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How to turn a smartphone into a microscope using water

Posted: , posted by Nick T.

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How to turn a smartphone into a microscope using water
Have you ever wondered what an ant's jaws look like from up close? Or have you wanted to read the tiny prints on banknotes? Or have you taken a look at the fibers cloth is made of? To do all this, you need a microscope, and there happens to be one resting in your pocket right now. Well, kind of. You see, modern smartphone cameras are capable of shooting great photos, as we've demonstrated on countless occasions through our camera comparisons and best cameraphone photos series. They can't really replace a proper microscope, but they can act like an improvised one with the help of an extra lens to help them achieve the desired magnification. Surprisingly, a single drop of water can be that extra lens.

For this project, you'll need the following:

  • A smartphone (obviously) with a non-fixed focus camera. If there's "autofocus" listed under your handset's camera specs, you should be fine.
  • A camera app. This one's optional, but recommended if your phone's camera app does not have manual control over the camera's focus. Our best Android camera apps and best iPhone camera apps posts might be of help.
  • A couple of books, thin boxes, or anything that can support your smartphone at about a quarter of an inch above a flat surface. 
  • A flashlight or similar light source is recommended.
  • A few drops of water. 
  • Steady hands and patience.

Disclaimer: most smartphones don't get along with water very well. While all you need is a drop of it to make this hack work, use your common sense and don't let any of it get inside your phone. Keep a towel nearby just in case you need to soak up any excess water.

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