How to turn your smartphone into a digital microscope

Take a closer look at the world around you—then share it with Facebook.

 

Miles Klee

Tech

Published Oct 21, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 3:46 am CDT

Currently, the iPhone 5 is selling for $799.99 at RadioShack—at least twice as much as most high-end microscope models would set you back. But can your average microscope shoot video or send texts? Exactly. So here’s a YouTube tutorial on how to make the object of your eternal distraction into a nifty, if rudimentary, scientific tool.

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All it takes is a little shop class experience and “about $10 worth of materials,” including wood panels, plexiglas, screws, nuts, washers, and a focus lens liberated from a cheap laser pointer. (Everyone’s pretty tired of you putting that little red dot on stuff anyway.) In about 20 minutes, give or take drilling accidents, you’ll have a serviceable, sturdy, and portable microscope that requires no external light source and is well-suited for fieldwork.

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It’s not a perfect rig, however: One commenter points out that the digital zoom “only makes the pixels appear larger rather than optically magnifying the subject,” and magnification seems to max out at around 175x. Still, that’s enough to let you see plant cells, salt crystals, and of course, the details on the face of a coin. You fifth-graders can stop fretting about what to do for the science fair: Now the microscope is the project.

Photo via kmyoshino/YouTube   

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*First Published: Oct 21, 2013, 2:28 pm CDT