Building A Lens (The Soap Bubble Projector Lens.)


Good afternoon everyone,

So I’d thought I’d go off piste here a little.

Although I’ve been predominately a light-painter since I discovered a love for photography back in 2011, I do also however dabble in Portraits, Landscapes, Infrared, Double Exposures and 35mm film as well.

Coming from engineering and manufacturing background in my day to day job, part of the initial attraction to light-painting was building and designing my own tools.

I was one of the early adopters of camera rotation in the UK, and designed and built my own rotation device from scratch back in 2012 before the technique was well know and the tools were widely and freely shared like they have been now for the past 5 years.

This interest and cross over with my day job hasn’t wained at all and I often build tools and devices on my 3D printer for myself or in my studio for other Light-painters.

The last one being a 3D printed backlight scanner for a well know UK light-painter, that will be using it for their work in the future.

I’ve also in this time, been dabbling with making my own Lens too.


Now there are plenty of resources online about using and adapting vintage lens on modern mirrorless cameras, and if your lucky to own a Sony or a Micro Four Thirds system the process and the adaptors are varied and are very widely available on Ebay and Amazon, both here in the UK and the US.

If like me however, you have a Nikon Z series camera, although it is possible to do the same, it’s a little harder due (at the time of writing) to adaptors not being as widely available and you’ll have to find or manufacture some of the missing pieces Yourself possibly.

I’ll cover more of this when I write about the tilt shift adaptor, and the other lens that I made for the Z6, but for now I’m going to cover adapting a small Projector lens for a mirrorless system to make a cheap Soap Bubble Bokeh lens and show some real world examples.

So the Lens I’ve adapted in this instance is Heidosmat F2.8, 85mm Lens, but other makes can be used to create the same effect.


It is worth bearing in mind, that these lens due to their original use are a fixed aperture, and although can be used for light-painting are more ideally suited to more regular forms of photography (Landscapes, Portraits etc)

To make a lens similar to this you’ll need to buy a similar projector lens from either EBay, or at a Bootfair, or Yard Sale.
I paid about £7 Uk pounds for mine, but they can vary in cost.


The second part you’ll need is a lens helicoid,in this case an M42 Mount and 25mm to 55mm to give me plenty of out of focus bokeh.


And thirdly a M42 adaptor to your chosen system, (Nikon Z in this photograph)


You’ll also need some sandpaper or wet and dry and a strong metal glue.

I’ve sanded down the main body of the projector lens by a few thousands of an inch to get this one to fit, snugly in the inside of the helicoid, and permanently fixed it in place using the strong metal glue and left to dry.

At this point give the whole assembly a check over and ensure no pieces of metal or plastic can ingress into you camera and it’s clean.

The lens can now be attached to the M42 to Nikon Z adaptor and also mounted to the camera.

Some example images of BlueBell flowers last May 2018.

Note: The almost soap bubble bokeh that can be achieved with this kind of lens.


Another Example of the Pseudo Soap Bubble Bokeh.



Obviously these type of lens can be used for a variety of photographs and the focal length at 85mm is perfect for portraits.

In this last example I’ve used it in conjunction with a prism to photograph my wife whilst out one day last summer.


The sharpness is astounding considering it a home built lens, and the sense of satisfaction is doubled knowing it cost me no more than £50.

If you’d like any pointers about creating your own, please feel free to pop me a comment below and I’ll be happy to help in anyway I can.

I’ll be back with another of these if people find it useful or interesting and I will show best time how to build a swirly Bokeh monster and a compact 40mm and tilt shift adaptor amongst other things.

Happy Shooting and take it easy :)

If you’d like to see more light-painting photography on Steem, please head over to @lightpaintershub and give them a like and follow.


Comments 9

That's incredible mate. I've seen Mathieu S on YouTube do similar but less impressive as he used off the shelf solutions. Bravo for the 3d print element. Top class results also. Great stuff.

17.01.2020 12:49

Cheers Buddy, yeah Mathieu S is the master of this type of thing and a massive source of inspiration :)

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17.01.2020 14:02

Thats an amaaazing Post. Thank a lot for this fantastic inside view.

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17.01.2020 14:10

Cheers mate, although not Lp still creative so I figured it would be an idea for a post

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17.01.2020 14:55

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18.01.2020 14:22

Thank you :)

18.01.2020 15:48

Not only all of the photographs are marvelous, the tutorial is excellent as well. This was an interesting and informative read from the beginning till end. I'll definitely love to see more of these types of posts.

Wish you a lovely day.

18.01.2020 16:24

Thank you Mobi72,

That's great to hear, I wasn't sure if people would be interested or not.
I'll definitely be writing up and posting the other lens modifications and the examples for people to see and hopefully try for themselves too. Have a great day and thank you again :)

18.01.2020 16:51