The DVD Player Macro Lens

DVD lens mounted to my iPhone

I was drawn to this project because I’m interested in photography, but I really don’t have any experience taking hardware apart, let alone without damaging a tiny, delicate piece inside. Luckily, I found some great resources to help me along. The project seems to have originated from this post on DIY Photography, one of the most active and respected sites on photography hacks and DIY projects. The walkthrough was helpful for background, but wasn’t specific enough for someone with my experience level.

My next step was to head over to the internet’s headquarters of DIY projects and life hacks: Lifehacker.  A quick search on their site turned up this YouTube video by former Lifehacker blogger Jason Fitzpatrick which went into much more detail about the process. For example, without the video I wouldn’t have known that the lens I needed was actually located behind another laser diode assembly within the DVD player, and probably would have mistaken this assembly as the part I needed.  I really love videos and seeing these kinds of disassembly’s in motion, much more than static images and textAnother Google search turned up a Palm Pre forum discussion about the hack. This didn’t give me much new information about the project itself, but I learned that many had tried it with a CD player lens instead of a DVD player, only to find that it didn’t work.

CD vs. DVD data. The lens on a DVD player must be able help the laser focus on much smaller details. Image taken from

Curious as to why a CD lens wouldn’t work, I did some digging, and came up with a great article about how DVD players work on, a great resource for learning about the manufacturing processes behind many household items. Here I learned that data stored on DVD discs is much more tightly packed, so the laser and lens assembly operates at a much smaller wavelength, allowing it to “zoom in” closer on the tiny data points on the disc. The article also gave me a better idea of what to expect once I opened up the DVD player, and gave me a conceptual understanding of why this hack actually works.

Read on past the break for photos and description of the project itself.

These are the tools I used. I needed several sizes of screwdrivers, needle nose pliers, a razor blade, masking tape, a DVD player, and a phone for testing. I had to get several of these at the store since I didn't own them.

Step 1: Unscrew the back of the DVD player to open up the case.

The inside of the DVD player. The big black part is the disc drive, but the laser I need is hidden by other parts that need to be removed.

After much searching for screws to remove the drive, I realized they were hidden under soft adhesive pads. I used the razor blade to remove them and expose the screws.

The newly revealed laser assembly. I learned from the Lifehacker video that the lens visible in this picture is the laser itself, not the lens I need salvage. That lens is hidden underneath this assembly.

I had to remove the disc drive to access the lens. After removing a few more screws, I had to cut a few wires to free the drive from the casing.

Finally the lens is revealed!

I had to (very carefully) use the tip of the razor blade to free the lens from its casing.

The remains of my exploration.

As suggested by the Lifehacker video, I used a hole punch to cut a hole in a piece of masking tape to mount the macro lens.

Unfortunately, the hole is just a little too big to keep the lens securely fastened to the phone.

Two more tiny strips of tape helped secure the lens to the camera. Though this does cover the edges of the lens, since it is a magnifier, the only part that actually needs to stay uncovered is the center.

The Gallery (Click to View Larger):

Broken egg shell

Xbox Controller

Razor Blade



The E-Ink Screen of a Nook


Camera dial

Styrofoam Cup

Tennis ball

Pull tab

8 of Hearts

The class blog on an iPad 2 screen


Vinyl Record



Tiny screwdriver


About shep979

Junior at Trinity University. Editor of
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One Response to The DVD Player Macro Lens

  1. Pingback: Salvage an iPhone macro lens from an old DVD player | Inertial Scroll

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