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Start "Freelensing" with This DIY Tutorial

If you find yourself in need of a weekend photo project this might be just the one for you. In this tutorial made by Franscesco Spighi, you can turn an ordinary Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AIS lens into a selective focus "freelens." This mod will allow you to selectively blur and focus your lens like a tilt-shift or Lensbaby. Here's how:As explained in the introductory video (by Sam Hurd) you don't have to use a Nikkor 50mm AIS, Sam made his out of a 50mm f/1.8 AFD which would work just as well, perhaps moreso given the smaller 1.8 rear element and cost a fraction of buying a new AIS version (the AFDs run around $120 new at B&H, significantly less on the street).

Step 1: Supplies

All you need to get started is your lens, some electrical tape, and a set of small screwdrivers.


Step 2: Remove the metal flange 

To remove the back of this particular lens you'll want to remove the screws on the aperture ring and back (5 screws total on the 50mm AFD).


Step 3: Lock aperture open

For some reason or another, Nikkor lenses default to a closed aperture so next you have to remove the aperture ring, find the aperture control, and lock it open with tape (or superglue if you're not afraid of commitment).


Step 4: Lock focus

Zoom the lens all the way out to infinite focus, tape around the focus ring. Focus can now be achieved by moving the lens closer and farther away from the camera.


Step 5: Seal back [optional]

If you're a sicklier for the little things you'll probably be unhappy with the gap on the back of the lens between the body and the rear element. If you'd like you can make yourself a little gasket out of electrical tape.


And that does it! You're all done with your modified Freelensing lens. Go out there for some selective focus fun.

It should be noted that it's a good idea to use an older body when freelensing as dust is a lot more likely when there's no camera-lens seal. Consider picking up an old D70 or 30D.

Knock yourself out!

Check out our previous freelensing articles here.

[Via Nikon RumorsFranscesco Spighi,  & Sam Hurd]


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Francesco Spighi's picture

There is also a mistacke (not only on my name, both the times!! ;-) ):
"Zoom the lens all the way in to it’s nearest focus, tape around the focus ring."
Focus ring must be set on the infinite position!

ewqeqweqw's picture

then get a better name clown....

Francesco Spighi's picture

Are you sucking for something?

3434124234's picture

i do it in photoshop..

Jonas Karlsson's picture

good luck

Jorgue's picture

Filthy casual

Ole Fredrik Nydal's picture

How creative of you.

Francesco Spighi's picture

Ahahaha, you can do, for sure!

Philip A Swiderski Jr.'s picture

Lensbaby, thats the best way to go for tilt-shift Why destory a good lense and then expose your camera to the elements from the lack of attaching the lense on your camera. Fun yes, but only an idiot would do this.

Francesco Spighi's picture

Because lensbaby is not so sharp, and the bokeh is terrible. Have you check the samples pictures on my site? You can evaluate by yourself! ;-)

Tarek Ag's picture

Because you have a broken lens in your drawer...
Because your are using an old D40...

Austin Rogers's picture

I have used a Lensbaby before and quite liked the Sweet 35, for what I do I found the Edge 80 (an 80mm flat-focus) to be a little long. I'd love for them to come out with an "Edge 35" or "Edge 50".

Jonas Karlsson's picture

Is it possible to do this with the canon 50 / 1.8 II ? The modification that is.

Austin Rogers's picture

I would imagine. The cool thing about Canon glass is that it defaults to open aperture. Just tape the focus in and remove the mount. If you end up trying it be sure to drop us a line.

Cagomoc Reed's picture

just buy a tilt and shift

James Base's picture

Hey guys, if anyone is interested, check out
Its a universal lensmount designed to make freelensing a whole lot easier.
The Lensbender suspends your lens securely in front of the camera body, allowing a range of movement and flexibility and giving you an extra hand for aperture adjustment and focus-pulling.
Happy Shooting xx