How to make a DIY camera lens using a magnifying glass and cheap macro bellows

Sep 6, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to make a DIY camera lens using a magnifying glass and cheap macro bellows

Sep 6, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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If you ever want to experiment with optics, making your own lenses (or adapting old ones to fit on current cameras) is definitely a good way to do it. Lenses now have gotten pretty complex, though, with elements acting in pairs or groups that are often too complicated to try to reassemble in your own custom housing (especially if it’s held together with gaffer tape).

In this video, though, the folks at Fotodiox show us how we can make our own lens using nothing more than some macro bellows and a magnifying glass. This is about as simple as a lens gets and it’s absolutely not going to give you the same results as an expensive GM lens (not even close), but it’s a lot of fun to experiment with and can produce some pretty neat in-camera effects.

The technique shown in the video uses the Fotodiox EF mount Macro Bellows along with an EF to E mount ND Throttle lens adapter. The bellows is used much as it is with macro – as a way to focus. With macro lenses, it allows you to focus closer than the lens would normally. With the magnifying glass, it’s the entire focusing system.

The ND Throttle adapter essentially allows you to get back some kind of exposure control, as you’ve no real aperture to speak of. Technically, yes, you kind of do still have an aperture (obviously), but it’s wide open all the time, so you can’t use it to change your depth of field and exposure. At least this way, you get that exposure variability back. You don’t have to use Fotodiox gear, obviously. Any macro focusing bellows would work, as would any lens adapter for your camera system if required – although the built-in ND on the Fotodiox ND Throttles is pretty handy for something like this.

The samples in the video show that it definitely has a very lo-fi look, the contrast is low, the colours are pretty muted and even where it’s focused, it’s pretty soft. But sometimes lo-fi is what you need. And it is a pretty cool effect.

Personally, though, I think if I were making something like this, I’d have to custom design and 3D print a mount for the magnifying glass instead of resorting to gaffer tape. But hey, if it works, it works!

[via Sony Alpha Rumors]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to make a DIY camera lens using a magnifying glass and cheap macro bellows”

  1. Paul van Os Avatar
    Paul van Os

    Works way better with a so-called ”achromat lens”.
    You can find an (what?! two!) achromat lenses in old binoculars, (the front lenses).
    Have fun!