homemade plastic lenses???

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by chrisdurnin, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. Hello all,
    I have recently fallen in love with the work of Susan Burnstine http://www.susanburnstine.com/index.htm and on a section on her site she says "Susan’s images are shot on film with homemade medium format cameras and homemade lenses, primarily made out of plastic"
    I shoot a lot of holga and my work has a similar feel to hers, and I love the idea of making my own cameras and lenses out of plastic, but I can't find any info on the web about making the lenses. Can someone help me out? Thanks
    Chris Durnin
  2. IIRC, plastic lenses are formed in a mold and then finished by polishing. You would need some type of material that could serve as a mold for the lenses and either a liquid plastic casting kit or some way of melting plastic (without burning it) and putting it into a mold. I've never tried either technique. It may be difficult to find a suitable mold for your lenses. If you're wanting soft, diffused images with little or no sharpness, this would certainly do the trick. At least you wouldn't have the problem of making your lenses too good. FWIW, liquid plastic is expensive. If you try some and don't like the results, you can use the rest of it to embed an object inside to make a nice paperweight.
  3. removed double-post caused wonky mouse
  4. I don't think you need to make the lens element itself (as per Mike's tips)... just a something to house a cheap plastic element and mount it to a camera. Much of my work is shot with a lens that I made out of a 99-cent store magnifying glass, an extension tube, and a mess of electrical tape. It's ugly, doesn't focus properly, is full of aberrations, has a curved field of focus, and is generally a horrible lens... and I love it. I even went back to the 99-cent store to get more of the same magnifying glasses in case I lose or ruin my current lens.
    I keep meaning to write something up on how I hacked it together, but haven't. But basically you just hold any ol' lens element in front of your camera body and move it back and forth until it casts a focused image on your viewing screen. And then you figure out how to construct a tube to hold it there. That's about it.
    BTW, the images in this gallery on my site were taken with my plastic lens. Well, all except one.
  5. Jonas, if you write something up on this, it sounds like it would be a good article for the Viva Film project here at photo.net.
  6. Thanks for posting. I enjoyed Susan's work.
  7. Wow, thanks a lot for all of the responses I think I have more than enough info to at least get me started on the right path. Jonas - great work! Reallly gorgeous stuff. Im thinking a little more distortion than that, but it's in the same ballpark for sure. And Zdenek - thanks for posting that link, it gives me the guts to go make this thing out of whatever I can find! Thanks again guys
  8. I needed a small plastic lens for an enlarger exposure meter I was making, and cast one using a two-part plastic resin kit. These kits are off the market now AFAIK - probably a health and safety issue.
    Anyway. The biggest problem was coming up with a suitable mould. I ended up using a small block of candle wax, and by pressing a heated ball-bearing into it I eventually got a reasonable plano-convex lens made.
  9. The Hobby Lobby store about 50 miles from where I live still has the plastic casting kits.
  10. I have ground a few acrylic lenses using a 1/4 inch thick sheet to make lenses 6-8 inches in diameter, as an optics experiment. Later I found that I had better results by putting the round disc cut from the sheet, on the top of a cylinder in an oven to slump deform it. The resulting shape was parabolic convex on the bottom and comcave on top. I ground the top to an optical flat and therefore ended up with a plano convex aspheric lens that was 6 inches in dia. This can be done with smaller pieces of acrylic as well.

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