There are lots of tutorials on the internet showing how to make a removable macro lens for a smartphone using a lens recovered from a disposable camera. I could do with a macro lens, so when I was in Leeds a few days ago I went in search of a film processing shop from which to beg a used disposable camera. They all seem to have shut – I guess no one prints photos any more or, if they do, they upload them to a lab and then get them delivered by post. But then I remembered Boots and, sure enough, they still have a photographic section that can handle rolls of 35mm film. I chatted up a member of staff and he went to have a rummage through the bin in the store room out the back. He came back a few minutes later with two disposables from which the film had been removed for processing. Result!
Frankly, it’s a crime against the environment that single-use cameras like this are sold. As well as the film and the plastic case they contain a battery, a flash unit with associated circuit board and electronic components, a plastic lens, viewfinder and various thumbwheels, gears and ratchets for winding on the film. They are presumably covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (forgive me, but I haven’t checked the fine print of that particular piece of EU legislation, I spend too much time doing that for work to want to do it for fun as well) as well as the Batteries Directive, in which case the electronic components and the battery should be recycled, but I wonder if all the retailers that take in a handful of disposables every week for processing bother to separate them out from their general waste.
I’ve disassembled one of the cameras, being very careful not to touch the flash circuit which has a large, scary-looking capacitor that might well be capable of giving me a shock even after the battery has been removed. The salvaged circular lens seems to function quite well as a macro lens. I need to figure out how to attach it temporarily over the lens on the phone, but in the meantime I took snaps of the flash circuit board with my phone at the same distance away, about two inches, without (on the left) and with (on the right) the additional lens.
Not the sharpest of images, and I managed to get my finger in both shots, but the “with” photo is definitely less blurry as well as having greater magnification.
I also salvaged the two rectangular lenses that form the viewfinder and was pleased to discover that the smaller one (which was on the rear of the camera, closer to the user’s eye) makes quite an effective macro lens too. The slight curve on it means that it sits very neatly against the phone.