A zoom lens for your webcam

We need to find the kind of friends that [Dino] has. They seem to drop off all of their older, yet totally awesome, electronics with him once they’re through with the devices. One example of this is the Sony Handycam that came into his┬ápossession. He decided to crack it open and repurpose the 20x optical zoom lens for use with a webcam.

We always like [Dino's] style. You can tell that he has no idea if he’s going to be able to pull off his goal, but at the same time he has an intuitive sense that he’ll make it happen. In the video after the break he starts off investigating what components are in the camera. At first the lens is passing no light at all, but he just strips down parts until he can see through it.

There are a couple of servo motors which control zoom and focus. He removes those before attaching the CCD from a Logitech webcam. At the end of his video he shows a demo of the functionality, which is pretty finicky when focusing by hand. But we think this hack would make a fantastic camera for soldering projects, it just needs a custom controller so the motors can be once again used to adjust focus.

23 thoughts on “A zoom lens for your webcam

  1. I was just wondering why nobody has done a DIY on a megapixel ip security camera.. even if it required a mini hdmi connection to the chip that ran the ethernet controller, it’d be nice to have

  2. I’ve been sitting on my ass with all the parts I need for this project (old VHS camcorder lens, 720p logitech, enclosure). Time to get cracking on it finally :) On the plus side for me the zoom controller is integrated into the lens assembly which means I just have to feed it 12v and I get zoom control. Focus is manual still though, but thats the way I like it.

    1. edit:
      Its not an old VHS camcorder, its an old broadcast camcorder :) No on-board power or recording on this puppy, just a fat plug coming out to feed to a broadcast recorder.

      1. If the lens come from a camera with a image sensor that is significantly bigger than the sensor in the webcam you will run into problems. e.g. a sensor half the size doubles the focal lenght, making your wideangle lens into a now zoom lens…

      2. Needless pedantry, but, without onboard recording, it is a camera, not a camcorder (camcorder being any device combining video camera and video recording apparatus).

        Sounds like a good project though!

  3. The results seem quite amazing, considering that it is a old, small lens mounted on a webcam. I wonder how the depth of field is so shallow. Based on my rudimentary knowledge larger sensors make shallower DoF, but the sensor on webcam is tiny. Second factor is the aperture size, but such a small lens can’t possibly have extremely large aperture either?

  4. The comment on soldering projects makes me think if you could mount the lens in reverse direction to make it function as microscope? I have seen some hacks with DSLR lenses and cameras, but those are bit expensive toys to hack, and do not provide real-time video generally.

  5. roll with the soldering idea but add some sort of proximity sensor that measures how far your face is away from the lens. That way you wont have to hold your head at one location and stiffen your neck while soldering.

  6. Most cameras focus can be easily interfaced with. If you find the service manual for the model it will tell you what pin does what. From my experience I have found that most of them have a 2-3 different focus drive motors that are very small steppers. They usually have some sort of hall effect sensors to detect lense position. The reason no light passes thru is a 2 part diaphram in the unit that is closed when the unit is off so the ccd isnt being constantly exposed. I know you could probably desolder the fpc connector off the camera’s mainboard and make your own breakout to run the focus and zoom. I have a old sony mavica with a 20x optical zoom that would work perfect for this. I even have the level 2-3 service manuals for it so I know exactly what everything does and what voltages they need to run.

    1. I find all kinds of cool stuff super cheap at the thrift store! When I go on saturday mornings I will looks up datasheets and service manuals on stuff to try and find stuff that is easier to work. Older sony’s are actually quite common and usually have an extensive service manual for free online. I just picked up 2 polaroid pixie 3mp kids cameras. Going to do my first official teardown and guide on it. 8 bucks

    2. Definitely update us on the stepper motor controls, it sounds pretty awesome and I am thinking of trying this out myself. How does the focus mechanism handle the stepper motor running the lens into the into itself? Are there limiting switches or is there some sort of positional feedback for the focus?

      1. It is usually a hall effect sensor to detech track position. I haven’t seen any mechanical switches yet but I am sure they are out there. Another part I am always reusing from these is the little crt in the viewfinder. Sure the lcd viewfinders are ok but I like using the crt as I am usually reusing them to make diy infrared cameras and since I filter normal light and only capture IR the greyscape bw works best and is preferred. Those are super easy to use as you just need a 5v power line and your ground and video source to run.

  7. I did this hack about a year ago using 32x lens from a old hitachi camera but using the stepper motors was a pain so i replaced the mechanism with normal dc motors. The whole thing sat on a diy motorized rig. it was fun using it to spy on my neighbors.

  8. Surplus places often have these video zoom lens assemblies for $20-$50. Surplus Shed was where I got my last one.

  9. I’d like to try adapting some 35mm camera lenses to webcams because they already have the manual focus and zoom, plus they’re getting cheap to find in thrift stores.

    1. You will run into problems doing that – firstly you only use a minute part of the lens when you use it infront of a webcam sensor, so it won’t be very light effective- another problem is, if you start out with a wide angle lens, you’ll end up with quite a zoom lens because you only use a very small part of the lens…

  10. Some cameras/camcorders has a webcam functionality built in (connect through USB or Firewire).

    One might want to check this possibility before tearing into a otherwise functional sample.

  11. i have taken apart a Hitachie VM c30a VCR-c for the lense but the stepper motor focus,zoom are beyond my abilities sans repair manual. The CCD is nice with a circuit board with [I suspect] Xtal oscillator and memory on one convenient board with 2 connectors. Does anybody know if i can get output suitable for TV input? I wanted to use it one a 6″ reflector scope and utilize IR capabilities and visual.

    Any help much appreciated, Rick

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