Compound Eye

Compound Eye

The many facets of science photography

Thrifty Thursday: James Waters's iPhone Ants


Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500.

This week's Thrifty Thursday is the first to share images taken by a photographer other than myself. James Waters attached a $20 Photojojo macro lens to his iPhone, pointed the DIY assemblage at ants in his Arizona State University laboratory, and produced a hipster's selection of Instagramed insect portraits.

Waters's images suffer from the usual impairments of a cheap lens, unsurprisingly. They are soft with considerable chromatic aberrations around the edges. But such softness is not necessarily a drawback, as the vignetting emphasizes the subject at center and makes for a pleasing overall composition. Plus, the small size of the Photodojo lens adds a wide angle, bug's eye perspective particularly suited to insect photos.

Most importantly, Waters's images capture key aspects of the biology of the subjects: the seed-eating habits of the Messor harvester ants (top), the delicate interactions of worker and queen Pogonomyrmex (bottom). These images work just fine for a conference talk. Or, hung on the wall of the local coffee shop. Not bad for a cell phone camera.

[more photos here]

Incidentally, I predict that 2 years from now we're all going to wake up from our Instagram-induced stupor and wonder just what the hell we were thinking. They're just so mainstream.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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