Back in the days of film and darkrooms I used to lug around an SLR camera. I never really called photography a hobby, so I gave it away when digital point-and-shoot cameras came out. These days I can usually take all the pictures I want with my smartphone.

The only thing I miss about SLR cameras is the ability to take photos with shallow depth of field, the ones where the background or foreground is blurred. You need a macro or zoom lens to do that, and smartphones don't have them. My Samsung S5 camera has a feature called Selective Focus that tries to achieve the effect using multiple shots and software tricks, but it's very finicky. I can also reproduce the effect by processing the digital image with an app, but it takes a lot of work for the result not to look fake. The other option is fit my phone with a Sony QX lens, but that costs as much as a professional camera.

Some time ago I was told that it was possible to use zoom lenses on a smartphone by putting a telescope eyepiece between them. This week I finally got the chance to test the idea when I found a used nonworking DSLR lens for $10. As I try to demonstrate in this project, for the fraction of the price of a point-and-shoot you can vastly improve the power of your smartphone camera and rescue a fully functioning but obsolete piece of precision technology from destruction.

Comments and tips from the more knowledgeable will be appreciated!

Step 1: Gather Parts and Tools


- Zoom lens with rear cover. The one I found was a Canon EFS 18-55. The rear cover is where the eyepiece will attach to.

- "Telescope Camera Lens." It's really just cheap zoom lens for smartphones. The quotation marks are there because that's what it's called on ebay. I bought one a long time ago because I thought it might be useful, but it was a waste of $9. This project gives me a chance to get something out of it.

Mine came with a case specifically for my Samsung S5. Its eyepiece attaches to the phone case using mounting slots. This was a big plus, because I didn't have to figure out how to connect the two together.

- Plastic tube with inner diameter exactly equal to the barrel of the cheap zoom lens. The fit should be tight. This part is actually optional but is useful if the barrel is too short, and it creates another way to get focus by letting you adjust the distance between zoom lens and the eyepiece. You will then be able to use the full range of focal lengths of the zoom lens.

I found the perfect tube in my pile of random junk. I believe it's the tube that dispensed those clear plastic bags in the vegetable aisle of the supermarket. I have a habit of picking up trash like this all the time, and this time it paid off.


  • Hacksaw or similar tool for cutting the plastic tubes
  • Glue gun
  • Drill and small drill bits, x-Acto knife, or any other tool you prefer for cutting a big hole on plastic
  • Fine sandpaper.

Update: I finally found the perfect Android app to use with the lens. The app is called Open Camera, which has a mode that rotates the image on the camera viewfinder, correcting the rotated image seen through the lens.

<p>I finally found the perfect android app to use with the lens. It's called Open Camera, which is free on Google Play. </p>
Very interesting!!! <br>Thank you!
<p>I've got an old lens perect for this so I'll give this a go!</p>
<h4>wow this is so cool! I voted for this tutorial in the trash to treasure contest. Thanks for sharing!</h4>
<p>This is neat. You are recycling something that would have been thrown away. Yes, there are ways to have DoF on a phone, yes, there's vignetting on your photos, but instead of seeing those two things as negatives, work them into your advantage. You've created a lens with a specific effect you can use to easily make pictures others would have to perfect in post. It's not crisp and perfect like a DSLR, and it's not stealthy and sleek like a phone, it's its own thing, a cam that takes great pics with any EF lens with a shallow DoF and interesting vignetting. Also, if you get a broken EF lens that goes out farther, like one of the 75-300s that flooded the market over the last couple years, you'd have a much shallower DoF. A broken one of those should be easy to find.</p>
Although your tutorial is fantastic, please le met correct you on this : you CAN take photos with shallow depth of field on a smartphone, with the integrated camera.<br>I own an iPhone 4S and I do this regularly. In fact, many profesionnal reporters use naked phones these days (more discreet than DSLRs) and take amazing photos with it.<br>You do need a special zoom lense of macro-lense for shallow depth of field effect. You need to control the depth of field. You do this on your iPhone by choosing the focal point. The software then calculate the depth of field - the lense is not moving, but it can be done. It is limited, of course, as your subject need to be really close to you, and the zoom is not really existant on a phone.<br>BUT you CAN do it.<br><br>Now onto following your awesome tutorial :)
<p>And with Nokia Lumia 1020, you can do that even better. But thanks anyway for sharing with us. Nice tutorial. </p>
<p>Thanks for your kind comments. About the vignetting: after I posted this project I learned that it might be possible to minimize it by increasing the distance between the eyepiece and the camera. My eyepiece lets me do this by turning the lens housing clockwise on its thread inside the barrel. The disadvantage of doing this is that it reduces the size of the image, which I didn't like. I guess it's up to the user what they prefer. I wish someone could suggest a low-cost fix that let's me have it all.</p>
<p>- You can look on eBay for LOTS of old film camera lenses to choose from - zoom and fixed. Which ones would work is always the question - and which will, combined with the homebuilt mount - give you photos with NO vignetting. Some years ago, I did a whole article on this - with a few digital cameras and a variety of scopes - I did not use a smartphone. Something new to try. Thanks for the ible.<br>.</p>
<p>amazing job!</p>
<p>Awesome! I will be trying this!</p>
<p>Thanks for sharing. </p>
Wow! This is a really great idea! Thanks for sharing it :)

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