Back when I wrote about being pleasantly surprised about a macro lens for smartphones that my friend bought, I also linked to a $10 set containing such a lens on DealExtreme. This appears to be the exact same set that Jenn bought two years ago, and when I got it, I had the same realization about the adhesive metal ring magnetic mounting system that she did: “it looks terrible.”

Not even does the metal ring look terrible, but it requires you to have the ring on there all the time for using the lens every now and then. The ring also covers a bit of the LED on my Galaxy S II, and finally, having a magnet that interferes with the device’s compass is not something you want when you’re geocaching. Bottom line, I had to do something.

My first idea was a piece that plugs into the cut out for the camera on my case and contains the metal ring. I made a working prototype and even took some pictures with it, but to actually make the piece sit in there I added tape to both sides of the piece, meeting around the edges, creating a thin layer of tape that would allow me to insert the piece from the inside and have the tape layer prevent it from falling out. The problem is that it isn’t practical to take the case off to insert or remove it, and it doesn’t fix the magnet problem.

My second attempt was similar, but with higher quality “parts” (read: glue, not tape), but that time I ended up with the macro lens too far from the camera lens, making it pick up the casing of it. I scrapped that one pretty quickly.

I finally gave up on the magnet altogether, took the lens apart, and started prying out the magnet. Once that was done I made a new rubber piece to fill in the hole in the case, and cut a hole in it that would hold the entire macro lens. I glued it in place, lost the actual glass lens piece for about an hour, found it again, and put it back together. I then added a bent, stiff plastic piece to the back, and finally a layer of microfiber material to avoid scratches. The bent piece of plastic has the simple job of sliding between the phone and the case, pushing the entire lens piece towards the phone and keeping it in place. Finally, I covered the thing in plastic and formed a piece of Sugru around it. Once hardened, I removed the plastic, and was left with something that looks like a rubber shirt clip of sorts, but is actually a double sided lens cover that keeps the lens protected when not in use. I don’t intend to use the wide angle adapter that came with the lens, so I made the cover specifically for the macro lens.

The result actually looks pretty neat when attached to the phone. More importantly, though, it’s not a non-magnetic system that is entirely self contained, requiring no metal ring to be permanently attached to the phone in order to work. It also self aligns due to the rubber piece filling the cutout in the case, and it’s very easy to put in and take out by just sliding the bent plastic piece underneath the case.

I’ve already played with the lens a bit, and it’s a lot of fun. With me having had an iPhone 3GS for 2.5 years prior to getting this Galaxy S II, this is really the first time I have a camera phone that actually produces good images, and I’m loving being able to do that and play with add-ons like this.