Introduction: Turn Your Old DSLR Into a Microscope!

Picture of Turn Your Old DSLR Into a Microscope!

Did you know you can use your SLR's zoom lens as a microscope? I didn't!

My uncle gave me an old SLR film camera that he didn't need, Because he knows that I love taking electronic devices apart, I was really happy because I'd never taken apart a SLR camera! A couple minutes later, My 5 year old cousin came to me and asked me "What are you doing with that camera?" So I told her that I want to take it apart and save all of the small parts, Because I might be able build something out of them (as I always do).

Just for fun (and to make her laugh), I removed the zoom lens and held it up to her face as if I was a pirate that was looking through binoculars, And what did I see? Well, Nothing, Because it was out of focus.

This gave me an idea: I know knew that the lens should magnify something, So I looked far away, But everything was still totally blurry. I thought that if it doesn't work when I look far away, Then it might work for a close up: I looked at my hand, And yes: I could see the tiny dust particles that were on my hand! I was SHOCKED! I have a free microscope!

Yes, I know this a weird story, But it is 100% true!

I'm sure will use this a lot, And what could be better that a free microscope? A microscope with incredible magnification like this will probably set you a few hundred dollars back!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:


A DSLR Camera (Canon EOS Rebel Ti- SLR Film Camera)

Super Glue (Epoxy can work too)

A Small Handle (this was salvaged from a broken toolbox)

Silicone Adhesive

2 Zip-ties





Wire Cutters

High Power Lighting (I used SpectrumLED with only the cool LED's on max. brightness)

A Smartphone (If you want to take pictures)


Why: Reuse that old dust collector (AKA camera) that you don't need!

Protection Gear Needed: None

Cost (for me): FREE!

Needed Skills: Gluing, Hacksaw-ing

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Step 2: Remove the Lens

Picture of Remove the Lens

To remove the lens, Press on the button that I've shown in the picture, You might have to turn it a bit until it pops off.

These are 28-90mm lens, In case you're wondering

Step 3: Fully Extend the Lens, and Super-Glue It in Place

Picture of Fully Extend the Lens, and Super-Glue It in Place

Fully extend the lens (maximum zoom), And glue them in place with Super-Glue. Drop a few drops through the crack, As I show in the picture.

Because the picture will be totally blurry if it isn't extended to the maximum, It is a good idea to add glue, So you don't have to manually adjust it every time...

Step 4: Saw the Handle

Picture of Saw the Handle

I wanted to add a handle to make it more comfortable to hold, Because it would help your hand from aching and shaking...

I used a handle that I salvaged from a broken toolbox (don't buy cheap ones!), And sawed part of the handle off, As shown in the picture.

Step 5: Glue & Zip-Tie the Handle on the Lens

Picture of Glue & Zip-Tie the Handle on the Lens

First, I glued the handle onto the lens with Silicone Adhesive.

And after that, I added two Zip-Ties on each end to help hold it with more strength. A Hose Clamp will work too.

Step 6: Example Pictures

Picture of Example Pictures

These pictures were taken with a phone camera, Which means the quality isn't the best. When I look through it with my eyes, I can see dust particles on ceramic capacitors, Yes! THAT SMALL!

Oh, This has already saved a pretty expensive appliance in our house, That had a burnt transistor


Yonatan24 (author)2016-01-19

If you don't have a zoom lens of a camera that you don't use, You can always take only the idea from this Instructable, It will still work fine as a microscope...

This is a film camera so I can't use it even if I want to

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-01-19

Yep, I could have sold the camera on eBay, But a microscope would probably cost a lot more than than what I could sell it for

alamaral (author)Yonatan242016-02-04

Anyone trying this might want to stay away from superglue because the fumes can all but destroy the lenses. They will bind to any fingerprints or other oils and you'll never be able to remove them. Probably better to use hot glue, which will also fill any gaps easily and has the advantage of being removable if necessary.

Yonatan24 (author)alamaral2016-02-04

That's true, Hot glue could be better for making this :)

3967 (author)2016-09-11

I use a cheap 3$ Webcam with manual fixfocus objectives. The can
changed to an extreme near focus ( approx 1cm) so you have a fullsreen
view of electronices

Yonatan24 (author)39672016-09-12

I don't have a webcam, but I'll keeo that in mind.

Thanks for the tip! :)

RonC36 (author)2016-01-20

Just an FYI for you.... Such lenses are not junk just because they are attached to an old film camera. Most are fully compatible with new DSLR cameras especially Canon and Nikon SLR lenses and including the one you show in your photos. The lens you are using is actually a nice consumer quality lens that is still sold by Canon - for around $190 new and between $20 and $30 on eBay. Not to spoil your fun but I'm quite sure you can buy or make a much better microscope than this lens makes for less than that. You are to be commended for your creativity though!

Yonatan24 (author)RonC362016-01-20

Uh-oh... :)

alanjamesblair (author)Yonatan242016-03-14

This was my first thought. However, using this idea, we now have a way to recycle all those old FD and AE lenses. But EOS are still usable.

Near me there is an electronics Goodwill where I can pick up an old FD lens for a few bucks. I use them to do silly things like DIY tilt-focus. But something like this seems perfect! Thanks for the idea, yonatan24!

Sorry. I meant EF lenses for the EOS systems.

николайм (author)2016-02-04

очень плохая идея. Мало того что испортили объектив, так еще и результат отвратительный, изображение не покрывает и пол кадра.

And in English...?

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-02-05

Google Translate:

You wrote: "A very bad idea. Besides that messed up the lens, so also the result of a hideous, the image does not cover even half of the frame"

Why do you say messed up the lens? These lens can still be mounted on a camera, And the super-glue can easily be broken off because of its fragile properties. This Microscope is NOT meant to be used as a photography microscope, When I look through it with my eyes, I can see the full image...

Why don't you keep your "hideous" thoughts about my projects to yourself, This microscope was made for me, Not you... Thanks...

Gursimran Singh 425 (author)2016-01-29

Congartulations on winning !! :-)

Thank you so much! I have to admit that I'm pretty surprised that I won, This is such an easy project!

I think the difficulty level doesn't matter you have nice and clear pictures as well as new idea!! It is just awesome!! You deserve this!! Rock on!! :-)

12Samzo34 (author)2016-01-19

Great idea. Just to say, of the camera uses film its not going to be digital, so its an SLR, not DSLR.

Yonatan24 (author)12Samzo342016-01-20

Thanks for pointing that out! I didn't know that :)

Now that makes a lot of sense, because I've seen the term "Digital-SLR". I'll keep the title as DSLR but I'll change the camera that I have to SLR

Thanks :)

evrenucar (author)2016-01-19

Not a microscope sadly... You can much get better results with a laser lens attached to your phone camera...

Yonatan24 (author)evrenucar2016-01-20

It might not be a "microscope", But it definitely does act like a microscope. As you might see in step #6, The pictures are really bad, But when I look at it only with my eyes, I can see it a lot better...

Sajtqkac (author)2016-01-19

Try to use the lens backwardly. I use an old kit lens with faulty focus ring backwardly with a ring between the end of the lens and the camera, and it works as a really great macro lens. You have to manually open the blende. (A small slider at the camera side of the lense)

lapenta (author)2016-01-19

nice idea. I'd use assemble some leds to lighten up the subject. I'll try to make one and if I do it, I'll post here.

Yonatan24 (author)lapenta2016-01-19

Cool, An LED ring light would be great for this!

discostu956 (author)2016-01-19

I think my wife has an old 35mm slr sitting in the cupboard......liking this idea! Nice

Yonatan24 (author)discostu9562016-01-19

Awesome Make sure to let me know if it works!

About This Instructable




Bio: 15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!
More by Yonatan24:How to Enlarge a Washer (No Drill Press Needed!)How to Sharpen a Japanese Saw10 MORE Bench Vise Tips, Tricks, & Hacks (Part 2)
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