A liquid lens is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The really cool thing about them is that, though they have no moving parts (unless you count the liquid itself), they can achieve a pretty wide range of dynamically-variable focal lengths over a relatively short optical path. When I first read about them, the killer app was supposedly going to be phone cameras.

Anyway, in this, his most recent vid, übermaker Ben Kransnow explains not only what a liquid lens is and how it works, but how he managed to get his hands on one to play with by ripping it out of this “snake” autofocus webcam. I note that the manufacturer is now selling this camera, in the US, on eBay, though their feedback rating is not great. Once you have the lens module in hand, apparently getting a driver IC to talk to it is another ball of wax. Ben explains nicely, as usual.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

  • http://twitter.com/srmoore srmoore

    The reason they weren’t adopted by cell phone makers is they fail the drop test horribly. Basically the two liquids would break up and bubble, making them useless as a lens. The concept is really neat though.

    • http://smragan.com Sean Michael Ragan

      Great!  Thank you for educating me.  I would expect over time the liquids, which are immiscible, would have to spontaneously segregate and the lens would then become useful again.  That’s just as much a deal-breaker for their use in cell phones, of course:  Nobody wants a phone that has to rest overnight, after being dropped, before it can take pictures. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Winslow/100000173877727 Joshua Winslow

    Wouldn’t freezing temperatures cause problems also?

  • kombizz kashani

    I wonder if it work with very high or very low temperature?