Sunday, March 3, 2024

Open-source 3D-printed camera lens costs less than $15

A camera without a lens is useless to a photographer. Every photographer has different needs when it comes to lenses – in price, speed, and focal length.

A computer science student with a passion for electronics and photography Felix Steele has developed a 163mm f/2.5 telephoto lens, a customizable optical system that offers a low-cost, open-source alternative to commercial lenses through 3D printing. He managed to design a lens that cost less than $15 and named his first project the “Pixels and Prisms.”

The Pixels and Prisms lens has a focusing mechanism and a fully-adjustable aperture. This is in contrast to other 3D-printed lenses, which house elements in fixed tubes without adding functionality.

The 3D-printed lenses include a manual focusing mechanism, which can lock in the fully-extended or fully-retracted positions – as normal lenses do, and a fully working twelve-blade aperture. The latter is the first for a 3D-printed lens designed around a full-frame digital camera system.

Anyone can assemble the Pixels and Prism lens. It has no fasteners or screws, and parts are bonded using household glue. Apart from the glass element, the lens is 100% 3D-printed. The total material cost was approximately $13.

For under %15, Pixels and Prisms is a viable low-weight lens option for travel, portrait, or street photographers and a cost-effective entry point into telephoto photography. The aperture and zoom system can even be modified to work with any lens element, so long as an extender is added to the front of the optic.

Thanks to this flexibility, the lens could serve as a means of accessing specialized focal lengths that don’t require a large investment. In a future iteration, the design focus will be on working towards a more convenient form factor and a wider variety of features, including further improvements in optical quality.