Incredible DIY IPhone Macro




About: A Bay Area native interested in electronics, mechanics, and robotics, and automobiles. Formerly the electronics captain of Team 100 in the FIRST Robotics Competition, I now study Mechanical Engineering at U...

After taking apart dozens of disposable cameras over the years, I found myself with a lot of lenses of varying sizes and nothing to use them for... until now!

By making a simple carriage that would hold the lens and attach to my iPhone via rubber band, I was able to make a virtually free macro lens that takes amazingly close shots in practically no time at all.  In this Instructable, I will build one with 2 lenses, one on each end, so you can take shots of different macro level just by flipping the carriage around!  Let's get started...

Step 1: Parts N Stuff

To make this lens assembly, we'll only need a few parts, but each part could conceivably by swapped out for something similar with no ill effects:

Lens(es) - To be honest, I think I got these lenses out of disposable cameras.  They had been sitting on my desk for a while, but I'm pretty sure they are.  As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the diameter, the more macro you'll get out of it.  You may also find good lenses to use from cheap laser pointers.

Balsa Wood - This is the material I chose to make the carriage for my macro lenses because it's incredibly easy to cut and work with, and I had it lying around.  Optimally, your carriage material would be the same thickness as your lens so you don't capture it in your pictures, but for me I found that a bit of overhang actually creates sort of a cool vignette.

Rubber Band -This is to attach the carriage to your iPhone (or any phone, for that matter).  Probably the best thing for the job, as I wouldn't suggest duct tape.  Or Gorilla Glue...

You'll also need an X-Acto knife or something similarly sharp to cut the balsa wood.

Step 2: Carriage Fitment

The first thing we're going to want to do is fit the balsa wood to the iPhone to size it up properly.  We'll want about 1/4" to 1/2" on each side, and enough height to comfortably fit the lens (about 1/4" of balsa surrounding the lens).  It's probably worth scoring or marking the balsa while it's on your phone before moving it away to actually cut it.

Step 3: Slotting the Sides

Now that the balsa is sized correctly, it's time to slot it for rubber band placement and hole it (?) for lens placement.

Make a slot near each corner as shown for the rubber band to ensure it sits properly and doesn't slip out.  Be careful while cutting, though, because it's easy to break the corner of the balsa wood during this step.

Step 4: Fitting the Lenses

This is probably the most critical step.. we need to cut holes for the lenses to fit, but the trick here is to make the lenses a press fit. Because balsa is a squishy sort of wood, we can make the hole a tiny bit too small for the lens, then press the lens into the hole to make it stay.

I used my X-Acto knife here, but if you have a very sharp drill bit, that may work as well.  Just start small and work your way larger, trying to fit the lens along the way.  It's okay if your hole is square.  In fact, it'll probably be easier and look cleaner if it is.

Do the same process for both lenses, taking care that each fit snugly with little overhang from stringy bits of overhanging balsa wood.

Step 5: Usage & Storage

To attach the lens carriage assembly to your iPhone, just line up the lenses and strap the rubber band around your phone so it sits in the carriage's notches!  It won't wobble out of place on its own, but it can be easily adjusted for proper alignment.

I find the best way to get consistently good macro shots is to tap and hold in the center of the screen while aimed at your object of interest in the Camera app to engage the AE/AF Lock.  This will lock the autofocus and autoexposure so you can do the focusing by moving the iPhone closer to or farther from the object you're trying to capture.  The iPhone doesn't do a great job of focusing with the macro lens attached, so you'll have to move your iPhone to get it in focus anyway, and pictures generally don't turn out well when the phone is trying to autofocus and you are trying to manually focus it.

I store my macro lens in a small case that used to hold flossers, I think.  It's compact, snaps closed, and is the perfect size.

Now that you're all done, let's look at some macro shots I've taken using this very lens!

Step 6: Demo Time!

Here are some macro shots I've taken.  Now make your own macro lens and take some cool shots of your own!

Please comment and rate!

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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Great instructable! And cool pictures, I'll try it


    6 years ago on Introduction

    You should change your title to something more clear. Perhaps adding "lens" to the end: "incredible DIY iPhone macro Lens"

    Or something... I'm a little slow sometimes to pick up on things but I didn't "get it" for a second...

    Suraj Grewal

    6 years ago on Introduction

    with Iphone it must have been very easy to use as screen and the camera is the same thing

    Suraj Grewal

    6 years ago on Introduction

    good idea
    I did similar thing with my webcam-

    the thing is you have to get focal point of object to your sensor screen.can be done in many ways.

    Hey, why pay grossly inflated prices for professionally designed and quality controlled consumer products when a Popsicle stick works equally well? And is usually customizable...and can be made universal...and replaceable at negligible cost...and bypasses rebate forms...

    ...why do we buy anything at all?

    Also, really cool Legos - many kudos.