Owners of a Flip HD video camera should be aware of the versatility and the level of customization these lightweight cameras posses. Although the video quality is lesser in comparison to more expensive digital cameras, for not much money and minor handy work, any Flip HD camera can be drastically improved. The most effective way to increase the picture quality and insure the image being captured is what you, the artist, needs for his/her film, is by adding lenses. Some lenses can be bought for less than $10 off bargain sites or online marketplaces, and some can be found in the form of cheap toys and party favors like kaleidoscopes and macro lenses even. This is an economical project beneficial to productivity that doesn't take long and can completely transform the way you use your Flip HD. You may also see helpful tips for using duct tape, an interesting filming instrument, and possible ideas for subject matter and filming techniques.
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Step 1: Macro Lens (No Step-up Ring)
Lens and Spacer
To make a cheap macro lens you first need to find a magnifying eye piece. These can be found some times in the cheap toy sections of stores or as party favors. I found this one at an university fair booth. Also you will need a small rubber spacer to insure a tight fit of the lens and the camera face. I used a 3.5cm rubber car tire from a toy car, cut in half horizontally. You will also need a hands length, quarter width strip of of duct tape (more duct tape will be required later).
First attach the tire to the lens. I cut the tire open so that it would fit around the eye piece of the lens. Rip the strip of duct tape just enough to join the tire and lens. The rubber spacer the tire acts as will make the lens, which has a level bottom, fit better on the curved face of the Flip HD camera.
Step 2: Macro Lens (No Step-up Ring)
Lens to Camera
Now attach the lens and spacer piece to the camera. You will need another, fatter (about half the width of the roll of duct tape) piece of tape, the lens piece and the camera. First make sure the lens is centered. Viewing through the camera, there is a lot of the image cropped out by the lens, so film with the camera zoomed in all the way. With the camera zoomed in, center the lens so that the image is not cropped out any. Some of the picture may be still shadowed by the lens itself, but if it is centered it should be negligible. Once the lens is centered, you'll have to begin taping the lens on tightly, while not moving the lens position on the camera. Setting the camera screen down on a towel and pressing the lens and spacer combo down in its centered position and tape around the piece with the other hand. It helps to tape in short, straight paths and incrementally changing direction so as to circle the lens with a secure tape job. To provide slightly more support and a cleaner appearance, another strip of tape can be taped over the seam where the lens piece was taped to the camera.
Step 3: Macro Lens (No Step-up Ring)
With the macro lens, you can film insects, plants, textures, and small type or engravings in rich detail at 720p HD. It is handy to have around when a fly lands on the rim of your soda can, or to look at a fresh scrape from falling off your bike. Movement of the camera is apparent even when minimal, so it is necessary to keep the camera still and a tripod is highly recommended. I ran into the problem of wanting to shoot down at insects, specifically ants and ant hills; something a tripod can't do easily. I built an instrument to do so of LEGO Technic allowing for the camera to be held steady and by turning a knob which raises and lowers the distance between the object being filmed and the lens manually focusing in and out like a microscope. The instrument can also be used to hold the camera facing forward with adjustable pitch and yaw for normal shots. Unfortunately I am still in the process of making an Instructable for the instrument. Here are a few stills shot with the macro lens.
Step 4: Telephoto/Wide Angle Lens With Step Up Ring
You may have seen similar mods with the same approx.$7 lens (PlatinumPlus by Sunpak, Camcorder conversion lens, 2.0X Telephoto), but this is a somewhat different take. It will require another rubber spacer, or just the other half of the toy tire from the Macro mod, duct tape, super glue or better yet: model cement, step up rings for a camera and a lens that fits the rings. Make sure the lens you purchase is going to be what you need for your film and be sure to not spend too much. A Telephoto lens will zoom the image and make your shot closer, wide angle lens will widen the field of view'; but I will be demonstrating how a telephoto lens can be put on backwards and make a pretty decent wide angle lens in a following section..
Cleaning Flip HD
There may be residue left from duct tape so to clean off the Flip HD you will need cotton balls or a regular cotton towel and isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Apply the alcohol to a corner of the towel and rub residue off of camera face. Using a cleaner part of the towel you can clean the rest of the face to insure a strong stick for another tape application.
Step 5: Telephoto/Wide Angle Lens With Step Up Ring
Step Up Ring to Rubber Spacer
Step Up rings are universally sized and allow for the lens to be changed. If you get your step up rings in a kit or with a lens then there will be different size rings. The size differences do not matter much for the Flip mod because it won't be screwing into the camera, but just so I used the smallest one, 25-37mm. The rubber spacer, when attached to the step up ring, will allow for a tight, flush fit of the lens and the face of the Flip HD.
You will need a strong plastic cement like model glue, but super glue will work with lesser assurance of durability. A round piece of rubber or a toy car tire cut in half like the 3.5cm tire used in the macro mod will be needed. Finally, a weight to hold down the step up ring while the glue dries.
Working on a flat surface clean of debris and not effected by stray glue, your Flip camera or any extra lens out of the way because the glue could ruin both, will reduce the chances of messing anything up.
Set the rubber spacer down flat so that the side which the lens will be attached to is facing up and the side attaching to the camera is down. Now apply a bead of glue, it doesn't take much, around the side facing up. Place step up ring on top of spacer and press down insuring a firm hold of the glue. Set a balanced weight on top of the step up ring glued to the spacer and leave for a few hours.
Step 6: Telephoto/Wide Angle Lens With Step Up Ring
Spacer and Step Up Ring to Camera
To complete attaching the telephoto lens to the Flip HD, you will need a hands length, quarter width strip of duct tape, the now dried rubber spacer and step up ring piece glued together previously, and the camera. Using a toy car tire works well as a spacer because it conforms to the curved face of the Flip camera.
It is important to see that the opening in the step up ring is lined up with the existing metal circle around the lens on the Flip camera. Using a 25-37mm ring it is easy to judge when it is straight by looking at it from directly above and lining up the rings. Now hold it tight in the same position while taping a tight fit around where the rubber spacer attaches to the Flip HD. It won't take much tape if you apply it tight enough and run it through your fingers pressing on the bond.
Now the Flip camera can benefit from a widened variety of possible shots.
Step 7: Kaleidoscope for Flip HD With Step Up Ring
Toy kaleidoscope can be found in cheap toy sections or at dollar stores and usually as party favors; I got one at Party City for $0.25. The simple ones without the colored specks work best because all you will be needing is the piece of clear plastic that is the kaleidoscope lens. Using again a round rubber spacer or a toy car tire cut in half, attach the lens with tape. Tape rather than model cement needs to be used to avoid clouding the plastic lens.
A quarter width strip of duct tape works best. Start on the outside and work your way in towards the lens but avoid taping over the opening where the camera will be filming through. I used another strip of tape to cover up some exposed adhesive from the first step. Now you have a kaleidoscope lens that fits inside of the step up ring attached to the Flip HD in the telephoto lens mod. It can be rotated to create a psychedelic effect, or as a transitions to a dream sequence in your film.
Step 8: Convert Telephoto Into Wide Angle
Even though there are equally as inexpensive wide angle lens out there, a telephoto lens can be attached backwards on the Flip camera to create a wide angle effect (with a slight fish eye distortion). You will need a telephoto lens, a hands length half width strip of duct tape, and a Flip HD camera fitted with the rubber spacer step up ring installed during the telephoto mod.
Simply place the telephoto lens on to the step up ring backwards and let the glass rest on the ring, it wont scratch without prolonged usage, and if you intend to use it often you might want to pad the contact point with soft cloth or bandage tape.
Next, wrap the duct tape around where the upside down telephoto lens and the face of the Flip camera meet and press around to secure the bond of the tape to the face. You will notice the video is now wide angle with a slight fish eye effect, useful for action shots and group videos.
*all photos shot with iPhone3GS and Flip Ultra HD