Smart Phone Camera Turns Laser Cutter into Hi-Res Scanner

Getting decent macro photos always seems to be a chore. Some important detail always seems to be just outside of the depth of field, or you have to be zoomed in so close that you get great detail in one spot but miss the big picture. [Nate B] had such a problem while trying to document some PC boards, and he came up with a nifty hack that uses a laser cutter and a smart phone camera to do the job.

Click for detail.

Having first tried scanning the boards with a flat-bed scanner but finding the depth of field unsatisfactory, [Nate B] then went on to his Samsung phone’s camera. Set to panorama mode, he manually scanned across the boards and let the camera stitch the images together. The results were better, but the wobblies got the better of him and the images showed it. He then decided to use a laser cutter — with the laser disabled, of course — as an impromptu X-Y stage to raster his camera above the boards. In a slightly cringe-worthy move, he gingerly clamped the phone to the cutter gantry, started the panorama, and let the cutter move over the board. This results in a rock-solid pictures of his boards with a lot of detail – perfect for his documentation. As a bonus, the honeycomb laser cutter bed makes for an interesting background texture.

Obviously anything could be used to raster a camera and achieve similar results, but full points here for maximizing available resources and not over-complicating a simple job. Yet another reason you can use to justify that laser-cutter purchase.

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Macro photography with an iPhone

The camera lens on the iPhone is much like any other cameraphone lens in the fact that the lens has a fixed minimum and maximum focus length. If you want to get a little closer to your subject, you just might want to give [eastrain’s] macro camera mod a try.

According to [eastrain] both first and second generation iPhone cameras have a screw type focus ring that has been glued to infinity from the factory. This was probably set so that 99% of your photos were roughly in focus.

Gaining access to the camera lens requires the disassembly of your phone and will undoubtedly void any type of warranty you may have had. Once the lens is in view you will need to break the 2 glue points that hold the lens at its current position.

Using needle nose pliers you can then rotate the lens counter clockwise to increase the zoom or clockwise to decrease it. Enabling the built in camera app allows you to see in real time your changes. When you’re satisfied, just put everything back together. Of course the next step should be an externally mounted ring to allow manual zooming on the fly.

Flip camera microscope and macro lenses

Flip cameras are fun and easy to use, but not particularly versatile. If you’ve had poor results at macrophotography with a Flip, you might be interested in these DIY lenses. One is macroscopic lens for taking photos and video of small things, and the other is a microscope for even smaller things.

To construct the macro lens, you’ll need a pair of binoculars, some rubber bands and paper clips. Simply remove the lenses from the front of the binoculars, complete with the plastic casings that hold them. Thread a rubber band folded in half to the plastic casing and hold it in place with small segments from the paper clip. Now place the lens in front of the Flip’s lens and secure the rubber band around the flip.

The microscope’s eyepiece uses no such attachment method, simply hold it in front of the Flip. The same process can’t be used here because getting the proper focus requires it to be held at varying distances from the camera, not flush against it like the macro lens. In any case, it’s any easy mod that should have you taking pictures of bugs and other tiny things in no time. Look after the break for video of the lenses in action.

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