I’ve been experimenting with camera attachments for my Galaxy S II since I first tried a macro lens on an iPhone 4S. My initial approach was to use gear that’s actually made for phones, but while I was waiting for the macro lens to arrive, I started thinking about some accessories I’d seen a while back. Normally, cameras with interchangeable lenses have a special interface connector on the end that goes into the camera, and a standard thread system with a certain diameter in the other end. Some camera that don’t have interchangeable lenses still have the threads on the outside, and there are companies taking advantage of that to make aftermarket accessories for cameras that aren’t designed to use them. My idea was to simply take one of the $1.30 cases I love so much and attach a threaded ring to it to allow it to use those types of lenses.

Anything in the size range of a DSLR uses ring diameters in the 50-70mm range; however, it’s possible to find accessories as low as about 25mm and still have a nice selection. I chose 30mm as my starting point, because it would allow me to simply expand the hole already in the case and not have to fill anything out. In hindsight, it wouldn’t have mattered too much, because I ended up using Sugru around the ring anyways. I also didn’t center the camera lens in the middle of the ring, because my tests showed that the attachments I plan to use won’t get in the way of it, but again, in hindsight the use of Sugru would have made that totally feasible. The good thing, of course, is that the cost of this entire case is about $5, so I can make another one if I need to.

I originally planned to use an adapter ring from 25-30mm to get the 30mm thread on the case, but the postal system delivered a UV filter I ordered first. I apparently had a brain fart when I ordered that filter, as I meant to buy a circular polarizing filter, so I just removed the lens from the UV filter and used its ring. I took some small scissors from a multitool and cut a larger hole using the existing camera cutout in the case, and then used super glue to glue in the ring. Finally I took some Sugru and filled in some gaps on the back side and made a more seamless transition between ring and case on the front. The Sugru also helps glue down the ring since it bonds very well to the material the case is made of.

After the Sugru hardened, the thing was done. It’s a really simple accessory to make, and dirt cheap too. The idea is not to have this case on 24/7, but rather to put it on for occasions where I’m likely to take some pictures. I have a polarizing filter, lens cap and macro/wide angle kit that fits 30mm threads on the way, and there are a few other accessories out there as well, including fisheye lenses and telephoto lenses. The 30mm standard is mostly used on camcorders, which means that my phone can now use accessories that are actually designed for proper cameras, albeit video cameras. I have a feeling I’ll see a nice quality boost over the tiny cellphone macro lens, and either way, the 30mm system is a lot more modular and allows for things like lens caps and CPLs to be grabbed off eBay starting at a couple of bucks. I still haven’t received any of the attachments for this, but once I do, I’ll head straight out the door to test them and report back how it works.

For the record, the 37mm standard seems to be more widely used. You can get adapter rings that go from 30-37mm, or if you have a larger phone, you can fit a 37mm ring right on it to begin with.

If you want to try to make one of these for yourself, here’s a quick list of what you need

  • Strong glue/epoxy, and preferably some Sugru
  • Cheap case that fits your device. The cases I use exist for most devices, do an eBay search for “tpu curve *yourdevicename*” and sort by “price + shipping: lowest first”
  • 30mm (or 37mm) ring. Either use a step up/down converter ring that goes to 30mm, or a UV filter for 30mm. The latter option is about $2.50 on eBay
  • 30mm accessories. Basically search around and go nuts. “30mm CPL,” “30mm macro,” “30mm fish eye,” and “30mm telephoto” are some good searches for eBay and other places that will give you 30mm accessories. A “30mm 37mm” search in eBay will get you step up ring converters so you can use 37mm accessories.