DIY Hack for Creating a Macro Lens
Did you know you can transform a lens into a macro lens? If you love tackling DIY hacks (and even if you don’t), you’ll love this hack for building your own macro lens!
You can convert pretty much any kit or standard zoom lens into a pretty decent macro lens. We will show you how without going into too much of the technicalities behind the concept. Suffice it to say that by the time you’re done with this hack, you should be pretty pleased with yourself – and the results! Once it’s done, with a little practice handling the lens, you’ll be taking some surprisingly good, often artistic, macro images.
The distance between the internal lens groups or elements and the camera sensor is what determines the zoom factor. If you remove the front element, the lens will shoot very close because it shifts the focus into the lens barrel’s extendable zoom tube.
You can take things one step closer by removing the zoom tube as well. And voila! You now have a macro lens you “built” yourself! Keep in mind, though, that this is usually a permanent conversion. Undoing it is not typically possible. While you might be able to remove the macro conversion you’ve hacked on some lenses, for the most part, it is not reversible.
Before we show you how easily to convert a lens to macro, let’s look at the pros and cons of creating a DIY macro lens. After all, most things have pros and cons, and you should go into this knowing what to expect when you’re done. Overall, though, we think this is worth it, especially if you have a lens you can convert just lying around.
The first and most obvious is that you’re getting a macro lens for free – if you don’t count the loss of the lens, you’re converting.
It’s a great way to up-cycle something you have lying around the house.
This hack gives you an electronically operated lens with a broad magnification range. (Approx. 1 to 2.5 times life-size on an APSC sensor.)
If you’re working with a crop-sensor lens not mounted to a full-frame camera, try using an extension tube to increase the magnification ratio.
You’ll get surprisingly sharp images from your converted macro lens.
You can produce some very artistic images, including Bokeh and ethereal effects.
Most zoom lenses will be prone to lens flare without their front element. However, to best avoid, we recommend using a step-ring or flash modifier as a lens hood. You can also try a skylight or UV filter.
The macro lens will have a short working distance. You’ll need to keep this in mind when picking your subjects.
Distortion around the edges of the frame is also possible. For the most part, it’s not visible unless you’re working with a flat-lay subject.
This hack doesn’t work with all kit lenses or standard zooms, unfortunately. Lenses that exceed a focal length of 70mm don’t have a good track record with this hack.
Steps for Converting to Macro
Remove the front element of the lens you want to convert to macro.
Remove the extendable zoom barrel or immobilize it with strong glue.
Connect a Skylight or UV filter to prevent dust from entering the lens body or glue the filter directly onto the lens body to gain a tiny bit more working distance. (The filter must be spotless!)
If you have a kit or standard zoom lens lying around, and you need a macro lens, this is a terrific hack that can save you from buying a new macro lens – at least in the short term. It’s also fun to deconstruct the lens and come out with something so useful. Also, as we’ve demonstrated above, you can see that the pros outweigh the cons.
Most advanced photographers who’ve been working for a while use modified equipment. Once you “build” your DIY macro lens, give it a go and practice using it. It might take a little time for you to adapt to working with it, but we believe the results are worth it. You’re creating your own unique, inexpensive, electronically controlled macro lens with a few relatively easy steps.