Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Make your own macro lens for any smartphone - for less than $2

I recently came across an idea for how to completely transform the camera in any cell/smartphone from one that can take a picture of $0.16 from this close:

 ...to one that can take a photo of $0.10 from this close:

For the record, this has not been cropped or processed at all - this image is straight off the phone's memory card.

...and the whole thing only costs a handful of dimes.

Basically what you want to go out and get is one of these (usually incredibly annoying) things:

This particular one cost $1.97 at Giant Tiger, but the one that I'm actually using (for reasons I'll get to) was an even better deal, ringing in at a measly $1.25 at Dollarama. Good stuff.

Anyway, claw your way into the packaging, and then throw out (or recycle for the green amongst you) the extra ends and other assorted bits (you may well have a perfectly good use for the extra batteries - kudos to you if you do), because you only need one very small piece of stuff, and it's inside the actual laser pointer itself.

Unscrew the cap, like so:

That black nub thing is deceptively hard to remove (or at least, both times I've tried it it has been) but get rid of it. It's threaded, so theoretically you could just unscrew it, but I haven't had that work - I had to just tear it out with needle-nosed pliers.

Once you've got that piece out, there'll be a tiny lens underneath, that looks like this:

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, that precise lens didn't come from the pointer pictured above, since that one was being stubborn and I didn't want to bother with it at the moment, so I just grabbed the one I had lying around from when I tried this out earlier today. So all the demo shots are using the lens pictured here, taken from the $1.25 dollar-store pointer.

Anyway, you now need a way to attach it to your phone. Presumably you'd also like the option in the future of taking normal photos as well, so I don't recommend Krazy Glue or anything, although I assume that would definitely give you the most secure hold. Maybe use that tactic on your spare smartphone. (Do people have spare smartphones?)

Because I live with a (smoking hot, incredibly awesome) woman, there are bobby pins everywhere, and it turns out, they're perfect for this type of thing.

Also in the scavenged-around-the-house-hair-accessories department, I decided I didn't want to use masking tape or anything (although that would work, and would arguably give you a bit more of a sure hold), so I just grabbed a spare elastic and did this:

One note: that lens has a flat side and a convex side. If you try to see a reflection of a light source in it you can tell which is which, because you need to make sure that the flat side of the lens is against your camera.

Now that your DIY macro lens is in place, you're ready for shooting, and you can get some pretty interesting shots of pretty mundane things. Modelling for us this evening are the following:

And now, super-zoom!

Fancy rims on the toy bus

The blade of the screwdriver

The annoying, vital part on a key chain

As you can see, especially in the screwdriver shot, the depth of field is ridiculously shallow (you're also holding the lens about a centimetre or less from the object you're shooting), and the whole sharpness of the image depends on the angle you're holding the phone, so it's a bit finicky, but you can get some pretty sharp images, considering what a cheap rig it is.

Anyway, that's that! Have fun!

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