The MacroGyver - or Home Brew Macro Filter




About: blarg i'm dead

Always wanted to take super close up photo's of bugs and small stuff? This is an quick, easy and cheap way to get some nice results for very little effort and money, and still keep all the camera settings like aperature.

You will need:

one slr lens to dismantle, mine was one that had a broken focusing mechanism, but you can get the same part needed from nearly any lens, get cheap one from a second hand sale/flea market for peanuts

blu-tac, to fix the macrogyver onto the front of your normal lens.

set of mini screwdrivers to dismantle the lens.

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Step 1: Step 1

With your bits assembled, the first step is to dismantle the surplus lens. most of the time the screws are hidden under the rubber focusing ring, use a screwdriver to slip it off. there may or may not be other screws on the mount part of the lens depending on what lens you have.

Step 2: Step 2

once you have unscrewed all the micro screws, it "should" just be a matter of gently twisting the lens barrel, almost as if you were focusing it, until it comes apart. all the internal parts of the lens i used came out of the lens assembly by turning them or pulling gently in the correct way, with one micro screw holding a part in place.

the element you'll need is the rear one, this may be different with other lenses so just try each element by holding it manually in front of your camera and checking.

it will basically look like it has a small lens on the front with a larger lens on the rear.

Step 3: Step 3

When you have identified the right element, roll out some blu-tac into thin bits and carefully position around the edge of the wider part of the lens element housing, and then carefully position onto the front of the lens you will be using, make sure it's sticking to the lens casing, and not the front of the lens itself as it will be a pain to clean when you're not using it.

Make sure its level and not crooked.

Step 4: Step 4

You will now (hopefully) have a working macro setup. Because you have effectively cut the amount of light entering the lens, your exposure times will be a little longer and the focusing is very fine, which i'd recommend to do manually, so you'll more than likely need a tripod unless your in bright conditions. also, try and use either a shutter cord or timer release so you dont shake the camera when you press the shutter

I've included a (low quality) pic of the setup i used to take a shot of the meal worm included, I'd recommend moving the subject to and from the lens to get it roughly where you need, rather than moving the camera, it saves alot of hassle. the focusing distance is around 2 to 3 cms. also, you can see the tape i used to secure it together before the blu-tac, which is another method but not as tidy.

my next step is to get a filter ring or spare lens cap and attach the lens element to it so it will be easier and maybe cleaner to put on and take off rather than the blu-tac.

Step 5: Take Some Pics!

now its time to take some photo's. its best to use a nice small aperature to get a big depth of field and more of the bug in focus, unless you know how to do depth of field stacking with your saved images. all this entails is taking several shots of the same subject in exactly the same position, but with different parts in focus, then the images are combined to make one shot that is all in focus.

here are some shots to demonstrate what you can do with a little patience and experimenting.

included is 2 shots of a wasp, one is out of the 9 i used to dept of field stack to show how a single image would look, and the other is the final image.

Step 6: Update

to make it slightly more visually appealing, i found an old circular filter that was scratched, and unscrewed the inner ring to release the filter glass, cut a circle of plastic the same size as the glass, then a hole in it for the lens element and hot gluing it in, so now i can screw it on and off as and when it's needed.

didn't take any photo's of the update in progress, but it's pretty self explanatory, so just a shot of it and a few more photo's taken using it!

and here's my flickr macro set with most of the shots taken with it are on

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    17 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I made this from the back element of a broken Nikkor 18-105. First picture is the first attempt, using lots of blu-tac on a cheap uv filter :P Second is the final one, I fixed the back element on the filter using a piece of styrofoam, then hot-glued black EVA around it. The pictures look crisp, even on my kit lenses. The DoF is really narrow so lighting is a bit tricky.


    10 years ago on Step 6

    I bought an extra lens cap at my photo shop (used, $3), drilled a 3/4 inch hole in the middle then glued the "buddy" lens to that. Makes for easy attachment and removal. I am using a 50mm macro lens and with the buddy I get in very close. Light is a problem so I am looking into an LED macro light ring. I hope to improve on the one in Instructables as I plan to pivot the LEDs to adjust for distance I like your bug photos. I also am a NecroMakroGrapher. Insects flee in terror when I search my garden.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    I find the same problem with lighting, a quick fix is using little adjustable clip on reading lights, the kind that you clip onto the back of a book and angle down towards the page so you can read in the dark without bothering anybody. a couple of these either side of the lens helps in low light, you can get some that he led's used in them are actually really bright. most of the time now i try to use as much natural light as possible and shoot next to a window with a tinfoil reflector

    New-Out99993_99992 copy.jpgNew-Out99997_99996 copy.jpg

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    depth of field is tiny, but then thats common with a lot of macro methods and lenses anyway, If i need more dof I use combineZP to stack images. I've tried just reversing the kit lens, but prefer using my filter as the lens keeps all its aperture functions as its still attached normally to the camera.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    I suppose the object are very still or get sedated... or perhaps not even a living one since taking several picture on different focusing area is really hard!.... I cannot tell the object to stay still can i? any way the result are stagering. the final wasp result is my fav.

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    i admit most of the insects aren't exactly, "alive" when i've shot them, also, i've heard sticking them in a fridge puts them to sleep, hmm.... i've stuck together a wierd flash bouncer out of half a 500ml coke bottle lined with tinfoil that sticks onto the top of the pop-up flash on my camera and bounces the light along it and down infront of the lens, this does help to use a small aperture with living subjects and getting a good depth of field, like in these shots with a live weevil

    IMG_0111 copy.jpgIMG_0115.jpg

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. that exactly what i did using a DIY flash diffuser (made of hard fabric) and here is the result :). (now less insect are harmed during my macro photo session)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    btw I took my name from my hobby of "necromakrography" Fuma : small insect Killa : well you should have known :D I might pay my price on the judgement day :(


    10 years ago on Step 6

    I've tried my own home brew Macro lenses out of dead old analog camera lens. the problem is thin depth of field..... so mostly i like to shot a non living object or object that was a living one. I personally called this a " Stack Focusing NecroMakroGraphy"... LOL.. I don't even know if that word is exist.... Love your job.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    Well, the results sure are impressive! Nice work.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    thx! doesnt look too ugly now without the tape, and will look better once i've fixed the lens into a filter mount.