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Turn a Laser Pointer Into a Sweet Macro Lens for the iPhone

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By Julia Drake on September 21, 2012

Fellow HyperVocalist Greg Seals sent me a link to a DIY tutorial that uses household items to create a macro lens — an attachment that lets you take detailed, super-close-up shots like these — for your iPhone.

I love taking pictures of anything and everything with my phone, and I’d rather put the random junk lying around my apartment to use rather than going out and spending $12 or more on a professional macro-lens attachment. This project was clearly right up my alley.

This should have been an incredibly easy and quick project. I own a cat, so, of course, I already had a laser pointer. Unfortunately, step two of the tutorial I was following instructed me to superglue a rubber band around the tiny lens from the laser pointer. The glued-on rubber band would serve as a grip for the paper clip you’re supposed to form into a crazy device that holds the lens in place. Easier said than done, my friends.

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Whoever posted the tutorial I was following must have trained a pygmy marmoset to do this job for him, because there is no way an average-sized human can superglue a rubber band to a laser-pointer lens without getting glue all over the lens. Which is exactly what happened to me when I tried. My lens was ruined and I was forced to venture out to the pet store to buy another laser pointer. I figured this would be a quick trip down the block and back and then I’d be good to go. Not so much.

Two pet stores, a stationary shop and one Staples later and I could not find the laser pointer I needed to finish this project to save my life. The lady at one of the pet stores informed me they could no longer sell laser pointers because, and I quote, “a couple of kids downed a plane with one of those things.” Excusez-moi? (After a little online research I did find reports that sort of supported this woman’s claim. Apparently laser pointers have become a bit of a security threat.)

I went on Amazon and was able to find the laser pointers I needed and my free craft project suddenly cost me $4.06.

Regardless of the unexpected, fairly insignificant cost, this project does work and it’s pretty cool. I also figured out a way to do this without using superglue. Win!

Pimpage Gear

• Lens from a laser pointer
• Stencil tape (this is what I had on hand)
• Corn pad
• iPhone
• Scissors

Step One

Disassemble your laser pointer and remove the lens. This is a really easy step that I complicated to the extreme. When you take apart your laser pointer you will notice a little piece right over the lens that holds it in place. This tiny little piece has a slot that fits a phillips-head screwdriver perfectly. I didn’t realize this so I spent a solid 45 minutes using a wrench, pliers and a hammer trying to break that tiny lens free. Blargh.

Step Two 

Take your stencil tape and cut off a 2-inch strip. You need enough tape to wrap around the lens so it will fit snugly inside your corn cushion. (Never thought I would have a reason to write that sentence.)

Step Three

Insert the tape-wrapped lens into the corn cushion. Place over the camera lens on the back of your iPhone.

Step Four

Snap away! Your homemade macro lens is essentially a tiny magnifying glass stuck over your camera lens. You’ll want to get up close and personal with your photo subjects if you want this to work. 

In the photos below the first image is with the macro lens attached and the second image is without the lens, so you can see the difference.

Finally, a fun close up of Abe Lincoln:

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