How To Create A Digital Microscope For Under $10

I’ve always been a little frustrated with macro photography. Rather than spend a lot of money on macro lenses, I’ve often tested the minimum focus range of cameras to see how close I could get to a subject. A few weeks ago, I heard about a simple way to create a digital microscope from a cheap webcam, so I gave it a shot and the results were surprising. Here’s the camera I started with.

webcam

This is not a great webcam. I bought it for around $10 and have since determined that I don’t much like or need it, so it was sitting in a box with my other orphaned gadgets. You can get one on ebay for $7 now. With this camera, I had to unscrew the lens from the housing and then actually clip off the focus ring edge with wire snips. It screws on, but then I think they glued it. Yeah. $7. Anyway, it’s a decent camera for the job and is otherwise easy to take apart.

How To Create A Digital Microscope

This is really much easier than it sounds. While the instructions below are specific to this webcam, you can apply the theory to many other webcams: Open it up, flip the lens around to be backwards, close it up.

1. Take apart the webcam. (5 screws)
2. Remove the camera board from the housing. (2 screws)
3. Remove the lens housing from the board. (Be careful not to touch the tiny CMOS sensor) (2 screws)
4. Unscrew the lens from the mount.
5. Using wire snips, very carefully remove the black focus ring edge if it won’t unscrew on its own.
6. Screw the lens back into the mount backwards.
7. Re-assemble everything.

Sample Photos And Uses

Personally, I wanted to do this mostly to film small insects like ants and tiny spiders. Using a webcam adds the benefit of having both photo and video capabilities. If you have kids, this is a great way to provide them with a digital microscope and get them more excited about science. Below are some examples I came up with in the hour since I’ve completed the conversion.

A human hair
hair

The head of a pin
pinhead

Pixels on my monitor
pixels

The head of a small screw
screw

Enjoy and post your success stories and links to photos below.

Author: Joe Colburn

Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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