I often need to take photos of deconstructed LED, lights, or drivers and look at them at a much smaller than normal scale. For this purpose I bought an eScope a couple of years ago. This was not an ideal instrument: The software is difficult to work with and requires tweaking to work with a Mac. The scope itself was of questionable quality; if you twisted the focus ring a touch too hard it glooped out some kind of grease onto the lens. And, worst of all, the display worked in mirror image: If you want to move it a bit more to the right and down, then you must move the scope to the left and up, and this proved to be too much for my little brain. (To be fair, this product has an overall 4-star rating on Amazon, so a lot of people are quite happy with it.)
Photographing my most recent project — the innards of LED filaments — proved a bridge too far for my patience, and I considered buying a new one. But, just in time came the most recent issue of Make magazine, with its article on using a lens from a laser pointer and a cell phone/camera to snap photos at a high magnification, which the author estimates at 175x. (The lens I used is from a laser pointer that costs about $2.)
The laser pointer lens and the cell phone camera are the heart of the technology here — the apparatus detailed in the Make magazine article is mostly about constructing a plexiglass holder that allows you to position the phone over a specimen slide. I don’t deal in slides, and I was in too much of a hurry to take the time to build the plexiglass structure anyway.
So the first step was to free up the laser pointer lens, and the Make article has a nice description of how to do it. (It was pretty tricky.) Or, you can also order them online.
It proved quite easy to attach the lens to the camera by using a hairpin and a bit of tape.
I only dropped the lens
once twice. In shag carpet. Aaarrgh.
I already had a cell phone clamp as part of this small cell phone tripod:
The phone holder is a spring mounted bracket that holds the phone by its edges, keeping the camera area clear. It can be removed from its tripod base:
…and used on a full-size tripod:
The advantage of this full-size tripod is its crank that allows you to adjust the height of the phone quite precisely for optimal focusing.
This height adjustment feature lets me take photos of objects that don’t fit onto a specimen slide, like the illuminated filament from the previous post:
… and allows me to raise and lower the cell phone smoothly to get it in focus (shown above with no magnification). And owing to the amazingness of touch sensitive screens, after I’ve focused the cell phone optically, I can touch the area of interest in the camera view, and zoom in even more.
I’m very impressed at what can be done with a simple lens, a hair pin — oh right, and a very expensive smart phone and tripod. But if you already have the latter devices in your toolkit, it’s a straight-forward way to take highly magnified photos.