Outlandish lensesTurn a slide projector lens into a macro lens

This project uses cheap adapters to mount the same slide projector lens I used in the freelensing project on a mirrorless camera (a Sony A7II). The resulting lens will take great shallow depth-of-field macro shots!

Ingredients

  1. A focusing helicoid designed to mount an M52 screw mount lens on an M42 screw mount SLR camera with a extension range of 36-90mm.

    Pixco M52-M42/M (36-90) focusing helicoid.Note that is not a typo! I’ve never actually seen an M52 mount lens (M42 is a common lens mount for vintage SLRs) but an M42 to M42 focusing helicoid isn’t big enough to fit a slide projector lens (I tried!). I paid £22.69 for a Pixco M52-M42/M (36-90) focusing helicoid on Amazon.

  2. A lens from a 35mm slide projector.

    Enna München MC Ennalyt 90mm f2.5You can find slide projector lenses easily on eBay. Most lenses with a focal length of 85 or 90mm and an aperture of f/2.8 or f/2.5 from consumer slide projectors from the 70s, 80s and 90s should fit fine in the M52 to M42 focusing helicoid mentioned above. Lenses from famous high-end brands like Leitz, Rollei and Zeiss Ikon often command a significant premium, so if you have a limited budget avoid those. And avoid lenses for Kodak Carousel projectors as they are too big to fit in the M52 helicoid. If you want to use the exact same lens I used to make absolutely sure it will fit look for an Enna München MC Ennalyt 90mm f2.5… I found one on eBay for £10 it it has given me fantastic results.

  3. Blu Tack

    Enna München MC Ennalyt 90mm f2.5 with Blue tack in place.You will use this to fix the slide projector lens in the focusing helicoid. Here you can see a rng of Blu Tack around the projector lens ready to fix the lens in place in the focusing helicoid.

  4. An adapter to mount M42 lenses on your camera.

    Normal M42 to Sony E dapter.These are available for pretty much any camera ever made, mirrorless or DSLR, and can be found cheaply on either Amazon or eBay. If you’re patient and prepared to wait for an adapter to be sent direct from China you can find them for as little as £4.50 on eBay.

    Important note: if you use a normal adapter designed to mount SLR lenses on your mirrorless camera, or if you are using DSLR, you won’t be able to focus to infinity. The furthest distance you’ll be able to focus on will be 1-1.5 meters.

    Slim M42 to Sony E dapter.If you have a mirrorless camera you can overcome this by using a 'slim' M42 adapter specially designed to mount focusing helicoids on a mirrorless camera. I paid £5.99 for a slim adapter on eBay. Using a slim adapter will enable you to focus to infinity but at the expense of close-focusing distance, so you might want to get one of each! Use thee links to find M42 adapters for Sony E mount cameras on eBay: Standard M42 to Sony adapter or Slim M42 to Sony adapter. Just modify my search terms once you get to eBay to find adapters for other cameras.

So that’s a total budget of around £38 (or £44 if you want both normal and slim M42 adaptors for a full focusing range).

Method

Completed slide projector macro lens shown mounted on a Sonay A7II with a slim M42 to Sony E adapter.Completed slide projector macro lens shown mounted on a Sonay A7IIwith a normal M42 to Sony E adapter.The method for building this lens could hardly be simpler. Just put a ring of Blu Tack around the slide projector lens where it will sit against the focusing helicoid to hold it in place (you might find your projector lens sits snugly enough in the focusing helicoid to render Blu Tack unnecessary). The screw the focusing helicoid into a Sony E mount adapter (either normal for close focusing, or slim for focusing to infinity). And your lens is complete… just mount it to your camera like you would any other lens! (See General notes on using adapted lenses if your camera tells you that you have no lens attached.)

You can use your camera's manual focusing aids to focus just like with any other manual focus lens. Bear in mind that a slide projector lens has no aperture diaphragm, so you can only shoot wide open. For this reason your home made lens is not going to be a general purpose replacement for a normal macro lens, but if you want to experiment with shallow depth-of-field macro photography with plenty of artistic expression without spending a lot of money, this is could be your perfect lens!

Here you can see the completed lens with a slim M42 to Sony E adapter mounted on a Sont A7II (above) and with a normal M42 to Sony E adapter ready for some macro photography (below).

Examples

Click on images to make them bigger.

The black and white conversions were done using Sliver Efex Pro and the colour photographs were lightly processed to taste in Lightroom. These photographs were shot using the normal M42 to E mount adapter for a close-up focusing range (approx. 1.5m to 40cm).

Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 1 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 2 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 3 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 4
Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 5 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 6 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 7 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 8

These photographs were shot using the slim M42 to E mount adapter for a normal focusing range (approx. 1m to infinity).

Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 9 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 10 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 11 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 12
Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 13 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 14 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 15 Turn a slide projector lens into a macro lens gallery - Image 16