Introduction: Wide-angle Web Cam

In this instructable I will show you how I installed a wide-angle lens onto my webcam.

Now I can use Skype without having to sit perfectly still in an attempt to keep my face in the middle of the screen. I can move around a bit to stretch and prevent neck and back pain. People I talk to also get to see more of the background. I don't mind that, my room is always tidy :)

I used a $12 webcam and $6 wide-angle lens from DX.

If you use a different webcam and/or a different wide-angle lens you might get lucky and they will fit together perfectly. In my case there were two problems:
     1) I could not get the lens to focus - it was too close to the sensor,
     2) the wide angle lens had no IR filter installed, so daylight images looked funny.

My solution was to lift the lens socket about 1mm away from the sensor and to attach the IR filter I harvested from the lens the webcam came with.

Step 1: What You Need

Other than the webcam and the lens mentioned in the previous step, you will need very few materials and tools.

I used sugru to both lift the socket and attach the filter. One 5g pack is more than enough for this, so make sure you have a few other projects ready as it has to be used within 30 minutes of opening the package.

The only tool I needed was a small screwdriver to take apart the camera.

A slightly damp microfiber cloth might also be handy to wipe any fingerprints from the filter and the lens. Try not to get anything on the exposed sensor.

Some superglue will also come in handy.

Step 2: Part One - Fix the Focus by Lifting the Socket

1) Take the camera apart. The two screws in the back hold it together.

2) Remove the clear cover and the silver ring. You may want to glue the silver ring back in place (it will look better that way), but you have to remove its two feet before you do that. If you don't, then they will get in the way later when you will be putting the camera back together - the socket also has two "feet" (where the screws come in from the back) and these "feet" will now be about 1 mm closer to the front of the camera.

3) Get the lens socket off the circuit board. To do this simply remove the remaining two screws from the back.

4) Open a pack of sugru, scoop it up and roll it in your hands for a bit (just read the instructions that come with it). Take a small piece, form a ball and roll it out into a thin snake. A bit more that 1 mm in diameter is OK. (You don't want the socket to be any higher than that, but you want enough of the material around the socket to ensure there are no holes.)

5) Apply the snake around the perimeter of the lens socket. Press the socket lightly back into place. Make sure it's aligned well. The two holes in the circuit board where the screws used to pass through can be helpful here. Also look from the sides to ensure it's level.

6) If needed, lightly press on sugru from the sides to close any gaps and prevent light leakage. Or to make it look prettier :) Do not press it all the way down, the whole point of this was to lift it up by about 1mm. Check the alignment again when you're done!

6) Let it dry for 24 hours as instructed, then put the camera back together. You can attach the lens later with the rest of the camera already assembled. You can also swap it with another lens if you wish. The original lens still fits but you won't be able to get it focused now.

Step 3: Part Two - Attaching the IR Filter

1) Make sure the filter is clean (at least on the side facing in because you can't get to it later).

2) Roll a small bit of surgu into a snake and  place it around the rim of the bottom part of the lens.

3) Carefully place the IR filter on top of the snake and press it down slightly.

4) Make sure you don't have any sugru hanging over the outside edge because you want to be able to screw the lens back in. Try not to get any on the filter either.

5) Let it sit for 24 hours then wipe any fingertips from the filter.

6) Screw the lens into the lifted socked and you should now be able to get it focused.

And that's it. Check out the last step for some ideas if you don't know what to do with the left-over sugru. Take a look at their blog for more or think up some hacks of your own!

Step 4: What I Did With Left-over Sugru

The 5g package of sugru looks really small and I was pleasantly surprised when I had enough left over to finish half the hacks from my list. Yes, I made a list of what I need to do as soon as my sugru arrives. :)

1) I've bought a wide-angle adapter for my netbook a while ago. It comes with two metal rings you are supposed to glue around the camera. The one on my mobile phone fits perfectly. The one on the netbook does not because the screen bezel is rounded. Only the bottom half was attached and there was a gap at the top. The adapter contains a magnet that attaches to the ring temporarily and I was afraid the metal ring will come off every time I pulled the adapter away. Now I've filled the gap with some sugru. (Please ignore the smudges on the lens and the ring. They are just water. I took this photo moments after I put sugru in place and used a drop of water to smooth the surface. I had to wait a day for it to dry before I could wipe them off. It looks all shiny now.)

2) I've added a few blobs of sugru to my phone charger. I can now rest the phone on top while charging and it is no longer in danger of being sat on or pushed off the chair (where it usually sat while being recharged).

3) I have an old digital watch I never wear because the band broke a few weeks after I bought it. A bit of superglue fixed it but it looked horrible. Two blobs of sugru cover that and blend in perfectly.

4) I wrapped the final bit around a pencil (covered in cling wrap) to hold my headphones together like this.

If you have any more ideas I'd love to hear about them. Constructive criticism and suggestions are also welcome.