IPhone Macro Lens




About: I'm a toolmaker, general hack, and I'm good at drinking coffee. Sometimes I draw.

I've always loved close-up photography starting with a book I remember from first grade on spiders. I actually couldn't get past the first few pages of the book without freaking out and slamming the book shut, but I always came back for more.

About a year ago I made a clip-on lens for my iPhone and everyone is always asking me where I got it. It's very easy to make with just a few tools and materials. I'm not the first person to make one of these, but this is my take on it.

Step 1: Gather the Materials and Tools

The first thing you need to do is gather the materials and tools for assembling the lens.

Tools: pliers, small drill bits, X-Acto knife and/or saw, fine metal file and/or sandpaper, hair dryer or heat gun, tweezers, wire cutters

Materials: 4" of .04" music wire, disposable camera, 1/16" heat shrink tubing (4"+, 1 or more colors), super glue or RTV, O-ring assortment

The camera can be one that you have and have used up and removed the film, or you can ask for a used one from a one hour photo lab.

Step 2: Cover and Bend the Wire

Take a length of the music wire and slide a 4" length of the heat shrink tubing over it and heat it up. The tubing will shrink and hold on to the wire.

Snip the wire to length (4"), if you haven't already before covering the wire with the heat shrink.

Using the pliers, shape the wire as shown in the photo. Each of the sides should be about 1/2". You will make a total of six 90 degree bends. Be careful about squeezing the wire too much with the pliers; they will damage the heat shrink around the tubing. Put a couple of layers of tape around the jaws of the pliers, if that helps.

Step 3: Add the Heat Shrink Banding

Cut some 1/8" long pieces of heat shrink in different colors. This will be for the banding on the wire, which will help hold it on the iPhone, keep it from scratching the phone, and make it easier to see when you misplace it. (That will happen A LOT).

Slide the pieces onto the bent wire and use heat to shrink them in place. Don't try to do them all at once, they will slip out of place.

Step 4: Salvage the Lens

Start to crack open the camera. There are two parts you want off of it: the lens and the outside bezel. The bezel will probably be part of the whole front plate. Try to choose a camera with a bezel that is small enough to use. The one I found has a bezel about 3/4" in diameter.

Pry open the clips. There should be two on either end of the camera.

Take out the lens and set it aside.

Cut the bezel off the front plate. The plastic will probably be thin and it should cut easily with a small X-Acto saw blade.

Step 5: Clean Up the Bezel

Smooth the back of the bezel with a piece of sandpaper or a file.

Step 6: Glue the Lens and O-ring

Drop the lens into the bezel and make sure there aren't any little tabs or standoffs preventing the lens from seating into it for gluing.

Apply a VERY small amount of glue and place the lens in the bezel with tweezers. Too much glue will create a haze on the lens and get all over the place. If you are at all worried about hazing the lens, use an industrial white glue or RTV. Allow time for it to cure before proceeding.

Find an o-ring that will fit into the back of the bezel and around the lens. This will help hold the lens in place when on the phone.

Glue the o-ring in place. Use super glue or RTV. RTV will take a couple hours to cure, at least.

Step 7: Finish Bending the Wire

Fit the bent wire on the phone and make where the arms pass the lens on the phone. You will want to make 90 degree bends here and then trim the wire.

Bend the wire as shown in the photo and clip. Leave about 1/8" after the bend.

Trim off a bit of the heat shrink and shrink a little band around the cut end.

Step 8: Prepare the Lens for Mounting on the Clip

Drill two holes into the edge of the bezel 180 degrees opposite each other. The hole should be a snug fit for the wire. You can use a short piece of the wire for a drill. The clipped end of the wire should be sharp enough from the wire cutter. Or you can heat the wire and plunge it into the bezel and melt the holes.

Attach the bent wire clip to the bezel. That's basically it! Mount the lens to the phone for a final fit check.

Step 9: Use It!

Go take pictures! The great thing about the lens on the iPhone is that it will allow you to take ground level shots, which is perfect for macro photography.

You can see more on my blog, Sir Richard's Tool Kit.



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    34 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I made one that I think looks "professional"


    3 years ago on Step 9

    The website of Sir Richard's Tool Kit does not exist anymore.


    I tried to make comparison with Nikon 60mm http://www.product-shot.co.uk/blog/nikon-60mm-first-choice-macro-shooter/. Even though it is not as good as a professional macro lens but still great for general purpose and off-course great idea too.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi this looks great!
    What focal distance does it achieve - I'm looking for something that would scan micro QR codes at very short distances on things like brochures.


    8 years ago on Step 9

    There are so many good things about this i'ble. Well-written, clear, good photos, and many tips about building which any hobbyist can use. Thanks for all the work you did in creating this and posting it.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    FANTASTIC!! I am getting to this one right now! Very well done! I have several different lens ideas to try today. I will post my finished project! Thanks!

    No one knows what you mean by "rill". What is a rill? I think you're using the wrong word. Speak English, not text-speak. If you can't, then get an adult to spell it properly for you.

    joey, please, for everyones reading pleasure, try to use spellcheck and grammar. It's sad to see people comment in "text speak"


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    bit of advice, use the proper spelling of come, the other one could get you in trouble sometimes.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Wikipedia told me that "In fluvial geomorphology, a rill is a narrow and shallow incision into soil resulting from erosion by overland flow or surface runoff that has been focused into a 'thin thread' by the soil surface texture of roughness." Not that that helps very much. :P


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is an awesome idea and I will def try it, but it would probably be a good idea to add a warning about opening up disposable cameras. The capacitors used for the flash are pretty dangerous.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well, idk man, I took one apart right after I used the flash and I had white dots in my eyes, biggest shock of my life haha


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Dangerous? Not really. Hurt like heck? Yeah. I mean sure, it would be dangerous for children and maybe people with pacemakers, but the volts and amps are much lower than a taser or stun gun last time I checked.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    yeah i gave my self a lil owwie when i disassembled one for an atomic joy buzzer hahaha


    This is amazing, I am VERY impressed!
    Pictures i took: