DIY macro lens

Ever wondered what to do with that old worthless kit lens that’s been sitting in the cupboard for ages because you couldn’t bear to throw it out? Why not give it a new lease on life by converting it into a macro lens!

What is macro?
Macro photography is fun – they’re the super close up shots of flower hearts or ball point pen points or insect eyes or… you get the idea. Anything that results in an image the same size or larger than the original subject is a macro.

You can buy dedicated macro lenses for your DSLR but before you spend the money, you might want to try it out and see whether or not macro photography takes your interest. At the end of this post I’ll talk about some of the other ways you can take macro photos.

How I made it
Any lens can be used – but I’d go with a swap-meet cheapie or an old kit lens that probably came with your camera – or maybe two cameras ago. The key is to remove the front element of the lens, leaving the rest intact. That way it will mount to your camera like a bought one. It takes courage because the chances are you will be making an irreversible conversion. I must admit, I had my qualms when I picked up the hammer…

I had no real idea this would work at all, so it was a bit of an experiment. And I had a lens that had almost zero monetary value and was just gathering dust in the cupboard. So it was a zero cost experiment. I figured that it would at least partially work – the surprise was just how well it worked!

And I wasn’t kidding about the hammer – the  whole lot appeared to be securely glued in place, so I placed a cloth over the front element and gave it a couple of sharp blows, then removed the glass bits. The rear element was some way behind the front so I figured it would be okay. And it was – these lens elements are glass, not plastic so there was little chance of scratching it.

And it works a treat – it does try to auto-focus, but really with such a shallow depth of field you are better off switching to manual focus and moving the camera closer to or further from the subject until it is in focus. The result is stunning, as you can see in these shots of a small robot-shaped tea infuser.

Tea infuser with cup shown for scale

Tea infuser with cup shown for scale

robot face (macro)

robot face (macro)



tea infuser robot arm

tea infuser robot arm

And a little closer

Rivet on tea infuser arm

Rivet on tea infuser arm

As you can see we can get pretty close – and with excellent sharpness!

There are two other ways to take macro photos without modifying a lens:

Macro Tubes
These are tube elements that have no glass in them, they are essentially a spacer to go between the lens and the camera. I recommend getting the ones with live electrical connections and that way you will retain the auto focus function on your existing lens. These will work with any lens that fits your camera – they are made in all popular fittings – canon, nikon, sony, pentax and so on. They are quite inexpensive and usually come in sets of three sizes which you can use individually or in combination.

Reverse lens mount
These are a ring-like fitting that has a camera fitting on one side and a screw thread on the other. You buy the ring fit the filter size of the lens you want to use and it enables you to mount your lens backward onto the camera – that makes it an instant macro! Again there is no auto focus, but as a quick and easy way to take macro shots they work pretty well.

So there are several ways to take macro photos without it costing a heap of your hard earned money – Have fun and let me know how you went – in the comments section below 🙂