An Inexpensive Camera Macro Lens

You don't need expensive equipment to take close-up photos.

| May/June 1984

If you read nature or science magazines, you've probably marveled at the incredible close-up photos that professionals take of tiny insects, flowers, printed circuits, and a myriad of other minuscule subjects. Those pictures were shot with a camera macro lens, which is designed to cast a magnified—or close-up—image onto film.

Macro lenses are sold in a wide range of focal lengths, with mounts to fit just about any single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera ever made. The devices vary in power and other features, but all have one thing in common: They're expensive. If you're a pro—or rich—you might be able to justify the cost. But for those of us with limited funds who simply want to dabble in close-up photography, multi hundred-dollar price tags don't make sense.

As an alternative, camera shops sell somewhat more economical (and less effective) items called "supplementary close-up lenses" or "plus lenses". Basically, they're magnifying glasses that you screw directly onto a regular lens, just as you would a photographic filter. But even those accessories can cost upwards of $30 . . . and that's a lot more than you'll need to put together my homemade "macro/close-up" lens!

A Simple Camera Macro Lens

Believe it or not, to make this camera attachment you'll need only [1] a small, round 2X to 4X magnifying glass about 1 3/4" in diameter (be sure to get one with a glass lens, as plastic isn't good enough for your purposes) ... [2] a PVC slip-ring pipe adapter (1 1/2" PVC to 1 1/2" male) . . . and [3] a can of flat-black spray paint.

Coin and stamp shops are good sources for usable magnifying glasses. The kind that swings around into its own cover when not in use is excellent and should be available for just a few dollars. And, of course, just about any hardware or plumbing supply store is likely to carry the PVC pipe adapters you'll need.

To assemble the device, screw the slip ring off the adapter and give both parts a coat of flat-black paint inside and out (this will eliminate unwanted light reflections). Then remove the glass lens from its plastic frame . . . place it into the adapter's slip ring . . . and screw the ring back onto the pipe. Presto! You've just made yourself a super-low-cost photographic magnifier.

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