Use Your Smartphone As A Microscope For Less Than $10

FY4TBHSHMMFBB4V.LARGE[Yoshinok] recently posted an Instructable on doing a $10 smartphone-to-microscope conversion. The hack isn’t so much a conversion as just a handy jig, but it’s still interesting. The basic idea is to set up a platform for the slides, and to mount the smartphone directly above. The trick, and the reason this can be called a microscope, is that [Yoshinok] embeds the lens from a cheap laser pointer into the smartphone holder. He is able to get 40x optical magnification with the lens, and even though it sacrifices quality, he uses the built-in digital zoom to get up to 175x magnification.

By itself, you could use this with a light source to magnify 3D objects. [Yoshinok] demonstrates this with a dime. But since the slide holder is made of clear acrylic, he mounted a cheap LED flashlight in the base to serve as through-sample lighting. Using this setup, he was able to observe the process of plasmolysis.

If you have kids, this is certainly a project to do with them, but we can’t help but think it will be useful for non-parents alike. This sort of magnification is good enough for simple lab experiments, and given that most Hack-a-Day readers have these parts lying around, we figure the cost is closer to $0. If you give it a try, let us know your results in the comments!

22 thoughts on “Use Your Smartphone As A Microscope For Less Than $10

  1. I saw this very hack for the first time about 5-7 years (???) in one of Jeri Ellsworths The Fat Man and Circuit Girl shows. I think it was Ben Krasnow who showed it using laser pointer and white wall back then.

  2. digital zoom “sacrificing quality”… um, digital “zoom” is the exact same as resizing larger in Photoshop, seriously not even worth mentioning. It’s actually worse than scaling up in photoshop, because photoshop can use higher quality bicubic interpolation.

  3. The best hack of this is for doctors and pathologists to connect in poor undeveloped Africa. Put blood smear into cell phone add-on while in a tent, distant pathologist has samples to look at.
    Africa has more cellphones than US and Canada combined, they never had many land lines.

    1. Be careful with ticks, they can carry Borealis which is incredibly nasty. Not sure about species, but in Denmark there’s a risk that they’re infected. Be sure to get the head out along with the body. It can snap off and stay inside – ew.

      1. You need to have a tick on you for a 3 days to get infected (if at all) as I recall , so it’s no risk if you actually know where the tick is, it’s risky if it can crawl somewhere and you not noticing for some time it attached itself to some unnoticed spot like you back or something.

      2. Indeed, this was an example of how to identify the enemy – a worry indeed, but only one to add to the list of black, trap door, red back, funnel web, etc. spiders, red bellied black snakes, and 7 foot tall aggressive kangaroos… Oh and today I had a swarm of flying termites…

  4. Personally I prefer webcams as microscopes. Though these days you can buy dirt cheap ready-made webcam microscopes. I am probably going to buy one for my daughter. Though first I am going to have some fun with it and see if I could use open CV with it and if it could be useful

  5. Nice and clean of a hack
    think to experiment with water crystals .
    or how about hack and past it with a tripod that way yo could use it in any position and any object and no hands hmmm…just keep on tinkering people the future is near.

  6. Thank you Hackaday !

    When I read this article for the first time (2013), I sent the link to Prof. Guzman Trinidad, a creative and inspiring high school physics teacher here in Uruguay (South America) as I thought the device would be really useful as a teaching aid/high school project. He was grateful and shared the idea with his colleagues in the biology area and multimedia areas.

    It took some time (2017) but with a little help from out local PTT ( they started a short microphotography extra-curricular activity at the “Liceo 1 de Solymar” (biggest suburban high school in the area), with 20 students, using the device.

    It was a real success and resulted in a presentation at the high school, a two week public exhibition of the microphotographs at the Civic Center of a big shopping mall ( and a short video documentary available online ( in Spanish).

    Press article: (in Spanish)

    Google translation:

    Thank you again, for a great site, a great job and the inspiration you and your readers provide to the whole hacking and teaching community.

    Best regards,

    A/P Daniel F. Larrosa
    Montevideo – Uruguay

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