Homemade Lenses

After being impressed by several photographers on the web and the results they achieved with homemade or tilt-shift lenses, I decided to build one of my own. I was thrilled with the results and have built several more, it becomes a little addicting. I find myself looking for good deals on old lenses and interesting ways of making new creations.

These lenses give unique and usually surprising results, it’s a fun change of pace from the typical razor sharp perfect images that digital cameras and high quality lenses can give. These allow for a little more creative freedom and distinctive looks.

The Lenses

Homemade Lens #1 – 75mm Wirgin Bellows

Lens #1

My first homemade lens I used a bellow lens to create, plus wrote up a fair amount of detail on how I created it. Lens #1 – Homemade Bellows Lens

Homemade Lens #2 – 75mm Vivitar Enlarger Lens

homemade lens #2

I bought this lens on ebay, it was much smaller than I thought it would be, but still worked out pretty well.

I used an old photo bag, heavy dark plastic, and taped the lens to an extension tube. This lens worked out better for longer range shots since it can collapse closer to the lens for better focusing. Plus I am still able to adjust the aperture.

Homemade Lens #3 – 80mm Mamiya 645

I bought this lens used at Adolph Gassers. The lens gave pretty good quality but like my #2 lens the focal length was a little long; I wanted a wider angle. So I ended up selling it at B&H Photo in New York to get Lens #4

Construction: I used heavy duty plastic from an old photo bag, some cardboard, glue, tape, rubber bands and a Nikon mount taken from a extension tube. I used the cardboard to create a thin platform that I attached the lens mount via superglue. The cardboard gave more surface to tape and attach the plastic to.

I then rubber banded the lens inside of the plastic. Using just rubber bands allowed me to quickly take the lens out so I could adjust the aperture when needed.

Homemade Lens #4 – 45mm Pentax 645

I bought this lens used at B&H Photo. I ended up using it for several shots in New York and it worked really well. However, I ended up returning it to B&H because $300 seemed like two much to spend for a “play” lens, plus the aperture was difficult to adjust on the Pentax.

I regret that decision because I think this was my most successful lens and I can’t seem to find another lens that works at that wide of an angle.

I used the same mount as my Lens #3, using the rubber banded plastic allowed me to change lenses without any hassles.

Empire State Building

Playing in the Snow

The Gates (NY)

Broken Obelisk

United Nations Building

Street in Snow

Homemade Lens #5

homemade lens #5

I went into Keeble & Schucat, a Palo Alto camera store, and was talking to one of the guys there about my homemade lenses. Looking over some of their used enlarger equipment I found two Tominon 105mm f/4.5 lenses which he sold both to me for $7. score! He said that might have been part of some old Polaroid reproduction machines.

Again, I used an old photo bag, heavy dark plastic, and taped and rubber banded the lens to an lens mount taken off an extension tube. I made a cardboard base for the lens mount to give it some sturdiness.

The focal length lens is a little too long for my taste, it works pretty well though. It was the primary lens I used on my 3-week trip to Japan. On the trip though I had to perform a few mending jobs with tape, which ended up fixing the aperture to f/8.

People definitely give you strange looks when using this and twisting it all around. I even had someone take a picture of my camera/lens get up.

Here are some sample photos:

Light House and Beach

Surfer on the Rocks

Playing on the Beach

Homemade Lens #6

Holga Nikon

My sixth homemade lens takes a Holga lens and mounts in on a Nikon, introducing the Holga Nikon

Homemade Lens #7 – Russian Optics 80mm Bovha-3

homemade lens #7

I found a cheap medium format Russian optics lens, this one looks to have some great potential. I think I bought the lens on eBay, but it’s been sitting around for awhile, so I forget how much I paid. Not much, I’m sure.

I also built a whole new mount, cardboard, bag get up which is a bit wider to keep the bag out of the photo. I’ve had numerous shots ruined because the bag bunched up inside and blocking the frame. I also used a lighter weight nylon instead of the heavier photo bag, it works nicely. I got my fabric from cutting up the top of a golf bag cover.

homemade lens #7

A flickr user (e50e) had a good idea for a mount which was to drill out a body cap and tape the bag to that. This seems like it would work well because the body cap has a nice area you could tape something too. The mounts I’ve been using are real thin. Something to try in the future.

Further Reading