Another DIY Micro-Macro Lens




About: It is my personal goal to learn how to do and/or make everything before I die. Just in case there is an apocalypse and I have to do it all myself.

While experimenting with a variety of "other-purpose" lenses. I discovered I had the makings of a really amazing micro lens in my telescope eyepiece collection. While you may not already have the eyepiece described, you can buy one cheap. I have seen them on eBay for $10.

The following Instructable shows how to create an adaptable mount for this eyepiece (or any 1.25" eyepiece for that matter) on ANY digital camera. My total financial investment, including the eyepiece, is $25. I could have bought a ready-made adapter for a mere $200. That's more than I bought the camera for on eBay.

And if that is not enough for you, this Instructable requires no special tools, like laser cutters, oscilloscopes, SLA rapid prototype machines, nor nuclear centrifuges!!!

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Step 1: Gather Your Tools

1. A compass with one sharp point.
2. A rotary tool, like the Dremel, with a cut-off tool, small drill bit, and grinder. (handy, but not mandatory)
3. An X-Acto knife or other utility knife.
4. Needle-nose pliers.
5. A very small screwdriver.
6. A can of flat black spray paint, if desired.

Next Image:
7. 1/8 inch black crepe tape (optional)
8. Black marker
9. Fine sand paper
10. Small rubber bands
11. Needle file (optional)

This is what used. However, being the ever-resourceful people that you are, feel free to substitute as desired.

Step 2: Raw Materials

1. A wide-angle telescope lens.
I chose a 25mm KE (Kellner) lens from my collection. The wider the angle, the less vignetting you will have. The bigger the mm measurement, the wider the angle. There are three standard barrel sizes: .965, 1.25, and 2 inch. This is a 1.25. The KE lens is an inexpensive "starter" lens. They are about $30 new, but I have seen them for $10 or less on eBay.

2. A PVC coupler set: 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inside diameter.
There are two pieces sold separately with a threaded base that joins them. You can find them in any hardware store in the plumbing dept for about $5 total. I chose these flared pieces so that I can add a DIY ring light to the front end surrounding the telescope eyepiece, but that's for a later project.

3. Screws.
Three small computer screws and four really small screws. My "really small screws" were from the inside of a kid's battery powered toothbrush that I took apart for the little electric motor.

Step 3: Install Set Screws in PVC Upper

Drill 3 holes slightly smaller than the threaded end of the screw. Place them as equally as possible around the narrowed down portion at about the last thread of the PVC. These holes should go all the way through.

Now, screw your set screws in with pliers or a computer sized nut-driver, if you are lucky enough to have one. The PVC is soft enough, that the screws will tap their own threads and hard enough to hold the threads without stripping.

These will hold your eyepiece firmly in place.

Step 4: Try Out the Fit

Put your telescope eyepiece in backwards. That is, the glass part that would normally be close to your eye will now be facing out from the camera.

Lesson for the day: If you hold any camera or telescope lens backward and in front of your camera's lens, you will create a de facto Macro lens. I like to try every lens that I come across in front of every camera I own to test various configurations.

There is enough play that you can adjust the angle of the eyepiece a small amount to square it to the camera's lens.

Step 5: Fit the Lens Mount

You want a fairly close fit to the camera body. Place the lower portion of the PVC set on the face of the camera, centering the camera's lens as close as possible. You may need to prop up one side to make it level. I used a washer under the left side, as seen in the photo.

Using a pair of dividers or a compass, trace a line onto the PVC, while holding the dull point against the camera face, riding over every bump. If you do this carefully, you will get a line that closely matches the camera face scribed into the PVC surface. An added precaution might be to cover your camera face with masking tape, so that you won't scratch it.

I traced over the line with Chartpak 1/8 inch crepe tape. This helps me see the line while cutting. You could also trace it with a permanent marker.

Step 6: Trim the Lens Mount

Using a high-speed rotary tool, like the Dremel, trim to your line.

Please clean the dust off the PVC. All that fine dust can muck up your camera's lens mechanisms.

Now, check the fit. It does not have to be perfect, but it should be level and square to the camera face. The camera's lens should be roughly centered.

Make adjustments with a grinding attachment to the Dremel, if necessary.

Step 7: Drill Holes for Lens Mount

Drill four very small holes in the lower PVC piece, slightly smaller than your very small screws. These holes only need to be about 1/16 to 1/8 inch deep. Don't go all the way through, if you can help it. If you do, it's not a show-stopper.

I have noted the location of the two upper holes in red in the image. There will also be two symmetrically opposite on the lower part of that little PVC flange that you can't see from this view.

NOTE: Take the PVC piece off the camera first.

Step 8: Paint the Lens Housing

Screw the upper and lower PVC together and take out the screws. Lightly sand the PVC with 150 grit or finer. The paint will adhere better. Paint the whole thing, in and out, flat black.

This helps block scattering of light inside and makes people think you have some mega-expensive lens attached to your camera, instead of some plumbing. If you are particularly mischievous, you might consider adding some white lettering decals with technical-looking numbers and nomenclature for added effect.

Let it dry 24 hours. Flat black paint "looks" dry in about 15 minutes. Don't be fooled.

Step 9: Replace the Screws

Put your screws back into the Lens Housing. The paint will give you a little tighter fit. Crank the very small screws in pretty tight. Use your judgment here. You don't want to strip the little buggers out. But if you do, stick them back in with some epoxy. They should never need to come back out again.

Admire your creation. It's like a little piece of sculpture.

Step 10: Put It All Together

Put the lens in the upper and gently tighten the set screws until the lens seems tight.

Use rubber bands to hold the whole enchilada onto the camera. I found four small rubber bands worked well, two on each side. The very small screws are your attachment points.

The other objects in the image will be my test subjects.

Step 11: Take Some Test Shots

Find some objects with really fine detail, some flat, some with more depth.

My Canon S50 has 3X optical zoom. Zoom all the way out to your camera's max OPTICAL zoom (don't bother with digital zoom, it won't help) to minimize vignetting (that's the black outer circle you see through microscopes.)

With such a high magnification, there is a serious shake issue. Either put your camera on a tripod or set it on a table. Now, scoot the object up to the lens until it is in focus. In my set up, the object needs to be within 5mm of the glass surface of the lens.

Or, if you like a challenge, try to hold it in your hands. You will need LOTS of light. White LED booklights and flashlights work reasonably well.

Step 12: Test Depth of Field

This is not mandatory, but I like to know what I got.

Place an accurate scale on a 60 degree angle and take a shot. You can measure your DoF. The bold numbers pictured are tenths of an inch. The lines are hundredths of an inch.

In a 30 60 90 right triangle, the short leg (depth) is one half the hypotenuse (the image). It looks to me that the in-focus portion is about 6 or 7 hundredths of an inch. That makes my DoF about 3 to 3.5 hundredths of an inch (.03 in) or .89mm. Wow! Almost a whole mm!

Step 13: Take Some Fun Pictures

1. A dandelion bud with a little red mite who wouldn't stand still.

2. A strand of braided picture hanging wire.

Step 14: Make Adapters

Now I must make the adapter for my digital elph S320 and I will be able to use the same lens set up by screwing it into the new adapter. This one only costs an additional $3.50.

Have fun. I have work to do.

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    36 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Quick questions so is it the telescope Eye piece that gives the magnification, or the bigger lens at the end? I not good with the techincal talk I just can see something and build it. I just got a camera and been experimenting with macro, HX300 Camera with 50x Optical Zoom

    DSC-HX300 Any advice on how to make this a better macro camera. I was trying magnifying glasses, so far going ok but really interested using telescopes

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    The better quality of lens you can find, the better your results will be. Telescope lenses tend to be fairly well made, so I have found that they work pretty well, although they also tend to get a black fretted circle around your image unless you get it positioned just so.

    Another idea is to see if you can find some old camera lenses at a retail shop. Since no one uses film based SLR cameras anymore, you can find high quality lenses for less than $10, or maybe even a few dollars. Try placing the lens both forward and backward in front of your camera's lens.


    9 years ago on Step 8

     Regardind flat paint...  Many tears ago y was very involved in Photography, working as a helper for a Pro Advertizing Photographer.  He was suscribed to many Photo Magazines, in one of them (I believe it was a "Modern Photography" issue from probably 1972 or so), there was an extremely well written article, kind of a review where several top quality 35 mm SLR cameras were being tested for "flare resistance"... the test set-up consisted of four long fluorescent tubes arrranged in the periphery of the visual field, jus outside of the visual frame.  Those were lit and were extremely bright against the background, and subjected the camera and lens to a very difficult test; different cameras and lenses were tried.  They found that "body" flare was produced by the inside of the camera box surfaces, and the best camera body of all the ones tested was the FUJICA ST-701, which was not better than their Canon or Nikon equivalents generaly speaking, but where it was REALLY OUTSTANDING, was its freedom from internal reflections, owing to its absolutely better internal coating, which was made of a kind of "plush" or "Velvet" fabric, with a lot of short piles which absorb the light better than ANY so called flat paints. My photography master was so decided that he got a discarded ST-701 just to get the velvety internal coating material to re-coat or line the interior of his trusty Nikon-F, because the flat paint inside the Nikon was actually of a dark gray color, but the velvety material of the FUJICA was much better at avoiding and supressing internal reflections, making it better than factory new!

    So, if you can, get a very black velvet piece to line the interior of the lens barrel; but beware, test it to see if it sheds any fiber, because the sensor on digital cameras attract all dust or fibers by electrostatic charge, and not all cameras have sensor cleaning mechanisms!

    Good luck.

    1 reply

    VERY good advise...
    A small test with etching/frosting spray and black flat paint did prove pretty useful with no worry for the fibers going loose.

    I have heard of literally "velvet" sprays but could not find one nor test it.

    Thanks so much for the heads-up!

    Wonderful instructable as well. Not that it is the first ever DIY macro crash course out there. But the result is rather neat.
    If I ever concider giving it a go I think I would try to also purchase a few white letter-a-sets that were out before laser printers were as common.

    Thank you for going through the trouble of sharing this with us.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 10

    Thanks for the comment, Lee. I just got a new camera, so I will have to make a few adjustments to the mounting section.


    10 years ago on Step 10

    tis a good point, rsw56. As with most hand crafted objects, many decisions are made based on that particular object with what we have on-hand.


    10 years ago on Step 10

    Depending on the camera, you might be able to skip the "four small screws" step and simply crisscross the rubber bands placing them as far out as the threaded area, if necessary.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    very nice, I might use this to take pictures of insect poo! I recently designed a pack of cards called Plop Trumps (cf. Top Trumps), after my kid suggested I do it. The best poos were the cricket and the cockroach, but very hard to take a good picture of because they are so small and the microscope I tried to use had absolutely no depth of field so was useless really. But this could work. Question is, what is the thing that determines depth of field and how could one improve it?

    4 replies

    Thanks, Kaptin!

    Depth of field, as you undoubtedly know, is a function of magnification, f/stop, and aperture. This becomes tricky as telescope lenses have different systems of labeling lenses than camera lenses.

    When we get to this range between micro and macro, DoF is very shallow no matter what you use. I have 4 or 5 lenses I use for my micro/macro images. Through experimentation, I have a pretty good idea which lens I want to use, with which camera, to get a desired result.

    My simplistic rule of thumb is that less power = more depth of field.

    With microscopes, you pretty much get a 2D DoF, that is "none".

    One trick I use is to place the camera on a tripod or sit it on a nice level surface. I hook the camera up to the mac with a cable. Then I use some simple software that allows me to release the shutter through a push of the space bar. Without touching the camera, I scoot the object closer and closer until it is in focus on the monitor. Ideally, the object would be sitting on a microscope slide tray that you could move tiny increments with the adjustment screws.

    That's a good idea, because if you take multiple pictures at different distances you could combine them in photoshop to get a completely in focus item. I tried this with the locust and cricket poo, but it was very hit and miss, with me holding the camera and taking 3 images one focussed on the front one on the middle and one on the back of the subject. For the cricket one which is tiny I had to use sharpening and some other post production techniques which were a bit of a cheat really.


    Yes, I have done this on occasion and it works pretty well for me to combine a couple of shots into one. Those are some nice pooh pictures.

    Yes... mmm, I took 40 such pictures although not all were such close ups, and then I made then into a pack of cards. It was my son's idea, Plop Trumps (cf Top Trumps), I'm selling them on my website here, if you want a look! :-)


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Now make an Instructable on making your own T-mount telescope adapter--especially if you base it on a Canon EOS. I have the telescope (130mm Newtonian) and I have the camera (My sister's EOS Rebel and my friend's big fancy one that cost more than my car), but no way to attach the two. Sad face. Tear.

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Dude... google for "EOS t-mount adaptor" without the quotes, you can get one under $10... can't event build one that cheap.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    That's a little more of a challenge. But, believe it or not, I am working on it. You can buy the set up at which will actually spec the mount for you. However, it will set you back a couple hundred bucks.
    Since that is more than my eBay purchased camera, I'll continue with the DIY version.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Would this work with other types of lens or even professional lens if you can attach then to this one way or another?

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Any type of camera, telescope, or microscope lens will work. You just need to place it backwards in front of your camera lens and at the right distance away from the camera's lens (easy trail and error). For this application, the tricky part is creating an adapter that could accommodate the range of lens barrel diameters which go from .75 inch to 2 inches. I am sure it is possible. I just haven't had the patience to tackle it.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I am on the verge of buying my first Dcam, will definitely give this a try. I like the staging area for your photographs, the green chequered background you use automatically give an idea of the size of things in the pictures. Perhaps you can turn that into an instructable too, or share a printable version of it here.