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phone projectorWhen I first saw Photojojo’s DIY iPhone projector I was intrigued. The science behind it was sound in my mind, but I wondered how usable it really was. The only way to find out was to make one myself, but not content with simply making another website’s tutorial I decided to change things a bit.

I had to change a few ingredients out of necessity and others out of sheer curiosity. What I ended up with is a slightly easier to use yet still ultimately hobbyist toy for iPhone photographers 10 More Tips & Apps For Better iPhone Photography & Videography 10 More Tips & Apps For Better iPhone Photography & Videography There are no shortage of tips and applications when it comes to iPhone photography and videography. In this article I would like to share tips for quick shooting paparazzi style, backing up your Instagram photos,... Read More with nimble fingers and patience 5 Awesome Do-It-Yourself Sites 5 Awesome Do-It-Yourself Sites Read More . Total cost? $4.50 for a magnifying glass and some duct tape – things you might already have around the house.

Intrigued? Let’s begin!

Things You Will Need for Your Phone Projector

In order to make an iPhone (or any smartphone) projector you will need the following items:

The original brief only used one box. What I did differently was to use two – two tissue boxes to be exact – with one slightly smaller than the other, so that it can fit inside. Seeing as tissue boxes are usually very similar in depth, you should be able to find two competing brands with slightly differing widths. This works for any box, as long as it’s a fairly snug fit you will be fine.

phone projector

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My reasoning? The original shoebox projector has a rather dismal minimum focusing distance, which means you can’t use it effectively over a short range. Projectors aren’t necessarily designed to be used in such a manner, so this might not seem like a problem at first. However: the further the projector is from a surface, the wider the spread of light becomes. This means that big projections will be very dark in anything other than pitch darkness. Another drawback is that focusing is done by moving the iPhone itself, a fairly fiddly procedure that involves opening up the box. So in order to get more “depth” out of my projector I decided to use two boxes, so that I could move the lens toward and away from the iPhone in order to focus.

build iphone projector

By doing this I actually gained a couple of meters in usability. The resulting projector is longer than most shoeboxes, and while it was a more fiddly construction I think the end results are better given the time invested. Again, you might not have all the materials but ideally are willing to experiment and make-do with what you have around the house. The idea here is to be thrifty and spend as little as possible for the simple fact that spending more money on such a crude construction is not going to yield much of an improvement in the results.

In fact, the results aren’t that great but I still had fun making and using it. If you’re impatient or just want to know how things went you can skip to the end for the finished product. Otherwise, let’s begin!

Method/Madness

The first thing I did was take the smaller box and mark out the circumference of the magnifying glass on it using a pencil. I could only find a huge magnifying glass at my local “mostly $2” store, and the handle isn’t removable without force so I left it on and made it fit as best I could. This actually helps focus the finish product too.

To ensure that the smaller box would continue to fit I made sure the bottom of the magnifying glass was flush with the bottom of the box.

build iphone projector

Next I cut out the circle I had marked roughly with a craft knife. Take care here, you want to score inside the circle so that the magnifying glass squeezes into the hole evenly, rather than being too loose.

build iphone projector

Once I’d cut the hole I put a few loose pieces of duct tape on the magnifying glass to make fixing easier. Duct tape has the benefit of being very stretchy, which makes it very easy to manipulate.

iphone projector

Magnifying glass loosely in place I taped the remaining edges to seal any holes that light might escape through.

iphone projector

Next I took the big box and unfolded the flaps from one end. I did the same to the small box, except I completely removed the flaps rather than just undoing them. Leaving them in place on the larger box until the end is definitely a good idea.

iphone projector

At this stage I decided it was time to make the inside of the box dark so that light wouldn’t bounce around and detract from the image on the wall. The initial plan was to use black tissue paper (as per the ingredients above), but I soon realised what a mistake I had made and gave up. A matte spray paint would work great here, but they’re at least $4 and I spent $2 on 25 metres of duct tape so I decided to use that instead.

Laying the duct tape in strips was fairly easy, if a little time-consuming. I did this to the entirety of the smaller box and the rear section of the larger box. The result was a very sturdy end product with added friction from the duct tape making a welcome addition to my focusing mechanism, though it wasn’t quite as matte as it could have been for my liking.

Finally it was time to put the phone in place for a quick test. You could use anything from a makeshift paper stand to a paperclip or even blue tack here, but I was lucky enough to have a box ever so slightly smaller than the width of my iPhone 5. This meant I could improve even further on the original projector with a slot into which I could easily slide the phone.

I put everything in place and tested the projector, and then marked where the phone sat best using pencil. I drew a line across the top of the box and made sure it lined up on both sides (so the phone didn’t sit at an angle). I then cut two thin strips slightly thinner than my phone in its case, and popped them out. At this stage the duct tape inside the box helped steady the cut.

I was left with a near-perfect fit that allows me to slide the phone in and out, with easy access to power and headphone connectors.

The iPhone will always correct the perspective when placed “upside down” but in order to project an image you will need your source image to be inverted. This is because the lens on the magnifying glass will invert the image.

There’s a fix for that – Settings > General > Accessibility and turn Assistive Touch on. Now you’ll get a little white dot you can move around the screen. Tap it, choose Device then Rotate Screen and rotate the screen so that it is upside when you place it in your projector. Finally head over to Settings > Brightness & Wallpaper and turn off Auto-Brightness while jacking the brightness of your screen up to the maximum setting.

I put the two boxes together, and folded the flaps on the larger box inwards to create a tight seal. The hole at the top can be covered with card or similar if you want, though you will need some way of using the phone while it is in position.

Results

Unsurprisingly the image quality isn’t great. There are no sophisticated optics or powerful lamps at play here, and while my phone’s screen seems incredibly bright at maximum brightness it only makes a small dent in a dimly-lit room. I have slightly off-white walls which didn’t do wonders for the image, though in pitch darkness visibility was good.

The best results came in the form of a white sheet, as you can see above. I absolutely had to head over to Archive.org and find some black and white stock footage Prelinger Archives: Thousands Of Old Films To Watch, Remix & Use In Your Own Projects [Stuff to Watch] Prelinger Archives: Thousands Of Old Films To Watch, Remix & Use In Your Own Projects [Stuff to Watch] In 1982, writer and filmmaker Rick Prelinger starting assembling a collection of films that would later become known as the Prelinger Archives. The films are all considered of cultural importance to the United States, depicting... Read More – it felt right. I also tried some safari images from a recent trip to South Africa, but video gave me the best results.

phone projector

It’s not as if the image quality of a moving image is any better than a still image, but it’s the novelty of being able to project a moving image onto something that got me. This is the way amateur and professional filmmakers of years gone by would review reels of film, in dark rooms with flickering images. The ability to project a moving image onto my wall somehow made the whole procedure and any disappointment involved worth it, and the grain only added to the novelty.

Would I recommend you create your own phone projector? Probably, yes. If you want a cheap projector you can only use at night that produces grainy, slightly out of focus images then this is the perfect project for you. It was never going to be perfect, but there’s a certain amount of charm involved here. I’ve had a longstanding goal of filming something professional-looking on my iPhone and now I know exactly what I’m going to watch it on when the time comes.

Massive props to Photojojo for the original concept.

Have you made anything similar? Are you going to give this one a try? Let us know what you thought of this in the comments, below.

  1. Cheesy12
    June 23, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Hi, this worked for me and is great but the image is very small how do I get it to be bigger plz help

  2. Anas
    December 23, 2015 at 9:15 am

    i am using 75 mm magnify but it is not working i am so sad because i try a lot of

  3. Dark Knight
    August 28, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Yeah its working now am using moto g for it... am not getting a good resolution.. How to improve the resolution.. the images on the wall are not fine enough :( :(

  4. Dark Knight
    July 31, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I am using 75mm , 4x/6x zooming magnifying glass. but while placing these stuffs. am unable to get anything on my wall just bright light and no images. I tried all movements but itdidnt work for me :( Can you please help me ?

    • Pradeep Kumar
      August 28, 2015 at 3:11 am

      I think you will have to adjust the distance between the lens and the wall / phone. That's how it worked for me.

      • Dark Knight
        August 28, 2015 at 3:46 pm

        yeah its working now am using moto g for it… am not getting a good resolution.. How to improve the resolution.. the images on the wall are not fine enough :( :(

    • udaya kuamr
      April 21, 2016 at 7:32 am

      ya though i used 90mm i didnt get any images only light as u told

  5. saturnbows
    June 8, 2015 at 3:57 am

    I found a way to STOP it from being BLURRY!!!! (by pure luck)

    I did this tutorial and at the end I became very frustrated because I could see the motion in my video, but it was so blurry that none of it made sense.

    So, out of pure desperation, I extended the first box by cutting off the end of it and attaching another box to it (with the front cut off of this second box).

    It turns out, I only had to move my device back about two inches and the entire picture became very clear!!

    (Also, so that you know this is legit, I was so ecstatic about my findings that I created a new email and registered on here, just so I could post a comment..... and I never usually make accounts on any website)

    • saturnbows
      June 8, 2015 at 3:59 am

      By the way, the magnifying glass I used in this was bought at the dollar store, so the initial blurriness (before you extend the box) has nothing to do with the quality of the magnifying glass.

  6. scarlett wolf
    May 17, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    why is mine super blurry i cant see anything???

    • Danielle Mae Bariso
      May 26, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Mine too!! Is it because i bought a cheap magnifying glass? Or is it the positioning of the magnifying glass?? Help

  7. farhan sheikh
    May 12, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Mirror should be concave or convax??

  8. Pichardo
    May 6, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I've tried that, But as you said, the final results are not as perfect as we would want, however I enjoyed it!.. i'd like to know a way to improve the quality of the image..

    • l ds
      June 9, 2016 at 12:06 am

      move the phone back

  9. Thor
    April 26, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Would it work if I used 2 magnifying glasses, so the picture wouldn't mirror and I don't have to place my phone upside down?

    • l ds
      June 9, 2016 at 12:06 am

      yes

  10. afnan
    April 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    hello i want to make projector for smartphone but i think it will not work

  11. Tahir
    October 4, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Isnt there any way to add light from an external source as we do in LCD projectors???

    • roland
      March 27, 2015 at 9:21 am

      give me a magnifying glass please so that I can try

  12. RubisSong
    May 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Wow! this is great. Will try it for sure.

  13. tushar kalsara
    May 6, 2013 at 8:16 am

    wow it's works..

    • udaya kuamr
      April 21, 2016 at 7:34 am

      can u explain the procedure how u did plz

  14. Achraf Almouloudi
    May 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I think if you try different distances between the screen and the magnifying glass you'll find the best image focus position to project a good picture.

  15. Tina Sieber
    May 3, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Awesome project, Tim!

    What's the best size for the magnifying glass? Or what characteristics would make it better suited for this project? Any recommendations?

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2013 at 3:00 am

      I'm not entirely sure - the first place I checked had only a large magnifying glass so I grabbed it and it seemed to work pretty well. I've not had chance to test any smaller ones, though I don't think it will make much difference unless it's tiny.

      I read somewhere about someone using an A4 magnifying sheet and a 19" monitor which apparently worked well, so I guess that has to say something?

      The biggest limitation here is light for sure, a smartphone of any brand isn't going to yield amazing results but it's watchable and fun to make :)

  16. Sam Rosario
    May 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Wow...the moment you mentioned magnifying glass i kind of guessed what you are upto. Going to try it. The other day i saw a magnifying glass in the market and i had it in my hand and wondered why anybody will buy it. I got it now that how it can be used :-)

    • Tim Brookes
      May 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      It's a sound idea that works to an extent, if the iPhone screen were brighter then it would be even better. It's a fun project though!

  17. macwitty
    May 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Lovely!! It will be a "rainy day" project this summer

    • Tim Brookes
      May 2, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      Yup it definitely makes sense as a rainy day project, especially as the dull light will make it easier to see your projections (though waiting till dark is best).

  18. Scott M
    May 2, 2013 at 11:28 am

    A great business product.I can think of many professions and applications in which this will be welcomed and embraced..

  19. Goodny33
    May 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for this idea.

  20. raymond mcnatt
    May 2, 2013 at 8:24 am

    This is cool definitely

  21. Sri Vastav Reddy
    May 2, 2013 at 6:36 am

    it's nice,,
    but adding a Video tutorial would be Great :)

  22. Mike C
    May 2, 2013 at 2:37 am

    That's an excellent project - I don't really have much use for it, but I'm definitely going to try to build one myself!

    • Tim Brookes
      May 2, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      Yup, I don't really have much use for mine now beyond the novelty of it. It's still fun to show people though, they don't seem to realise what you can do with a box and a magnifying glass if you just try.

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