Turn Your iPhone Into a 40x Microscope: Here's How

Turn Your iPhone Into a 40x Microscope: Here's How
Although many times during the week, my iPhone 15 Pro Max is my go-to camera, I'd never considered using it as a microscope. 

Now, a new offering from Sandmarc has me thinking about the potential. Sandmarc has been a longtime purveyor of accessories for iPhones, most notably add-on wide angle lenses and macro lenses. With most configurations, you specify the iPhone you have, and you are sent the lens and a case that has the needed screw on hardware so you can get the lens on. 

The Microscope Lens Edition, as it is called, has just started shipping, and it's actually a pretty exciting accessory. As mentioned, I have an iPhone 15 Pro Max, but the microscope accessory lens works on several of the recent iPhone models. Check the Sandmarc website to see if you can get a match to your gear.

The Tech Details

Here are the specs on the lens:

  • Magnification: 40x
  • Height: 12.8 mm
  • Diameter: 42 mm
  • Field of View: 68°

And in the box, you get:

  • Microscope lens
  • iPhone 15 Pro Max case (other cases for other iPhones are available)
  • Clip-on mount
  • Lens pouch
  • Front and back lens caps

Using the Microscope Lens Edition

I have to say, opening the box and looking at what was included was a complete mystery to me. There's not a word of instructions to be had. I went to the Sandmarc website to get some details, and found some helpful videos, but really, after buying this thing customers are certainly entitled to a quick start guide.

So, after getting past the silent treatment, I got my iPhone in the special case provided. I wondered how you would use the microscope in closeup, because it looks the lens needs to be right on top of your subject. So, how to light it? Sandmarc thought of that.

The lens has a ring light that is adjustable in brightness. It's rechargeable, and you get a USB-C cable to plug it in. There's an LED light to tell you when the light is fully charged. It's very clever. 

The lens is not a zoom, but depending on your phone, you can get different magnifications. You can capture 40x on the standard iPhone camera, up to 120x on the 3x iPhone Telephoto cameras, and up to 200x on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

I took some photos (it just uses the regular photo app on board the iPhone), or you can use some third-party apps too. Before venturing outside for some nature shots, I tried some things in the house.

First, I tried a dollar bill and got great detail. 

Then I tried a really small screw you use for attaching a hard drive to its carrier.

Out in the garden, I tried some cactus thorns with success.

You just have to hold the phone steady and close to your object. Any wind at all is not your friend, but I managed some good images. 

I liked this simple window screen magnified. It wasn't perfectly in focus, but that's because the lens wasn't parallel to the screen, All my shots were handheld, and I expect a tripod with a phone mount will improve the images greatly.

If you want to try the Sandmarc Microscope lens on another iPhone, they give you a nice clip-on accessory so you can attach the setup to any mobile phone, but you have to take care to line up the Sandmark lens with your mobile phone lens. I didn't have an Android phone to try. I'd check with Sandmarc on how well the clip will work outside the Apple family of products. 

This is a very sophisticated product, and it was engineered with care. Having a microscope lens on your iPhone will give creatives some really good ideas and expand their photographic vision.

What I Liked

  • Excellent image quality.
  • Easy to use once you get some instructions.
  • The ring light is genius and rechargeable.

What Could Have Been Better

  • Opening the box and finding no instructions or even a link to the Sandmarc website was an omission. Customers will be frustrated. 
  • Even on the Sandmarc website, you have to hunt around for help or explore YouTube for demos or reviews.

Summing Up

All in all, the Sandmarc Microscope kit is really impressive. If you haven't explored extreme macro photography, you are likely to enjoy it. The included lens is a multi-element unit that can produce high-quality images, The included case makes it easy to get the lens attached, and alignment will then be perfect. The clip to use with other phones is a nice touch, and the fact that it is included rather than an optional extra is a nice touch.

The iPhone Sandmarc Microscope Lens Edition is available from the Sandmarc website. New users will need some practice, but I found handheld images were practical when shooting on the fly. The Sandmarc Microscope Lens Edition is  $129.99, and I think that's reasonable for its quality and ease of use.

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Ah yes, another Apple specific product that has no real reason to be Apple specific 🙃

Actually with the included lens clip it should work on Android mobile cameras...

Exactly my point. They market it as if it's somehow only compatible with iPhones.