Macro Photography with a $20 3D Printed Microscope Lens

A photographer 3D printed a 4x telescopic macro adapter lens and sent it to a photographer for a field test who produced stunning results with the custom-made glass.

Nicholas Sherlock, sent his creation to YouTuber Michael Widell who took the 3D printed lens outdoors to track down tiny insects to practice the lens on.

The adapter, which Sherlock has put up on Thingiverse and was spotted by DIY Photography, is designed for the Sony E-mount and supports both APS-C and full-frame. There are also variants available for Nikon and EF Mount.

At the business end of the telescoping, conical adapter is a 4X achromatic microscope eyepiece, which he picked up for $20.

The slim conical design is meant to allow the camera to get closer to the subject without the body of the lens or the camera getting in the way of any fauna around it or disturbing the tiny subject in macro.

The adapter was created using 3D modeling software, and configured for use with Prusa Slicer, although just about any 3D printer slicer software will work.

Sherlock also made the design of the APS-C model so that the middle portion of the adapter could be removed for focusing at a greater distance. It is particularly useful when an object eyepiece can focus at a greater distance. This feature is not available in the full-frame model.

Sherlock also recommends using a more robust printer filament like ABS or PETG. These filaments can withstand high temperatures and heavy loads. PLA will also work, but the filament is more prone to wear out over time.

When assembled, the macro lens adapter has an extremely shallow depth of field of under 1mm. Widell needed to take multiple photos to achieve a focus image. He also had to move the lens slightly to focus another part of the tiny insect he was photographing.

This technique is called “focus stacking,” and for best results, the lens needs to rest on the thumb of the hand that is holding the subject.

This provides an extra point of contact and makes moving the lens a bit easier without losing focus. Widell describes it as a “fun challenge”, to align the stack of photos while still moving in a precise manner.

There are hundreds of camera lens adapters on Thingiverse, and there are dozens of other portals for 3D models, like MyMiniFactory, Thangs, 3D Hubs, Cults, and CGTrader.

There are also link finder sites like Yeggi and STL Finder. These sites can help photographers who want to make and print photo accessories to find a model they like and test it out before buying a real one.


Image credits: All photos by Nicholas Sherlock.

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