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The world is an interesting place, but it's fascinating up close.  Through the lens of a microscope you can find details that you would otherwise never notice.  But now you can.

This instructable will show you how to build a stand for about $10 that will transform your smartphone into a powerful digital microscope. This DIY conversion stand is more than capable of functioning in an actual laboratory setting. With magnification levels as high as 175x 375x Edit:  with the addition of a second lens magnification can be as high as 375x, plant cells and their nuclei are easily observed!  In addition to allowing the observation of cells, this setup also produces stunning macro photography.

The photos in this instructable were taken with an iPhone 4S.  

Watch the video below for a quick overview of the project!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
The cost of this project is just $10 (not counting the smartphone), and it only takes about 20 minutes to build. You can be viewing cells with your smartphone within the hour!

Materials required:
3x 4 ½” x 5/16” carriage bolts
9x 5/16” nuts
3x 5/16” wing nuts
5x 5/16” washers
¾” x 7” x 7” plywood  -- for the base
⅛” x 7” x 7” plexiglass  -- for the camera stage
⅛” x 3” x 7” plexiglass  -- for the specimen stage
Scrap plexi (~ 2"x 4") for specimen slide (optional but useful)
laser pointer focus lens (use two for increased magnification)
LED click light (necessary only for viewing backlit specimens)

Assorted bits


Lenses: If you don't have a laser, these lenses have produced comparable results:

Dean Wilson5 years ago
Love the simplicity of this and will definitely be taking inspiration. One question: how have you worked out the level of magnification you are getting?
Yoshinok (author)  Dean Wilson5 years ago
The magnification was determined by using calibration micrometer slides and comparing the images obtained by this apparatus to the images from a digital microscope of known magnification.

You don't need a calibrated digital microscope if you know the object size. Just measure a known size object on the display (that you claim the magnification for). For example, if a 1mm ruler mark is 100mm, measured on the screen, you have a magnification of 100. You can also use common objects, such as human hair, which is about 0.002 inch diameter as your "calibration object".

Yoshinok (author) 5 years ago
The LED light that is used in this instructable:

Diamond Visions Inc 08-0775 Crazy Colored Stubby Keychain Led Flashlight

You can get the led light at Dealextreme too.

I understand that you can use others as well?

What an idea!!!
swidkid7 days ago
In case you'd like to correct it, the link to the lights has the right text but the wrong link. It takes you to the lenses.
1-big-dog8 days ago
OscarM1819 days ago
Simple but extremely ingenious and handy tool! Thank you!

Thank you
jorgemath3 months ago
Good post.
HouseDany5 months ago
WOW! What an excellent Instructable!
Skywoolf5 months ago
If you drill plexiglass with a sharp drill the drill will snatch as is breaks through and maybe shatter the plexiglass. If you take the sharp edge off the drill by carefully grinding a small vertical flat surface it will drill smoothly without snatching. It also helps to have a piece of wood under the plexiglass.
ebrey8 months ago
The light link that's supposed to go to Amazon actually goes to the lens page on Aixiz when you click. Even if you manually copy and paste the Amazon link, the product is unavailable.
big_buddha made it!10 months ago

I made 4 for our science lab!!! Don't have to worry about kids breaking the real microscope and great way to ease them into the world of microscopy :). Can't figure out the magnification from my setup, but I did use two of the Aziz? laser focus lens in the instructable's link. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tutorial and K-8 had a blast using them (and will continue using them for many more science labs). Was also too cheap to buy more flash lights so made little mitered boxes that reflect the light up. Great quick lesson on light reflection as well :).

irager made it!1 year ago

I made one and now I am going to make 9 more to be used at Billion Oyster Project (BOP) Oyster Research Station (ORS) demonstrations on the Baylander IX-514 in West Harlem Piers, NYC. Its a wonderful thing. I got the 10 lenses on Ebay from the same organization that was recommended. I'll be modifying to use 1/4" bolts that are shorter and longer, I'll be replacing the wingnuts with regular nuts because once the height of the stage is set, it doesn't change, and I'll be making shorter and narrower versions, and versions that use a left side rear bolt rather than a centered one. I aquired the plexiglass for free because someone was throwing it out. Technically the top plexiglass could be replaced by a solid substance but its nicer to see it all. BTW. The advice on cutting and drilling the plexiglass was spot on. There are Youtube videos that say the same thing.

whoamiaa made it!1 year ago


Brenna_3220 made it!1 year ago
Works beautifully!! This picture is of a small piece of shed Leopard Gecko skin. I was also able to observe micro-organisms in pond and fish tank water! Will be trying some at-home staining techniques soon. Excellent instructable!
Abeda71 year ago

How do i calculate the magnification that the microskop has?

DanielL604 made it!1 year ago
Thank you for a great article !

I did not make it myself, but I think the story is worth sharing:

When I first read about this article, at ( in 2013, I sent the link to Prof. Guzman Trinidad, a creative and inspiring high school physics teacher here in Uruguay (South America) as I thought the device would be really useful as a teaching aid/high school project. He was grateful and shared the idea with his colleagues in the biology area and multimedia areas.

It took some time (2017) but with a little help from out local PTT ( they started a short microphotography extra-curricular activity at the "Liceo 1 de Solymar" (biggest suburban high school in the area), with 20 students, using the device.

It was a real success and resulted in a presentation at the high school, a two week public exhibition of the microphotographs at the Civic Center of a big shopping mall ( and a short video documentary available online ( in Spanish).

Press article: (in Spanish)

Google translation:

Thank you again, for a great proyect and the inspiration it provides; thanks also to for the ideas and inspiration it provides to the whole hacking and teaching community.

Best regards,

A/P Daniel F. Larrosa
Montevideo - Uruguay

sergioa3w1 year ago

Congratulations, very well explained, and very well illustrated with the photos. It's amazing. Although you can buy Zoom Microscope Clip for your smartphone, always doing it yourself is better and more beautiful.

Greetings and many thanks for sharing;)
matrosov2 years ago

Thank you for a great idea. I will be building this with my 9 year old for her science fair project and wanted to add compression springs to the specimen stage. I can't seem to find 3/4 inch internal diameter spring seems a bit oversized. What springs did you guys use for your builts?

Dirruk2 years ago

Did it!! Now for some plant cells...

Dirruk2 years ago

Making one right now. How and where do you attach the second lens?

WernerBritsSA made it!2 years ago
Great instructable! Will definately be experimenting with it some more.

how u are doing this my lens is not focusing

I found that focusing works best when the lens is as close as possible to the camera's lense. I even took the cellphone cover off when using the microscope. Allignment of the lenses is also very important. From there it is up to using the up/down adjustment and then using the camera's focussing. Hope that helps.
Yoshinok (author)  WernerBritsSA2 years ago

Excellent! Please post more photos of things you find interesting.

Here's some crystals

nice, seems you already having fun.

SalikA12 years ago

the lens is not clear i have placed it on my camera and it blurs the image. How to get rid out of it ?

jlubczyn3 years ago

Do you think this would work to take pictures of snowflakes? I'm thinking of building these with my Grade 10 science class

It DOES work very well for snowflakes...but you have to have the entire scope outside so your stage and slide are cold so the snowflakes don't melt. I took this image a couple of days ago.

Yoshinok (author)  JeffR1782 years ago

This is a magnificent shot. I am giving a presentation to my colleagues about the response of the online community to my instructable/microscope. Would you mind if I used your photo? I've sent a PM and would like to be able to make all appropriate attributions. Thanks!

Yes, by all means, you may use the photo. I'm new to this site and am having trouble finding my PMs in Safari on my iPhone. I have a few other snowflake photos as well, if you are interested.
Yoshinok (author)  JeffR1782 years ago

I would absolutely love that! Thank you! If you are comfortable,feel free to post them here, or I can send you my personal email.

Here are a couple more images, one is a collage with a few "flakes" that were more like ice crystals. I also have a few images posted on my Facebook page:

london112 years ago

amazing trick

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