Want to make a super-easy case for your cell phone lenses? All you need is an Altoids gum tin, a small piece of foam, and some double-stick carpet tape.

Project Steps

Like many photogs, I’ve discovered that the iPhone 4S offers a surprisingly good camera. Add-on lenses give you anything from 2x telephoto and fish-eye wide angle lenses, all the way down to a close-up macro lens. But they’re easy to lose. Since they attach to the phone via magnets, a metal case would be ideal.

An Altoids chewing gum metal tin is the perfect size to hold three lenses. It’s small, durable, and will fit easily in your pants pocket without making you feel as if you’re carrying a camera bag in your pocket.

Here’s the case opened. Of the lenses I’ve found online (they all seem to be the same ones from the same factory in China), you can get a fish-eye lens, a wide angle/macro lens, and a 2x telephoto lens. The fish-eye lens is about 1/4″ deeper than the other two. Because the lenses have a magnetic ring in their base (used to attach them to the phone), they adhere naturally to the tin case. But because two of the lenses are shorter, I’ve added a small piece of sheet foam (available at any craft store), secured with double-sided carpet tape. This helps keep the lens caps secured in place.

Here you can see the two shorter lenses in the case, and a view of the bottom of the fish-eye lens. While the manufacturer supplies tiny lanyards with metal discs to cover the backs of the lenses, they don’t work well in practice. The case protects the lenses far better.

Here’s all three lenses in the case. There’s even room for those tiny lanyards, if you want them. The cool thing is the case completely protects the lenses, it’s easy to carry or shove in your pocket, and nobody will be the wiser when you flip out your tin of gum, only to reveal a full complement of cell phone lenses.

By the way – if you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, you may have been stymied for a method to secure the metal washer to the phone’s oleophobic-coated glass. I tested all sorts of adhesives (even the kind used to secure rear-view mirrors to windshield glass). The only thing I found that works (and it works VERY well) is the kind of clear epoxy that comes in liquid form, in a dual-chamber syringe. Lay down a thin bead of epoxy on the washer and hold it in place on the camera for a minute or so.

One thing to note – the washers they provide with the lenses that are supposed to be for the iPhone (that have a little half-circle cut out along the perimeter) do NOT work well with the iPhone flash. You’ll have a lot better luck if you simply snip one of the washers into a “C” shape, and trim off the rough corners before you glue it down.

By the way – realize that, should you ever want to remove the metal ring from the iPhone, you may well find it’s impossible to remove without cracking the glass. Be aware, that might void your warranty!


If you have a hard time finding Altoids gum tins, several sites (including Altoids' own website) have the gum available for ordering online.