Shooting macro with a $20 microscope lens and a DIY 3D printed adapter

Tips & Techniques

Shooting macro is one of the most interesting photography topics one can attempt. Aside from seeing a whole new tiny perspective on the world, there are so many different ways you can do it. You can buy an actual macro lens, or you can use a regular lens with extension tubes or reversing rings. You can even mount two lenses back to back. Or, you can do what Micael Widell did and use a 3D printed adapter with a microscope objective.

The adapter comes courtesy of macro photographer and 3D printing enthusiast Nicholas Sherlock, who has posted the file to Thingiverse. The adapter is available in full-frame and APS-C versions for Nikon, Canon, Sony and even M42 (which can be adapted to pretty much everything). And the microscope lens used is a cheap 4x achromatic objective for just $19.99. We’ve actually featured it here on DIYP before.

Micael’s video, though, takes a deep dive into how to use it, including some of the caveats of shooting with such extreme magnification. With a 4x microscope objective, that means an extremely shallow depth of field, which Micael describes as “a fun challenge” when out and about shooting handheld. Typically with a depth of field this shallow, you’d want to rack focus and stack images in post to try to get a greater depth of field.

The parts for both the full-frame and APS-C adapters can be printed on just about any printer. They don’t require a large build volume at all, although the orientation is quite important in order to get the best results – especially for printing the screw threads on the modular APS-C pieces as well as the mount on both to connect it to your camera. You’ll want to print it with PETG or ABS, too, for best results. PLA should work for a little while, but it’s not going to be very durable.

Seeing the results Micael managed to produce with this setup in his video, I’m really tempted to go and order one of these objectives now and fire up the printer. Well, I suppose there’s no urgency in firing up the printer if the lens is shipping from China, but still, it’s nice to be prepared for when those packages eventually show up!

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