Turn your smartphone into a 150x microscope

A simple kit currently seeking funding on Kickstarter allows you to use your smartphone's camera as a 150x microscope.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

A simple kit currently seeking funding on Kickstarter allows you to use your smartphone's camera as a 150x microscope.

(Credit: Thomas Larson)

One of my favourite activities as a kid was to muck about with my dad's microscope, poring over ancient (in my mind) slides bearing legends such as "urea", "bee pollen" and "spores of smut". The teeny tiny worlds therein were a magical wonder, and my fascination with microscopy has remained intact.

If you have a curious mind about the microcosmos, a new project seeking funding on Kickstarter offers a relatively cost effective way of exploring the tiny worlds around you. Called Micro Phone Lens 150x, it's a smartphone lens attachment that allows you to view slides magnified 150x.

It's the work of University of Washington engineering graduate Thomas Larson, who last year released a similar product on Kickstarter, the Micro Phone Lens 15x. "This is the culmination of over two year's worth of work, including the original Micro Phone Lens 15x," Larson wrote. "Your support will help to purchase precision optical tooling, making the Lens available to the world."

Micro Phone Lens 150x (left); US$2224 Microscope and US$499 Camera Attachment (right). (Credit: Thomas Larson)

The 150x version is optimised for any smartphone camera lens over 5 megapixels, and simply attaches to your phone using a special adhesive. Because it uses your smartphone's camera, you can also take pictures, and it comes with a special case that you can store it in when you're not using it.

Larson also hopes to improve on the prototype in one significant fashion: by producing aspheric lenses rather than the spherical lens he used for the prototype. This will result in a much clearer image than seen in prototype images, particularly around the edges.

The lens starts at a pledge of US$29 for just the lens and case, and higher reward tiers include a light source, prepared slides, and blank slides that you can use for your own exploration, for a maximum pledge of US$79 (plus shipping).

Visit the Micro Phone Lens 150x Kickstarter page for more info and to pledge your support.