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.