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Turn an iPhone into a microscope for less than $5

Here's a fun project for children, students, and anyone interested in getting a bigger view of the smaller world around us. All you need is a few bucks and a few minutes.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
Glue an inexpensive microscope to the back of your iPhone (case) and get some enlightening close-ups of the world around you.
Glue an inexpensive microscope to the back of your iPhone (case) and get some enlightening close-ups of the world around you. Crabfu

If you've ever peered through a microscope, you know how incredibly cool the world can look when it's massively magnified.

Just one problem: it's uncomfortable to squint through that tiny viewfinder. Where are the microscopes with the big, comfy LCD screens?

Try looking in your pocket. Hobbyist Crabfu came up with a slick--and inexpensive--hack that turns your iPhone into a microscope. You can see it in action, and learn how to do it yourself, in this video. (Note: The actual how-to starts at the 2:09 minute mark.)

As you can see, the hack's results can be pretty impressive. And all you need is the microscope, a little glue, and a case you're willing to sacrifice to the cause.

Regarding the microscope, it's a tiny, battery-powered, dual-LED unit the author procured on Amazon for $5. Alas, that price has since bounced up to $12.95--but I managed to find the same 45x two-LED pocket microscope for $4.70 shipped. (If you strike out there, a Google search for "45x SE illuminated microscope" should find you a price in the same ballpark.)

This mod was obviously done with an iPhone 4, which has a much better camera than that of previous iPhone models and the benefit of a flat backside. You could probably accomplish the same hack with a 3GS, but it would depend on the case you use.

Speaking of that, if you don't want to give up your existing case, Meritline has an iPhone hard case for $3.76 shipped that looks like a good "throwaway" for the microscope project.

What do you think? Is this nifty, inexpensive hack worth...a closer look? (Heh, I crack myself up.)