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For exactly zero dollars, this photographer built a working lens out of trash

Why it matters to you

With some tinkering and a bit of luck, this video shows how you can build a no-cost lens out of just about anything.

If you’ve spent the last few months trying to win over your significant over and convince them you need an expensive new lens for your camera, maybe don’t show them this video. Self-proclaimed experimental photographer Mathieu Stern is back with another cost-saving photography tip that seems almost too good to be true. With a bit of scavenging, some rubber bands, and a few minutes of his time, he assembled a functional 135mm camera lens out of items he found in the trash.

Aptly dubbed the “Crapinon,” the lens is literally garbage — which both refers to how it was made and the fact that it is really not sharp at all. However, we can’t help but be impressed with the results, soft as they are. The photos have a very retro, film aesthetic, with subdued contrast and colors. It’s a look that will undoubtedly help propel your Instagram account to unimaginable new heights.

Stern built the lens to work on a full-frame camera. He arrived at the focal length of 135mm after some experimentation. As for the aperture, which is fixed without a mechanical iris diaphragm, he believes it is between f/2 and f/3, according to DIYPhotography. Based on the very shallow depth of field of the sample photos, that would seem to make sense.

Of course, actually being able to reproduce Stern’s Crapinon may not be quite so easy as he makes it seem. For one, most of us likely don’t have M42 tubes and focusing helicoids just lying around. Rummaging through flea markets also isn’t guaranteed to turn up a suitable optic. Still, it is good to know that if you happen upon one and if you have access to the associated required parts, a little elbow grease and trial and error will let you turn it into a surprisingly usable lens for your mirrorless camera or DSLR.