How to Make a Very Effective and Cheap Micro/macro Lens for an IPhone or Any Smartphone!




Introduction: How to Make a Very Effective and Cheap Micro/macro Lens for an IPhone or Any Smartphone!

In this instructable, I will explain how I've created macro lenses for my iPhone 4 by salvaging parts from old digital cameras. Why buy expensive lens attachments when they are already lying around your house? Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible for any damage you may do to your device or yourself. Follow with caution.

Step 1: Materials List

-Smart Phone
-Old Cheap Digital Camera (you can find one at a thrift store for less than $10)
-Small Precision Screwdriver
-Flathead Screwdriver 
-Wire Cutter
-Loctite Fun-Tak (REMOVABLE)
-File (optional)
-Ingenuity and any other materials that result from the former.

Keep in mind that the digital camera that you get may or may not work with this instructable. Be prepared to lose a few bucks if the camera you purchase doesn't give great results.

Step 2: Disassemble the Camera

After you have found the digital camera that you don't mind sacrificing, remove the battery from the camera. Then unscrew any screw that keeps you from opening the camera body. Every digital camera is different, so I cannot tell you exactly how to disassemble your camera. Just be safe and gentle as to not damage the lens. Also, don't shock yourself with any charge that may still be built up for the flash.

Step 3: Disassemble the Lens Assembly

We want the lenses that are in front of the optical sensor. Again, be careful and unscrew the lens assembly from the camera. For this particular camera, I found it easiest to pry it out with a flathead screwdriver. I only did this when I knew for sure I wouldn't risk damaging the lens or myself. Once it is out, discard the rest of the camera, or save it for parts for another project. Begin testing the lens with your phone. If you are not achieving a macro photo, the assembly may need to be taken apart even further. For instance, this assembly had a plastic lens and a cover/mechanism that controlled the shutter that I needed to discard. 

Step 4: Prepare Lens

Your lens will more than likely work either way you hold it in front of you phone, however one of the two ways you hold it will produce a larger picture. Whichever way you decide to attach it to your phone, it needs to be smooth. I used wire snips to cut the plastic bits off that prevented it from laying flat. You can use a file, but you risk scratching the glass.

Step 5: Attach Lens to Phone

I personally don't like the idea of using LOCTITE. I'm only offering this as a suggestion that is quick and easy but comes at a cost. It doesn't harden and any remnants of the adhesive will wipe off (especially with the glass back of the iPhone 4), but it can get into the nooks and crannies of your phone and you may not be able to get it out. If you use it, don't use a lot. If you can, make up your own way to attach it. As you can see, my first lens attachment had to be placed in a holder because part of the lens protruded out. It needed to be recessed so glass wouldn't touch glass. I have faith you can make something. If not, try the REMOVABLE Loctite Fun-Tak.

Step 6: Test Your New Macro Lens

Try out your new lens! Keep in mind that the focal distance for your attachment is very small so getting a sufficient amount of light on your subject will be an issue. You will be blocking most of the light with your phone and lens. I find using a flashlight for extra light helps. Hope you like my instructable. Check out my photos and vote for me in the Instructables Photography Contest!

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    27 Discussions

    This is great, thank you for sharing! Just an idea for affixing the lens, how about getting a cheap phone case and glueing the lens to that? I'm going to give this a go when I can find my old digi camera.

    On a side note, you seem to know a bit about photography, I don't suppose you have any ideas how to achieve Christmas light bokeh pictures with a smartphone?

    2 replies

    That's a great idea! I actually used to do something similar before I went case-less. I had an Otterbox and I would slip the lens under the rubber exterior but over the plastic shell. I think that your idea would work perfectly, especially with a dedicated back shell.

    As far as Christmas light bokeh, I hadn't ever thought of doing that technique, so I decided to try and figure out a way to do it without any photo-editing applications. The reason why we can't achieve that technique with the stock camera is because the phone is set to have a large depth-of-field. It's focusing in on the entire scene, which is also why it has a hard time focusing in on subjects that are close to the lens. Since we can't control the size of the aperture (we would need a larger aperture - small f-stop to narrow the depth-of-field), I had to manage a way to change the focus to the foreground. In order to do this I used a less powerful macro lens I had salvaged from a telephoto lens. Hope you like the pictures, and thanks for the challenge!


    Hi! How did you mix the macro lens and the telephoto lens to achieve those three pictures?

    Also, I want to ask if know how to resolve this issue I noticed with the DIY macro lens. Basically what I used was lens from a laser pointer. But every time I need to take a picture, I need to be really close to the subject. What do you do to keep the macro shot but be relatively distant from the subject? Thanks!

    i,ve been do this. but i make from telescope lens. it,s more focus use it. here i pined the picture that i,ve bee shoot with some editing with After Focus aplication


    awesome work dude. i think it will look more awesome if you attach it to a phone cover. so you can attach or detach whenever you use it. :)


    4 years ago


    Super awesome! Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the instructable

    Totally trying this tommorow!! :)

    I think the Macro is the one to the right?

    13, 1:07 PM.jpg

    This is amazing. Im working on it now, but have 3 separate lenses due to the cameras' zoom.

    Beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing. Too bad I don't have an old/cheap camera I can use....

    Is there a must to be a digital camera or can be as well an old film camera? I'm looking to have something similar on my Android phone and I have doubts if worth to dismantle an old film camera. Nice image the one with the eye :) Thanks!

    3 replies

    If it's an older cheap film camera from the 80's, most of the parts will be made of plastic which will produce photos that lack clarity. If it's an older slr, you won't find many useful parts in the camera body. However, I have taken apart some older broken slr telephoto lenses that gave me some cool telephoto and wide angle effects. The reason I suggest cheap digital cameras is because the lenses were made to focus on a small optical sensor, as opposed to a 35mm frame. Plus, I have an affinity for old film cameras and wouldn't break one if I didn't have to. Hope this helps. If anyone else has any suggestions or corrections to anything I've said, please feel free.

    This is an incredible Instructable, I finished it in one day! I'm already taking pictures of coins, fabrics, body parts and whatever else I can find, haha! Thanks for making this! I'll figure out how to make a holder attachment for it later... Any suggestions on what to keep it in to keep the lense safe till then? Thanks!

    1 reply

    Thank you, that's awesome! I had used one of those small cloth pouches that came with my earbuds and that seemed to work well. Maybe you could wrap a microfiber sheet around it (the kind you get with glasses) and secure it with a rubber band.