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CCD B&W Video Cameras for Near-UV Real-Time Viewing

Sony XC-EU50 David Prutchi PhD

I mounted a SONY XC-EU50 near-UV-sensitive (300 nm to 420 nm) monochrome camera onto a Sony DCR-TRV17 MiniDV digital camcorder that displays the UV camera’s output in real-time through the LCD viewfinder and also lets me capture .jpg-format stills to its integrated Memory Stick at a resolution of up to 640 × 480 pixels (a). A 25 mm fixed focal-length UV-capable lens with transmission in the range of 230 nm to 1,200 nm is shown installed on the XC-EU50. Besides being able to document the subject under visible light, the DCR-TRV17 camcorder is sensitive to IR in its “NightShot” mode, making the setup useful for broad-range invisible photography when used with a suitable infrared long-pass filter: b) visible, c) infrared >720 nm, d) and near-UV images of some beggarticks (asteraceae bidens).

Real-time viewing of scenes in the near-UV has applications in creative UV photography, astronomy, and forensics . There are a number of CCD video cameras optimized for ultraviolet imaging that use sensors that are specifically designed for this application.  Many of these are based on Sony’s ICX-407BLA CCD chip, which is a Lumogen-coated sensor usable down to 200 nm. Unfortunately, these cameras are not inexpensive (over $3,000).

However, Sony makes one analog black-and-white machine-vision camera that is UV-sensitive which is sufficiently affordable that it has attracted some attention for use in creative, astronomical, and forensic near-ultraviolet photography.  The XC-EU50 camera has a peak sensitivity around 369 nm, and sensitivity down to 300 nm. The camera produces analog video with 768 (H) x 494 (V) effective pixels, so at 0.38 megapixels, it is nowhere near DSLR resolution, but this is not bad at all given its sensitivity in the ultraviolet. The camera retails for around $700, but surplus XC-EU50 cameras often show up on eBay® for a fraction of that price. However, the XC-EU50 is not as special as its specifications would make you believe, and DIY alternatives can be made at very low cost.

The following Technical Note discusses my experience with the XC-EU50:  UVIRimaging_dot_com TN 2016-2 – Near-UV BW CCD Video Cameras


For more diy UV photography and imaging projects, check out my new book:

Exploring Ultraviolet Photography book by David Prutchi PhD.