your goal, as I understand it, is to illuminate the area of surveillance but not have insects and bats attracted to the lights located on the front of the camera.

It is my belief that the IR lights operate completely independent of the camera. This is why there is no control of the lights from the webui and that they are instead independently controlled by a photoresistor located on the same PCB as the LEDs themselves.  The light's sole function to illuminate the scene with 850nm IR light to which the camera's sensor is sensitive. Note, however, Foscam's newer camera, the FI8918W does have the ability to control the IR lights via the webui, so obviously, a hardware change was made in that newer camera version - probably just a power control to the LED board.

During the day the sun is the illumination source. At night an artificial illumination source is required. That can be (1) the IR lights built into the front of the camera; (2) IR lights separate from the camera pointed at the area of surveillance; (3) full-spectrum light (ordinary floodlight) pointed at the area of surveillance.

The absolutely simplest solution would be to unplug the power cable from the IR lights in the front of the camera and substitute an external illumination source, either IR or visible light. If the external light is adequately separated, physically, from the camera, yet still illuminating the area of surveillance, then insects and bats should be far enough removed from the camera so as to not activate the motion detection.

June 19, 2012, 11:27:49 am

You are % correct in what I am trying to accomplish (With the addition of attempting to reduce the ability of vandals to see the camera to disable it.) and how I am trying to accomplish it.  The issue for me is it appears the day/night sensor and LEDs share a series power connection.  Disabling one disables the other.

I have so far not found a means to disable the LEDs without the camera day/night sensor failing to function.  Once the LEDs are unpowered the camera fails to change from daylight to darkness mode when the lights in the testing room are extinguished.  Checking via the LAN confirms the camera remains in the day mode (i.e. color) and is essentially blind as a result.

So, I am seeking a solution, if there is one, and hopefully a simple one, where myself and other interested persons can disable the LEDs without disabling the day/night sensor.  FOSCAM Technical Support suggested I remove the filter from the little plastic tube that surrounds the sensor, but when I followed up and asked them to clarify wouldn't that just keep the camera in the day mode I never got a reply.



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June 19, 2012, 11:43:07 am
It is my belief that there is no day/night function within the camera itself, only the sensor getting adequate illumination within its visible frequencies. However, I will break open my Foscam outdoor camera and do some tests - maybe later today or tomorrow.

June 19, 2012, 11:54:22 am

Wow, you are going above the call of duty!   :)  Thanks much.  I believe the sensor, with an IR filter in front of it, is used to turn on the LEDs and switch the camera from day to night mode.  From testing it appears FOSCAM powers a series connection to both.  I actually had one camera completely disassembled and had drilled the back of the case and installed an on/off switch so I could jumper the LED power through it giving me the ability to manually turn them on and off, when I determined there appeared to be no way to disable them without also disabling the day/night sensor switch, rendering the camera useless at night.  If you figure something out, particularly something easy to accomplish, when we are done please send me a PM and I will send you something for your trouble.   8)

Best Regards,