Simple Super-Macro/Microscope Webcam Conversion




Introduction: Simple Super-Macro/Microscope Webcam Conversion

About: I am a not-very-closet geek, when I am not doing science (my job) I tend to follow my other geeky passions; making, drawing and creating things. These are some of my vast collection sites I contribute to: h...

So webcams are quite fun, they take pictures, you can record videos, but what if you could take pictures of microscopic objects? This is a simple and reversible modification for a webcam which lets you take pictures of things far less than 1mm wide!

Step 1: The Raw Materials

You only need two things for this microscope:
1. A webcam with an unscrewable lens (I got a really cheap one for about £5 on ebay)
2. Blu-tac

It is absolutely vital the webcam has an unscrewable lens, almost all do (and for most webcams this is actually the way you focus!).

Step 2: Dissasembling the Webcam

This bit is dead easy, just unscrew the lens from the webcam! Once you have taken the lens out be careful not to get any dust on the CCD (the sensor in the body of the webcam) or on the back of the lens. Dust on either of these is very hard to clean off and can mess up the pictures.

Step 3: Reassembling the Webcam

Now just use blu-tack to stick the lens back in the webcam, but backwards. Make sure you get a nice tidy fit, you want to avoid any light leaking around the edge of the lens. For me this was simple because the lens slotted neatly back into the body of the webcam. For some webcams you will have to use a thin sausage of blu-tac to seal around the edge of the reattached lens.

Step 4: Using the Super-macro/microscope Webcam

It is really simple to use, just point it at a (well lit) small object! To focus the image just move the webcam towards or away from the object, the lens will probably need to be a few millimetres away from the object. It is a bit fiddly to keep the webcam in position once it is in focus, I used blu-tack on the stand to help hold it still.

If you want to "zoom in" (increase the magnification) you have to move the lens further away from the sensor. The simplist way to do this is with a tube of paper or card stuck into the webcam body which you can put the lens in. Again, be careful with light leaks - black card or paper covered in tin-foil will be very good at blocking stray light.

Step 5: Measuring Performance

To calculate the magnification of your new microscope you need to take a picture of something you know the exact size of. The easiest and most common small object to do this with is a pixel on a computer screen.

Take a picture of the pixels of your screen, then open the captured image in some photo-editing software. Measure how wide the image of one pixel is (in pixels), this is the magnification factor.

You can also calculate how big the field of view of the webcam image is from the ppi of your screen:
(25.4 / dpi) * n = fov
ppi is the "pixels per inch" of your screen, commonly 72.
n is the number of pixels that fit across the captured image.
fov is the field of view, measured in millimetres.

I have attached an example image from my modified webcam. Here the image of a single pixel is 130px across so the magnification factor is 130x. It is a picture of a 72ppi screen and 5 pixels fit across the image so the field of view is about 1.75mm!

Step 6: Some Fun Pictures

The pictures you can take are a totally different scale to any normal cameras ability, things look totally different when you can see them at such a huge magnification. If you can get a nice sample you should be able to see individual cells quite easily!

The images are of the edge of a 5p coin, the pixels on my camera's display and some paper!



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27 Discussions

It will probably be quite bad at low light levels, cheap lenses and sensors from webcam are never great with little light and reversing the lens makes it worse.


Thanks a lot for your tutorial and I'm pretty impressed of how it went for you! but I have a question.. I tried the experiment with 6 cameras and they all failed.. this one i did it exactly your way.. but.. its all black when I turn it on.. and point it at something.. even at my monitor.. :(

When I point my iPhone's flash at it with an object.. i see some stuff from the flashlight.. like the light.. has some stuff on it..

i used blue tac to joint it all together


thanks alot!


I'd also like to know what model webcam you used if you know what it is. It turned out very nice the way you did it and if I have to spend an extra few dollars to ensure that the mod will be easy and effective, so be it.

1 reply

Awesome instructable!!! I am making one called "how to make a PowerPoint sprite battle" Don`t get mad at me about it just because it has no photos

Hi, Zephyris and NostalgicStone,
Thank you for the advice.
The model of my old PC Webcam just says -MODEL-X-EYE, and it is screwable type with  reddish lens outside.
My OS is windows 7.
Looking forward for the next reply, or else I will do something else, I'll keep this old stuff.

Hi Zephyris,
I have a 4 year old webcam and wanted to use it to experiment by your 'tibles. How can we connect this to the laptop I have through USB, does this requires a driver or not. I have no idea of these things, so please bear with my innocence.
Thanks a lot.

2 replies

As NostalgicStone says you almost certainly will need a driver which will depend on the webcam model...

As for software I would recommend "YawCam", it is free with a lot of useful features.

 Chances are buddy, you will need some sort of driver installed to get the webcam to work on your computer.
You will also need some webcam software to view the image too.
What is the model number on the camera, and what is your operating system?
With that information we will most definitely be able to help you out!

I'm definitely going to try this out. However, one nit to pick, is that actually it's a removable or maybe "screwable" lens. If it was truly unscrewable, you wouldn't be able to unscrew it.

At first I was wondering why you didn't want a removable lens when you needed to take it out.... But don't mind me, I'm only bright enough to criticize, not create.

Well done instructable. Ta for your efforts...
Say... wasnt "Zephyris" the guy from Babylon 5 ?

nice 'ible! I'm definitely going to try this.

Did you take those pictures in the previous steps?! Those have to be some of the best DIY pics I've seen. Most I've seen are crooked, out of focus, and with really weird lighting!

1 reply

Of course I took those pics! I am quite anal when it comes to presenting things well :)  I should make an instructable on it!

Very nice instructable!

I´ll definitelly do it with some old webcan i have here.