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How to turn your cellphone into a microscope

Last Updated: 06.12.21


If you are fond of examining life in all its details but you lack the money to invest in an all-capable new microscope, chances are that you’ve heard of the possibility of turning your personal phone into a device of this type.

Because we are well aware of how many science enthusiasts find themselves in this situation, we have decided to lend you a helping hand by walking you step by step through the process of turning your mobile device into a new cheap microscope.


DIY version

Before anything, you will need a mobile phone that comes provided with a camera. Although older models are also suitable, it is best that you use a unit that has the touchscreen focusing options or any type of focusing. Those gadgets that allow for manually adjusting the focus option are the best models that you can use.

Then, look for a thin rubber-like material that is dark colored and make a small incision in the middle of it. You should end up with a small hole that has approximately one millimeter in diameter. When carving the hole, it is recommended that you use a needle or a small pin.

Next, go online and procure one millimeter in diameter ball or a half-ball lens. Usually, these items are not particularly expensive. However, make sure that you purchase them from manufacturers that sell optical instruments and/or components. If you want a smaller magnification ratio, you can order items that have a larger diameter.

Furthermore, go ahead and place the rubber on the phone’s camera and then place the ball on the iris of the camera. Still, be sure that you don’t cover the lens’s entire surface.

The next thing that you have to do requires you to take four small pieces of black electrical tape and use them to attach the iris to the camera and to secure it in place. Moreover, be sure that the iris is positioned in the right place so that you have a good field of view.

Before examining any samples make sure that you have plenty of light so that the image is clear and in detail.


Purchase an already made microscope adaptor

If you are not necessarily a handy person that enjoys DIY activities but you still want to transform your phone into a device that is similar to a quality digital microscope, our recommendation to you is that you settle for a lens created by specialists.

In order to do so, go online and search for the BLIPS micro and macro lenses kits. These units were created by scientists from a prestigious Genovese institute and are known to be the thinnest lenses available at the current time.

What is more, these lenses were specially engineered and designed to be used with mobile devices. However, the main advantage of these kits is the fact that they are particularly inexpensive. Thus, purchasing them won’t mean spending a considerable amount of money.  

The people that constructed the lenses claim that these units can magnify a given image up to 100 times. Yet, this may depend on the smartphone’s particularities. The lenses were constructed to be used by both hobbyist and scientific researchers.


Advantages and disadvantages of turning your phone into a microscope

While settling for these cheap alternatives might be a great idea, it is worth mentioning that, if you are a student that needs to constantly use a microscope, purchasing an actual device is best. Although the mobile microscope can be something that you use when you lack the ability to carry an actual microscope, like, for instance, when you are out in nature, a full-size device is better for a number of reasons, the quality of the image being the most important.

However, the ability to turn your smartphone into a digital microscope is an option that can be very handy for scientists that are on the go. Moreover, all those that enjoy taking experimental photographs and that are looking for new ways in which they can make shooting photographs a more interesting activity should necessarily invest in such a kit.

Moreover, by using such a device you will be able to take pictures of the samples that you are examining and then share them online with your friends. This way, you will be prepared to enjoy discovering the world together.

According to the specialists in this line of products, portable microscopes stand out thanks to their ability to be effortlessly used by students whenever studying a subject such as biology. As teachers point out, by being able to experiment and see different molecules and constituents, students are prone to develop an interest in science-related fields of knowledge.

Additionally, by employing this kind of approach to learning, students are said to improve their ability to remember more details.

As a plus, digital microscopes are known for being easy to handle and effortless to set up. Yet, when compared to the traditional microscopes it becomes clear that they do have a drawback. What we mean by this is the fact that digital units have to run on batteries and/or a power source while optical units do not.

Last but not least, it is a well-known fact that the quality of the image depicted by a camera phone turned into a microscope has a lot to do with the device’s capabilities.



Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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