Introduction: Printable Tilt-Shift Lens Adapter

About: Maker of things. Small business builder. Follow my latest project on Twitter @joe_murphy

How to make your own 3D Printed Tilt-Shift Lens Adapter. Tilt-shift lenses are used to create a miniature effect or a very shallow depth of field in your photography. This has long been a great and well documented DIY project, mostly because professional tilt-shift lens and adaptors are very expensive (we’re talking $1000- 3000). I have created several plunger type adapters following this tutorial, much love to Bhautik Joshi's project which got me into tilt-shift photography and is a great and much used resource.  After a lot of experimentation and some impressive results, I decided it was time for a more durable solution that I could print at home on my 3D printer. 

The results is a simple, cheap, lite, and durable adapter designed to fit a micro 4/3 Panasonic GF1 to Nikon e-series mount. All files are up on thingaverse and 123D gallery under creative commons, so you can download, edit, and remix to fit your needs. Be advised that to have the best results you need to use a micro 4/3 camera with a standard 35mm lens. I really think this is just the beginning for printable adaptors and hopefully the community will take the idea and create deviations for all different kinds of camera/lens combination. 
******All votes appreciated :)*******

Step 1: What You Need + How It Works

The things you'll need for this project are pretty simple the only difficult part is selecting a proper camera/lens combo, which your can find more information on here
  1. DSLR Body - This will help you get the appropriate measurements for creating the adaptor and also help you in selecting the right lens. For this tutorial I’ll be using a Panasonic GF1 micro 4/3 camera.
  2. 35mm/Medium/Large format Lens - This depends on the type of camera body you have. 35mm and Medium format lens can be found on eBay pretty cheap, and the size lens you're looking for will depend on the type of camera you’re using. For guide-on camera body lens combinations check out this guide. However, you'll get the best results using a lens that is design for a larger format camera then you currently have. more about this here.  Example: Micro 4/3 camera with a 35mm type lens or  Canon Rebel body with a medium format lens type. For this project I’ll be using a Nikon series E 50mm 1.8 which I picked up on eBay for less than $30. 
  3. Calipers - Used to take measurements for the lens and camera for 3D model.
  4. 3D printer or Access to one - While it’s easy to print this off on your own printer at home, if you don’t have a printer you still have options. Look for a local hacker/maker space in your area using if nothing is close or they don’t have access to a 3D printer you can upload your project files to,  and have your part mailed to you. I use them a lot for laser cut projects and have never had any issues, great service. 
  5. 3D modeling program - (PC only) or (mac + PC)
How it Works: Explained by Griffin of IndyMogul
see more of their DIY tips at

Step 2: Take Measurements

We need 3 basic measurements before we can create a 3D model.

Camera Mount (adapter base)
Measures the lens that came with your camera (see image below for details on this measurement). Be sure to first measure the diameter excluding the three tabs. To do this place your calipers just inside two of the tabs and write down the nubmer. Then grab the lens that came with your camera and measure the small tabs Lenght x Weight x Height of one tab and then the distance to the next tab.  It may help to sketch this out on paper.  You might be able to find some lens measurements on this chart  or you can see if an model exists in Google’s 3D warehouse.

Lens Mount (Lens you'll attach to the adapter)
Again follow the images below to take measurements of lens that you'll be attaching to your adapter. Depending on how secure you want your lens to attach depends on the details of this measurement. I was able to get away with a simple measurement of the diameter of the Nikon e mount and was able to make sure the 3D print would be a simple press fit. (it does not lock in place, it simply presses in place instead)

Focal Distance 
Once you have selected your lens it’s time to figure out which distance it needs to be away from your camera sensor to make clear images. 

Warning: Always be aware that removing your lens exposes your sensor to dust which could stick to your sensor and mess things up. So, be very careful with this next part and try to be in a room with little to no air movement i.e. fans, windows, a/c.

Remove your existing lens from your camera body, then hold up the body and newly purchased lens until the image comes into focus (see images below). This is by no means an exact science but here are some time saving tips. Open your aperture on your lens all the way. In this case I opened mine to 1.8. Use a tripod so you can use your free hand to adjust or measure the final distance once things look in focus. You can also use a toilet paper roll during this step to help judge distance by holding the roll as a makeshift temporary adaptor, slowing cutting off sections of the roll to make it shorter and shorter until you find the correct distance. Once you have a pretty good idea of the distance from body mount to the lens, write it down and head to the computer to draw things up.

Degree of tilt
This is up for experimentation but my current model is using somewhere between a 5 and 20 degree tilt. I seem to get the best results and most range with a 10-12 degree tilt, so try that a starting point.  Here is a guide which will help you establish the perfect tilt.

Step 3: Create 3D Model

Feel free to download and modify my existing model, which can save you some time. However, I’ll also walk you through how I created this model based off the measurements we took in the previous steps. Before getting started with your first 3D model, it is good to get a grasp on some of the consideration and limitations of 3D printing. Ponoko has a great post on this topic here. A big consideration to keep in mind is that overhangs of more than 45 degrees will require a support structure which equals more printing material. Below you'll see the video of me working on this model in skechup, I've only been working in sketchup for a few weeks so if you got some pointer leave a comment below, try to keep it constructive. 

Here are the basics steps in sketchup (I'll post a video soon)
  1. work in mm
  2. Circle from center Radius 
  3. offset inside by 2mm
  4. delete center
  5. divided offset by 6
  6. top view
  7. offset 3 tabs 1.5mm byond outter ring
  8. Line tool connect tabs to ring (l) use esc to end line
  9. iso view
  10. highlight all reverse faces
  11. extrude tabs 2mm
  12. extrude circle 5mm
  13. select all right click group
  14. draw new circle on face
  15. offset 2mm and extrude 10mm
  16. select top face and rotate tool
  17. view left face
  18. rotate 10 degrees
  19. measure inner diameter
  20. highlight top again and scale till dia meets lens dia
  21. highlight all group and save as .stl using this extenuation

Step 4: Print and Test

Once the file is ready to print, make sure everything is ready to go. Once your print completes give it a good cleaning to remove any loose strings, dust, ozozy bumps, or anything that could potentially fall off and ruin your lens or camera sensor. I like to use a utility knife to clean up the print and then blow it off with and air compressor.

Attach your adapter to your lens and then to the camera. While attaching to the lens, ensure that it is a snug fit that will hold up to wind and the great outdoors. If it is loose on the lens or the adaptor mount make small adjustments with a knife to remove it and use super glue or tape to hold up parts that are too loose. Make sure things are not sticky or wet when you try to reattach them. If something’s way off, re-measure and make the required adjustments to your 3D model and reprint. This is part of the fun, I mean your freaking manufacturing  at home how cool is that!!! To add a good miniature effect to your photographs, shoot subjects from a high angle . It creates the illusion of looking down at a miniature model.

Step 5: Resources

About Tilt-Shift

Make It Real Challenge

Finalist in the
Make It Real Challenge