Sunday, 11 July 2010

Got and old dvd player ? like photography ?

(Just to let you know that links open in a new window)

I only got into digital photography a short while ago, since then I've tried to take as many pictures of anything and everything.
I'm lucky enough to have a wife with a digital slr camera, which she let's me use as much as I want, but the only down side with such a camera is the size of it. It's too large to fit into your pocket, and so are most of the lenses.
Like most people I have a mobile phone that has a camera on it, which is okay for most types of pictures, the camera on mine isn't going to win any awards (my phone) but it's pretty good, apart from close up, it doesn't seem to focus very well at close range, and seeing as I like to take close up shots of things I've found this to be a little bit of a pain, but I have found a solution, well if I'm honest my wife found a solution while she was looking at uses for an old dvd player, so I thought I would post about it.

Firstly before I get down to the taking stuff apart bit have a look at these pictures......

Picture - 1.

Picture 1.

Picture - 2.

Picture 2.

Picture - 3.

Picture 3.

Okay so 2 of these pictures were taken using the how to I'm about to write about and a mobile phone with a 3mega pixel camera, one however was taken using a £250 Sigma macro lens attached to a Sony alpha 200 digital slr camera.
Any ideas as to which one was taken using the macro lens and slr ?

Now I'm aware that some of the newer mobile phones probably take pretty good close up/macro shots, but this would still be fun to try, and you never know the results may surprise you.

Basically what you need is an old dvd player, or some other device that reads cd's or dvd's, you can also use old cameras.

So for this you will need the following - 

  1. Screwdrivers, usually Philip's
  2. A paper clip, if using an old drive from a pc (all will be revealed)
  3. An old dvd player, or disc drive from a pc.

See picture -

If you used an old dvd player, then getting into it is pretty easy, just undo all the screws from the bottom and rear of the the device. If you've used an old disc drive then getting into it can be a little harder.
So to get into the drive the first thing to do is locate the small hole on the front of the drive.

See picture -
Manual eject hole.

Now this is where the paper clip comes in, just bend one section of it out, so you have a straight part, then basically stick it in the hole, and push you should feel a little click/clunk and the front should open slightly.
What you have done is override the locking mechanism, and trust me doing this it makes it so much easier to get into one, and remember most disc drives have them, so if you get a disc stuck in you pc, this is how you get it out (without the power on)
Once you have the tray open you can un-clip the front, in order to get inside then you need to un-clip the front so you can get the next part off.

Front of tray - 
This part comes off easily.

Next you will need to take the front plate off, to do this look for the little lugs on each side of the drive, sometimes there is one underneath as well.

Lugs - 
Lugs, normally on both sides.

Once you have pushed out the lugs the front plate should come of quite easily, the next thing to do is undo any screws there are, these will usually be on the underneath of the drive, but check all over to be sure.

Remove screws -
Front face plate,tray front removed.

Once you've removed all the screws, and pushed out any lugs, you should be able to get the covers off the drive and then it's pretty simple to find what we are looking for.

The part we are interested in is the lens, this should be roughly in the middle of the drive, and it's the part that channels the laser beam onto the discs. Just to note that on the dvd player there maybe 2 lenses, take the bigger first, this might be on the underside of the laser unit.

The lens - 
This is the bit we want.

The lens should pop of with a little flat headed screw driver, be careful not to scratch the top or bottom of the lens.

The lens again - 

The lens again.

And that's about it for the taking apart, just one thing though, there will be other usable parts in you device of choice, so have a look to see what else you could use for your next project, for example these devices all have small electric motors in them, these would be handy for all sorts of things.

Now this next part kind of depends on what sort of mobile phone you use and where it's camera is located. On my phone the camera is located on the back in one of the corners, this made it easy to to find a way to actually fix the lenses to the phone.

I'll leave the fixing lenses onto phones part down to you, post a comment if you came up with an alternative why to mine, or a better one, which shouldn't be hard :-)

So as it turns out the lenses I've used all have one thing in common, that being the actual lens part, the bit that light can pass through are all the same size, roughly, so I got a section of cereal box (it's preference here, coco pops or weetabix, it's up to you) and a hole punch, the sort of thing most offices have (you can get them from poundland)

I then cut a small rectangular piece of cereal box and punched a hole in one end, which is just big enough to allow a good field of view, and still have something to stick the lens to.
When I first tried this I used a variety of glues, pva, pritt stick type stuff, all of which didn't work so well, in the end I used good old fashioned super glue, but be careful it's quite sticky :-)

( by the way a good tip if you get super glue on your finger is to get them under a running tap quickly, this stops the glue setting properly, you may end up with a layer of glue on your fingers, but it peels off quite easy, and your fingers won't get stuck together like mine)

Glue the lens to the cereal box, make sure you get the lens central to the hole you've punched into it, and with any luck you should end up with something like the picture below.

My phone lenses.

The middle lens I found in an old 35mm camera which I found on the floor one day, you may also find a similar thing in the disposable cameras, so if you have one, get the film developed and ask the developer if you can have what's left of the camera.

So just for reference below is a picture of the lens I used on the slr to take one of the 3 shots at the start of this post.

Sigma macro lens.

Did you guess which one of the three was taken using the lens above ? well I shall reveal that it was number 3, so I'll let you be the judge of whether you think the pictures taken using the old dvd/disc drive lenses are any good, I think they came out pretty good, and below are a couple more using these home made lenses for mobile phones.

Orchid - 


And a pound coin - 

A pound coin

Thanks for reading.


  1. That is soooo neat! Thanks for sharing. You have a ton of great ideas on here!