Mobile microverse

Date:1 November 2012 Tags:, ,

Armed with a smartphone or a tablet and a few bucks’ worth of supplies, anyone can zoom in on a smaller realm.

Microscope photography used to be a high-priced craft – and for high magnifications, it still is. Hall Davidson, a former maths teacher who now works for Discovery Education, has come up with an easy project that uses an iPad or mobile-phone camera to create a 45x- or 60x-magnification device. That’s ideal for looking at details of plant and insect anatomies or at the surface of anything from rocks to computer chips.

“I went to the hardware store and bought every possible thing to attach it,” Davidson says. Eventually, he settled on a rubber grommet and a jeweller’s mini-microscope glued to an iPad. We’ve modified the plan so that the hardware attaches to a case instead, largely because not everyone wants to mess with a device costing R4 000 and up. Commercial versions of this project are starting to coming on the market, but ours is less expensive and more versatile.


A. Case: Look for a thin, hard case for your device. iPad cases are available online at bargain-basement prices.

B. 12 mm rubber grommet: Available in hardware stores for a couple of rand.

C. Jeweller’s mini microscope: Also known as a currency microscope, this tool is commonly used to detect imperfections in jewellery. Look for a unit that incorporates an LED; we found several models on for R30 to R60.

D. Superglue.


1. Before gluing, centre the grommet on the case over the camera lens opening.
2. Got the position right? Apply glue to half the grommet and attach it. Assuming you’re using an iPad, the glued part of the grommet should be opposite the curved edge of the device. (The grommet will not be completely flush.)
3. Once the glue dries, insert the eyepiece into the grommet.
4. Open the camera app and turn on the scope’s LED to start exploring the microverse.

Tip: Zoom from inside the app, and also adjust the view by sliding the eyepiece in and out
of the grommet.

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