Lenses: From Fire Starters To Smart Phones And VR

In antiquity, we see examples of magnifying crystals formed into a biconvex shape as early as the 7th century BC. Whether the people of that period used them either for fire-starting purposes or vision is unclear. Still, it is famously said that Emperor Nero of Rome watched gladiator games through an emerald.

Needless to say, the views we get through modern lenses are a lot more realistic. So how did we get from simple magnifying systems to the complex lens systems we see today? We start with a quick journey through the history of the camera and the lens, and we’ll end up with the cutting edge in lens design for smartphone cameras and VR headsets.

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DIY Wigglegram Camera Lens Sends A Message To Big Photo

Have you ever heard of a wigglegram? They are made by shooting multiple pictures at once using multiple lenses, and the the resulting stitched-together ‘gram is kind of a gif version of a stereographic image. It looks 3D, and it — well, it wiggles. The ones with a boomerang effect (i.e. a good loop) are especially prized.

Wigglegrams are often produced with Nishika quadrascopic cameras, which have naturally climbed in price to address the growing demand. Nishikas have four lenses and create four separate half-frame images by splitting the four photos across two frames of film. In contrast, [Joshua]’s DIY eye uses three plastic lenses from disposable film cameras to put three images onto a single frame of film.

The only real drawback is that the camera has to be close to the subject because the three lenses are so tightly packed. Another drawback is that there is no viewfinder while using this lens. There have to be divider walls between the three lenses to keep the images separate, and these walls have to extend all the way into the camera body. The Canon A-1’s viewfinder mirror does not allow for this, so [Joshua] pushed it up out of the way.

[Joshua]’s initial design approach to finding the ideal lens distance from the film plane was to do a bunch of calculations, but he ended up Goldilocks-ing it and iterating a bunch of times until it was just right. If you have a Canon SLR and want to build one of these, you’re in luck as far as the STLs go.

What else can you do with a bunch of old disposable cameras? Build your own flash, of course.

[via r/functionalprint]

Macro Photography With Industrial Lenses

Line scan cameras are advanced devices used for process inspection tasks in industrial applications. Used to monitor the quality of silicon wafers and other high-accuracy tasks, they’re often outfitted with top-quality optics that are highly specialised. [Peter] was able to get his hands on a lens for a line-scan camera, and decided to put it to work on some macro photography instead.

Macro image taken with the hacked lens.

Judging by the specs found online, this is a fairly serious piece of kit. It easily competes with top-shelf commercial optics, which is what piqued [Peter]’s interest in the part. Being such a specialised piece of hardware, you can’t just cruise over to eBay for an off-the-shelf adapter. Instead, a long chain of parts were used to affix this lens to a Sony AIII DSLR, converting from threaded fittings to a Nikon mount and then finally to Sony NEX mount.

Further work involved fitting an aperture into the chain to get the lens as close as possible to telecentric. This improves the lens’s performance for certain tasks, and makes focus stacking macro shots more readily achievable – something we’ve seen [Peter] tinker with before.

You never know what you might find when sorting through surplus industrial gear, could could score some high-performance hardware if you know where to look. It’s always great to see a cheap find become a useful instrument in the hacker toolbox!

Build A Stereo Microscope From Binoculars And A Camera Lens

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. [RunnerPack] stumbled upon an article from 2001 about building a stereo microscope from a pair of binoculars and a camera lens. With a ring light attached to the end of the camera lens, we couldn’t think of a better microscope for SMD work.

To mount the binoculars to the camera lens, [Giorgio Carboni] made a very nice adapter containing four prisms. These prisms are very carefully aligned and glued down with a little bit of epoxy. By using an 8×30 pair of binoculars and a 35-100 mm camera lens, [Giorgio] was able to get a magnification factor of 10-57x. With a macro lens this factor can be increased (a 28mm lens bumps it up to 71x, but a lot more light is needed).

The pedestal is just a few ground rods and ground steel rods, something that requires a bit of machining. Since 2001, though, a lot of tinkerers have 3D printers so it could be possible to build a more easily manufactured version of the focusing apparatus.

[RunnerPack] had a pair of binoculars and a camera lens handy and tried a mono version of this build. He says he was blown away, but unfortunately didn’t provide any pictures. If you decide to build this project, be sure to snap a few pics and send it in on the tip line.