Building a Camera Lens From Scratch

Making a camera is difficult. But making a camera from scratch, without the help of a laboratory, a whole team of engineers, and needing to source all of the raw elements yourself is nearly impossible.

How to Make Everything is a YouTube channel where the host attempts to make everything simple, from swords up to, in this video, a camera lens. While this video isn't quite a tutorial, per se, it is a fascinating look into the amount of work that goes into creating a (rather simple) camera lens; From making glass from rocks and sand (with elements sourced from around North America), to grinding it down, to making a copper housing (sourced from pennies), and more grinding. It's eye opening to see just how much work can go into building a lens, and why they can be so expensive. All of this is without things like coatings, optical image stabilization, aperture, shutter control, or even a lens cap.

While the video, sadly, does not show us a fully completed image at the end as the host, Andy George, still has to make his own film, a mount, repair his camera, as well as fix the lens that he dropped, I find these videos incredibly eye opening and brings the complexity of our tools into focus.

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Adriano Brigante's picture

That dude is actually insane.

Juil Yoon's picture

If you enjoyed this you'd probably like Boichi's Dr. Stone series.

J Barber's picture

Back in 1958, the essay 'I Pencil' explored this. The power of human culture from the first agricultural state untill now is that even the most self sufficient need not know how to do everything. Human productivity can be self organizing.

Original article and commentary

kai mollerud's picture

This is a great channel, I find it a really good way to understand the foundations on which all our technology stands. Plus, I used to be great friends with their camera guy/editor, which I learned when I suddenly saw his face appear in one of the videos when I'd already been following them for a month.

Joe Black's picture

This basically tells me if I am stranded on an island by myself I will be very useless. Amazing insight. Thanks for sharing.