Water Drop Magnifier

A dime photographed with a phone camera through a suspended water drop

A dime photographed with a phone camera through a water drop

Although water is a liquid it can have optical qualities of a solid when formed inside a vessel or suspended by surface tension. A clear plastic bottle full of water can make a reasonable magnifier and can also be used to start a solar fire (see Soda Bottle Fire Method ).

On a smaller scale, a drop of water can be used as a magnifier as well. A drop of water can be placed on a flat horizontal pane of glass that in turn can be held over a subject to be magnified. Drawing a small circle with an oily substance such as butter or grease will help contain the water drop. Alternately, you can take a piece of non-porous material like a piece of plastic or waxpaper and then using a hole punch make a small hole. By dipping your finger in some water you can transfer a water drop to the hole where it will become suspended, thus forming a lens. You can control the amount of water and thereby alter the magnification power.

As I pondered this mini-magnifier I realized that a possible application would be to use it in conjunction with my cell phone camera, both for close-up viewing and to photograph. I found a clear plastic bottle and cut out a piece. I took a hand-operated hole punch and made a hole. Then I dipped my finger in some water and transferred a drop into the hole where it was suspended. I decided that a small dime would be my subject (see photo).

Because water is liquid it will wiggle and potentially blur, especially when photographing. I found that low profile items like pens or pencils will help to brace the camera and plastic water drop holder when it’s held over the item being viewed. It is also helpful to have strong light from the side for illumination.

This “lens” may be thought of as a “life hack” rather than an emergency tool, but then, reading fine print on a map, a phone number in a directory or examination of a small cut or injury may be urgent and this may offer a solution in a pinch. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you and how you used it.

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