DIY – build a loupe

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Where’s the image? The LCD screen is difficult to see in bright light.

05-13-2010

For years photographers have used a loupe to check focus on the groundglass of a view camera, or to inspect a negative or slide. A loupe is simply a magnifier for very close viewing. With the advent of digital cameras, a loupe takes on a new role.  It’s pretty hard to resist chimping your images while shooting; but out in the bright sun it’s almost impossible to see the image on your LCD screen. A loupe can help by blocking out the light while checking your screen.

This post will give you step-by-step instructions for building your own loupe. The parts will cost you less than $15 and it takes a little less than an hour to make.

The parts to make a loupe will cost about $15.
The parts to make a loupe will cost under $15.

Parts list* :

  • Rubber pipe coupler (1 1/4″)
  • Rubber pipe adapter/coupler (1 1/4″ x 1 1/2″)
  • Plastic pipe (1 1/4″ sink tailpiece)
  • Magnifier (I use the 3X loupe from a 5-piece set)

You’ll also need some black electrical tape, silicon caulk, medium grit sandpaper and a hacksaw or coping saw.

This is the basic design of the loupe. The rubber couplers will make up the housing, the black plastic pipe holds the magnifier in place and also holds the two couplers together.

loupe_design
Design of the loupe

3X magnifier
3X magnifier

Step 1. Remove the pipe clamps and save them for some other project.

Remove the pipe clamps from the rubber couplers.
Remove the pipe clamps from the rubber couplers.

Step 2. Use the hacksaw to cut the black plastic pipe into two lengths: 1″ and 2 1/4″ lengths. Be sure to smooth out the rough spots with sandpaper. It is important to cut/sand the edges square.

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1" and 2 1/4" lengths of black plastic pipe

Step 3. Referring to the design diagram, begin assembly by inserting the 1″ length of black pipe into one end of the 1 1/4″ coupler until the ends are flush. This will be the end of the loupe that you’ll look through. The 1″ piece of black pipe will hold the magnifier in place. Insert the magnifier into the rubber coupler so that the lens is even with the end, then insert the longer piece of black pipe into the coupler until it nudges up against the magnifier. The magnifier should be centered within the black pipe and it should be reasonably stable.

img_7385
Partially assembled eyepiece - the lens of the magnifier should be even with the end of the coupler.

Step 4. Use the sandpaper to rough up the inside of the black plastic pipe – this will reduce the reflection on the inside of the loupe. Then slide the adapter/coupler onto the black plastic pipe to complete the assembly of the parts.

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Fully assembled loupe.

Step 5. Apply silicone caulk to the gap between the magnifier and the black plastic pipe. Allow the caulk to set up completely – this will stabilize the magnifier.

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Fill the gap with silicone caulk.
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Be careful not to get any caulk on the lens of the magnifier. This caulk will dry clear.

Step 6. Wrap electrical tape around the joint between the two rubber couplers. You may also want to attach a lanyard to the loupe.

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Wrap black electrical tape around the joint between the two rubber couplers.
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(Optional) Attach a lanyard to your loupe and you're ready to chimp in style!

Constructed of rubber couplers, the loupe will not damage your LCD screen and it will block out bright sunlight so you can see the image clearly. It is strong enough to stand its own ground in a crowded camera bag. The coverage is a little smaller than the larger screens, but it works great for getting a close-up look at your images in bright light. I normally need reading glasses for close viewing, but the magnifier allows me to see the image sharply without reading glasses.

The loupe also is very helpful for shooting video where manual focusing is critical.

Enjoy!

(* – Sourcing info: the plumbing parts were purchased at Home Depot for about $9; the magnifier set was purchased at Harbor Freight Tools for $4; the lanyard was leftover from a conference badge)

Note:  if you use a magnifier with different strength, you may need to adjust the total length of the loupe to achieve maximum sharpness.

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