Trying Out A 3D Printed Microscope Lens Adapter

If you want to take pictures of tiny things close up, you need a macro lens. Or a microscope. [Nicholas Sherlock] thought “Why not both?” He designed a 3D-printed microscope lens adapter that you can find on Thingiverse. Recently, [Micael Widell] tried it out with a microscope lens and you can see the results in the video below.

A $20 microscope lens allows for some amazing shots. There are two designs that fit different cropped-image and full-frame cameras. As you might expect, the depth of field is razor-thin, probably sub-millimeter. Additionally, with a 4X lens on a 35 mm sensor, the field of view is about 9 mm so you have to have a steady hand just to keep everything in frame.

[Micael] also bracketed the focus to get several shots that could be postprocessed to provide a deeper apparent depth of field. He has a different video that covers the process he uses. You also need a lot of light since the lens is effectively f/20.

Using this by hand probably requires more patience than most of us have. However, we could see a use for this if you had the camera mounted in a studio. Then again, you could use a camera mount for an actual microscope, but maybe not at this price.

The results are impressive. We also noticed that printing in PETG caused some problems because it is shiny. You can either paint the interior of the tube or use ABS which is not very shiny.

Of course, you could always just build a microscope. You can even start with Lego.

11 thoughts on “Trying Out A 3D Printed Microscope Lens Adapter

    1. Sweet photos and a great idea.

      Was going to ask what it would take to get it to fit Fujifilm X, headed over to the thingiverse site first, and voila! Thanks.

      Placed order for the lens, so we’ll see what happens when it gets here. (Your link from thingiverse didn’t work any more, but found a hopefully similar 4x / 160 mm focus lens.)

      1. You’re in luck because I published the Fuji version just a few hours ago, lol.

        I tried both those links and they seem to work, I wonder what’s going on there.. Mine came from the “Reakway Microscope Factory Store” on Aliexpress

  1. How does it compare to reversing a say 50mm lens? Some reversing adaptors allow you to keep the data connectors, which allows autofocus and automated focus stacking.

    1. The design is optimised for shooting handheld in the field, with the biggest advantage being the very slim tip that avoids pushing away the leaf the subject is standing on. Reversed standard lenses are really physically wide which is pain.

      You’d also have to add a lot of extension before the 50mm lens to get it to 4x magnification (on the order of 150-200mm), and these tubes are heavy compared to the ~60g printed adapter and microscope combination.

      Cost-wise it’s incredibly hard to beat $20 for an objective, plus a couple of bucks of filament (if you have a printer)

  2. I’m shocked the results are so good on his field walking, even those pre stacked images still seem pretty good, get the setup just right and the thin depth of field can really make the wanted detail pop.

    Really neat idea that obviously can work, but I thought it would be nearly impossible to actually use the way he did ambling around (perhaps it is without lots of practice and a very steady hand, with how cheap the idea is to try I shall have to give it a go eventually)

    1. Luckily your hand doesn’t need to be steady when you’re using flash illumination! It really freezes the action so that camera shake is no longer a problem.

      I end up using shots where I missed my focus target for focus stacking to extend my depth of field, and shots where I missed framing for extending my field of view. (And both of those intentionally too when called for!)

      1. Indeed I can see the flash being invaluable for getting a picture of something, but if you hands are not at least somewhat steady getting any shot correctly framed and focused with such a lens by hand seems (without having tried it) to be rather challenging.

        1. Though I guess that is also one of the wonders of digital photography, as long as your subject doesn’t bugger off on you, there are as many shots as you need to get the good one for no real cost.

  3. 9 mm scene. I’ve gotten that closeup with a lens from an old camcorder viewer eyepiece and my phone. Still a respectable use of 3D printing. Though I want 3 sources of light and don’t like flash on the camera.

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