Photography & Video
How-To:  Mobile Phone Projector

photojojo iphone projector

The folks at Photojojo just posted a neat low-tech tutorial on how to make a mobile phone projector using a shoebox, a paperclip, and a magnifying glass. MacGyver would be proud. They were able to find the magnifying glass at a dollar store for, well, a dollar (so they called it the $1 projector), but let’s just call it $5 before people get up in arms because they can’t find that screaming deal.

Basically, you start by cutting a hole out of one side of the shoebox to match your magnifying glass and taping the glass on the box. Then you make an iPhone holder from a paperclip, flip the screen display on your phone (to account for how images passed through a lens get flipped), position your phone inside the box (playing with placement until you get the clearest image), put the box top back on, turn the room lights down low and the brightness on your phone up high, and revel in your resourcefulness. Doesn’t get more accessible than that!

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72 thoughts on “How-To: $5 Mobile Phone Projector

    1. Actually, any biconvex lens will work – but they haven’t mentioned that the resultant image will be VERY dim, and be dimmer the further you try to throw the image. So you will need a very dark room and a very short throw for this to work acceptably.

  1. Problem is, the touch screen doesn’t work anymore. I’ve been touching the wall, and nothing happens. Hahaha

    1. the clearness of the picture relates to how deep the box is and how far you have it from the wall for example i used a lg baby wipes box and a huge magnifying glass to make one of these for my tablet and if i wanted the screen bigger i had to move the box away from the wall, but also move my tablet a bit closer to the lens in the box to make it clearer.

      1. I have tried everything but I still can not get it to project. I am not sure whats wrong??? I bought the hugh magnifiying glass, a large box, and moved the phone within the box and moved it close and far to the wall. I am lost please help. I just want to use it to draw a pic on the wall…

        1. Quite simple. First of all you nred to know the focal length of the lens. If.you.dont know it, simply go into the sunlight, and pass it through the lens. Keep the lens a few inches high from the ground and try to focus a bright spot on ground. Move your lens until you get a clear and focussed little bright dot. Now measure the height between ground n lens. It is the focal length. This is the exact distance needed between the phone and lens. Now you are almost done. Adjust your phone in the box with brightness at max, showing image or movie upside down. Move into a dark room, project the box towards a white wall. Maintain your distance by 6 feet and move the lens to get the clearer picture.

  2. I got it to work by putting the phone about 4″ away from lens (3.5″ same one in photos, from Dollar Tree) and then backing up about 8″. Result was bright, but very small. At first I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t see anything then I projected it on my white (SHINY) dishwasher with the lights out. bingo! it wasn’t viewable at all with flat white paper, I find the reflecting surface needs to be shiny like real movie theatre screens.

    1. FAIL. my box was 12.5″ deep, turns out I need it longer, so I cut out the back and at 14″ it was perfect and the box was about 7ft from the wall. Works well. Now need to find (or build) a longer box. (this one is all cut up)

  3. It doesn’t work.. it only shows a white light on the wall. Should I find a new magnifying glass?

  4. Man oh Man (err Lady oh Lady for the activists out there)
    You all simply rock I love what you all do keep it up! I’m so happy that people are finally “diggin” people for their brains. Geeks Rock !!!

  5. This is something I so dreamed of as a kid, only we didn’t have the technology to match my dreams back then. This sounds neat but in light of the comments,trial and error or hit or miss. Worth a try though!

  6. Mine just shows a white rectangle. I’m using a 3x magnifying glass on a white wall. Can anyone help?

  7. I just made this, and mine did not turn out so well. All I got was blurred colors. :(

    1. did you try moving it forwards and back? I haven’t built this so I wouldn’t know if that helps, seems like it would though.

  8. I’ve never tried it but the YouTube channel ThreadBanger tests out pins and made a video on this tutorial, it’s worth checking out. The diy works but the image was backwards and the size of the projection was pretty small. They follow the tutorial closely step by step so if there are any tricks to improving the results they didn’t them but you can most likely find extra info in their comment section. I hope this is helpful!

  9. I actually really dont like these. The lumens would be shit because its your phone screen. Why not spend 100-200 on a cheapy projector that actually works? Yeah I mean its more expensive, but really, do you see yourself using this at any point in time in a practical way?

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

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