How to convert your Nikon lens into a telescope or a microscope (Nikon lens scope converter)

Today’s guest post is from Fabrizio Belardetti ( who also reviewed the rare Nikkor 19mm f/2.8 Macro lens last year. He will explain how to turn your Nikon G lens into a telescope (or a microscope) with the help of an old Nikon lens scope converter:

The Nikon lens scope converter is an unusual item (check those eBay listings), quite rare and really well built. Nikon lens scope converter is from the AF D era when Nikon lenses had their mechanical aperture rings.

Here's a view of the inside of Nikon scope converter - as you can see there's no coupling mechanism for the diaphragm, it just contains a prism and a 10mm focal length eyepiece. If you want to use the Nikon lens scope converter with G lenses, you have to modified it a little in order to get the aperture blades fully open.

When the lens is not attached to a camera body, the aperture blades inside the lens are fully closed:

Aperture blades are controlled by a lever connected to a spring which holds the diaphragm closed. There is no lever in the Nikon lens scope converter that would operate this lens lever when you attach it to the lens. To get the aperture blades fully open, you just need to build a small piece of plastic to fill the gap and keep the lever up - as a result the diaphragm will stay open. The work needs to be very precise, so I carefully worked with a knife a piece of plastic. It took several tries, but at the end it just worked. Since there's no coupling, there's no risk of damaging anything inside.

It's important that the plastic piece stays shorter than the mount edge so you can lock the scope converter easily:

For my lens, the plastic piece was about 4mm in length:

The power of the telescope is calculated by the focal length of your lens divided by 10, in my case a 51x telescope. I can assure the image quality is simply amazing! This is because the converter doesn't use the entire image area, just a small portion in the center, which of course is the sweet spot for any lens.

If you mount the Nikon lens scope converter on a Micro lens, it will give you 25X the magnification of the lens that is attached to. I've use it on my AF-S 105mm 2.8D Micro and I end up with a 25X handheld microscope.

VR won't work without a camera body, so you need a sturdy head and tripod to minimize any wobbling when you use this setup.

With this "telescope" you can see things that your eyes can't just imagine and everything is sharp and detailed. A couple of days ago there was a full moon with a clear sky and spent some time looking at the moon and stars... I truly got lost in the sky!  Everything appears 3D. Really amazing!

You cannot take any pictures with this setup, you can only look inside and say WOW!

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  • Now if I could just figure out how to do the giant moon in the background shot like you always see on CSI, I would be happy. This seems like a cool idea, though.

    • Nirvana

      use at least 300mm, f/10 to f/13, and somewhere around 1/250 second.

      • Nirvana

        and don’t forget to set your ISO to 200 or 400, something low.

      • Phil

        A 300mm ain’t gonna cut it. I have one, and I’ve shot the moon with it.

    • silmasan

      For a giant moon to almost fill the frame on FX you’ll want maybe a 800mm lens (depending on the time you’re shooting) and a strong tripod/pentapod (to go with lower ISO as above poster said). Definitely worth renting one when the moon is exceptionally big or bright if you’re really into it. Or go DX, because 500/4 is more popular. These are some interesting links:

      • Richard

        You need 2000mm to fill a 35mm frame top to bottom.

  • EvanK

    Now THAT’s what I call a macro lens!

  • Nick

    @Zinchuk that’s just an optical illusion. see

    • I guess I’m looking for a LOT bigger moon. For instance, the wedding I shot the other day, the full moon was still low in the sky, but I could not a.) get it to appear much bigger than the bride’s cheek, b. in focus at the same time as her, despite using 1/500 f/13 ISO 400 D700. I just noticed I was at 105 mm, obviously not close to the 300 mm suggested above. I want the moon to be HUGE, like bigger than her head.

      Here’s a link:

      Any help would be appreciated. I’ve tried with the 70-200 at 200 with a 1.7x teleconverter, and still can’t get much of a moon. Do I need to get my old 600 mm Sigma mirror fixed?

      • Eric


        In order to have the “big” moon illusion in the sky, it must be low on the horizon. Much lower than the one in your picture. Also, while low on the horizon, it will get a red shade to it (visible at night) because of the way the light travels through our atmosphere. If you look in your local paper, or look it up online, you can find when the full moon will rise in your area. Just go outside and see how much larger it looks very low in the horizon. Hope that helps

        • silmasan

          +1 low on the horizon, very important point, just like the sun when it’s setting

          • Rich in TX

            agreed. Must be very low (almost touching the horizon);
            due to the curvature of the earth and it’s atmosphere, you are looking through a much thicker slice of the atmosphere which has a magnifying effect on the moon.

            • That’s what I thought too but according to the Wikipedia article referenced by @Nick the moon isn’t magnified at all. It’s just an optical illusion created by the proximity of the moon to the horizon.

            • Here’s a shot I took earlier this year during the Perigee moon

            • Phil

              Be advised that the moon moves VERY rapidly at the horizon as it comes up. Even with a relatively fast shutter, you’d be surprised how soft your shots can come out.

              With a long lens, all internal camera vibrations, (mirror flip-up, f-stop actuator, shutter curtain open) will create reverberating vibrations, even with a heavy-duty tripod. It’s not as easy as you think to shoot the moon and get a sharp, crisp image of it.

            • Richard

              The Moon moves no faster at the horizon or the zenith, but it does move as the Earth turns. However, exposure times are only long enough to blur it on a non-driven mount when it is less than half phase, or low on the horizon, depending on the speed of your lens and your ISO. More important are the seeing conditions, how unsteady the atmosphere is, and (if you are shooting the Moon on the horizon) what the haze level is and hence the atmospheric extinction of the image. Here is a shot taken with the Moon just rising. The distortion of the Moon (ripples) is due to heat waves at the surface of the scene.


      • There was an article on Joe McNally’s blog. You should check that out – it’s exactly what you need! In order to bring the background closer you should use the longest lens there is! And use the smallest aperture. I think he used like 600mm at f/22 or something. Mirror lens won’t work because of the fixed aperture at like f/8 which will render moon as blurred circle.

        • Phil

          >>And use the smallest aperture. I think he used like 600mm at f/22 or something.<>Mirror lens won’t work because of the fixed aperture at like f/8 which will render moon as blurred circle.<<

          Not sure where this thinking comes from either. What do you think every telescope, from the tiniest Questars to the largest observatory scope are? Ever seen images created with Newtonian reflectors or Schmidt-Cassegrains?

          • Phil

            My reply was corrupts by my quotes. The first half of the quotes were followed by my statement saying that using something like f 22 is a recipe for disaster. You need to set a refractor to it’s optimum aperture to get the best quality image, and that’s typically two stops in from wide open.

            The second quote was answered above.

      • silmasan

        oh just read this one, i gave a reply above and now I’m thinking of trying this myself… looks like May 6th 2012 would be a good date (check the lunar perigee calculator linked in my post above). 🙂

      • Eric

        Well, there definitely is room for improvement on your bride/moon picture.

        * You used 70mm on FX. At least that’s what the EXIF says. Try with 200mm or 300m on DX. Your shot was at f/13 so a slow-kit would be perfectly fine. Hell, I suppose a P500 bridge camera with 810mm equivalent would do.

        * You’re too close to the subject. Being further away makes the bride smaller, while not having any influence on the moon size.

        * Don’t try to fill the picture with the bride. Go even further away, and crop the picture in post-production.

        * The bride is kinda fat. Sorry, but I suppose it does make a difference. You probably shouldn’t have done a full body portrait anyway!

        * You don’t have to include the horizon, and it’s irrelevant how high the moon is. You only need one reference, and in this case that would be the bride’s face.
        As long as you can get the moon and the bride in the same picture, you don’t care where the moon is.

        * Don’t care about moon’s apogee/perigee. The way you take the picture has a much bigger influence on the perceived moon size!

        Come back soon with a better picture!

        • silmasan

          You’ve offered some good practical advice, except:

          The height of the moon relative to the horizon is VERY relevant (regardless of whether the horizon itself be included in the composition or not), because you’ll want to shoot the subject from quite a distance and preferably at *similar height level* to the face, not from under the ground/down below (because it’s generally less flattering, but any wedding/portrait shooter would know this).

          Of course the full moon chart helps too, esp. if you’re going to routinely do this. Though you can’t force the brides to follow the dates…

          The bride being fat IS not relevant, =) but lighting is

          • Eric

            True, it might not be convenient to shoot the bride and moon when the moon is at the zenith. Point taken!

          • The bride being fat IS not relevant, =) but lighting is

            I know I’m kind of nit picking but shouldn’t the emphasis be on “not” rather than “is”? Also, I really hope the bride doesn’t frequent this site.

            • silmasan

              hmmm should’ve written “… IS irrelevant” (irrelevant being the keyword) and stop there.

              I’m also thinking about stopping using the f** word. Dunno maybe instead I’ll use… “squishy”?

        • lowlifes

          Kind of fat?? Sorry?? Shouldn’t have done a full body portrait???

          I’m sure the lack of girlfriend or wife you may have shows how much of a low life you are.

          She’s obviously very content with her body to get into a gown and hire a photographer to shoot her wedding.

          So keep on going online dreaming about your nutcase 90 pound 18 year old girl fantasy and thank you for leaving the real woman single for us real men.

          Other then that. I agree with most everything else you say.

          I wouldn’t worry to much on the moon size. and start concentrating more on your photography technique.

          • Eric

            Hello there.
            Sorry for the confusion.

            1) Every bride should obviously get plenty of full-body and gown pictures, regardless of their shape.
            “You probably shouldn’t have done a full body portrait anyway” was only referring to the moon/bride problematic.
            It’s easier to make the moon appear small in comparison to a face than to a whole body.

            2) Expression over perfection. I shot wedding guests that were overweight/obese. The pictures turned out to be really good mostly because they were having fun and were enjoying being in front of the camera. I cannot stop but smiling while looking at some of those.
            The bride doesn’t seem to be very happy to be there, though.

            3) “kinda fat” is a relative characteristic.
            More than 65% of the US population is overweight.
            More than 30% is obese.
            In Europe, it’s around 10%.

            4) No need to be insulting or judgemental.
            I’m glad to know that the “real men” will take care of the “fatty ones” though, so that I can concentrate on being happy with my slim fiancée.

        • Rich

          I was going to say… it helps if the bride isn’t as big as the moon

        • Wow. “The bride is kinda fat. Sorry, but I suppose it does make a difference. You probably shouldn’t have done a full body portrait anyway!”
          That’s incredible. So I guess only skinny brides get to have their picture taken. And the other half (or more), well, they’re just out of luck.
          Eric, your other points are valid, and appreciated, but that just takes the cake.

          • Eric

            As I said in another comment :
            “You probably shouldn’t have done a full body portrait anyway” was only referring to the moon/bride problematic.
            It’s easier to make the moon appear big in comparison to a face than to a whole body.

            I agree that the formulation was unlucky. Sorry about that!

          • Eric M

            Just to let you know, I am the Eric that posted to your moon question about looking in the local paper, etc. I should have put another initial behind my name and I wasn’t thinking about another Eric posting in the same thread. Sorry, my bad. My only post. besides this one is this:


            In order to have the “big” moon illusion in the sky, it must be low on the horizon. Much lower than the one in your picture. Also, while low on the horizon, it will get a red shade to it (visible at night) because of the way the light travels through our atmosphere. If you look in your local paper, or look it up online, you can find when the full moon will rise in your area. Just go outside and see how much larger it looks very low in the horizon. Hope that helps”

            Sorry for the confusion.

            • Anyway…

              The eye is naturally directed to what’s bright and contrasty. The woman in the picture is big and white, and the Moon is not.

      • @Zinchuck,
        Taking pictures of the moon is a difficult endeavor. Not to long ago, a Supermoon occured and thus I ventured out to capture it.
        After spending a few minutes online, looking at articles about how to best photograph the moon, there were a few things were common to them all.
        1.) Shoot when the moon is low on the horizon (It’s an appearance thing, the moon in close proximity to the earth gives you a visual reference to compare it against other manmade things)
        2.) Use the longest glass you possibly can. I used a 70-200 f/2.8 with a 2X teleconverter on my D300 for a 35mm equivalent of 600mm for the image below.
        3.) Use a sturdy tripod and cable release
        4.) Stop down between f/11 and f/16, but not so far that difraction kicks your butt in sharpeness.

        I too had the issue of trying to get the moon and the clouds sharp in the image above, so this is where Photoshop comes in. For example, if you had the opportunity to reshoot your bride you could do the following.
        1.) Create a image of just the moon using the longest lens you have.
        2.) Create a nice image of your bride.
        3.) Use Photoshop to create a composite image.
        Fo my moon image above, I had to do something similiar to get the appearance of relatively sharp clouds and a tack sharp moon. Only photographers will ask how I took that image, because they know something just isn’t quite right, but they can’t put their finger on it.


      • Jabs


        I have one suggestion for you.

        Composite images.

        FAKE it – lol

        Get a high res. Stock Photo of the Moon and composite it into the background after you leave enough space for the blank sky in your composition. This way you can scale it (the moon) to whatever you want and also crop YOUR image to fit its’ perspective.

        Simpler to me than trying to align things in reality.

        Photoshop or Gimp, Gimp-Shop – Sky creation – Image composite. Moon on one layer. Sky on one layer and Bride on one layer.

        If you want to do it ‘naturally’, I would go to a Beach and then lay on the floor or low enough and then shoot towards the Moon from the Beach first (then without the Moon in the scene – just to get the perspectives right) – of the subject (bride) and then use a longer lens to frame the same scene without the bride but NOW with the Moon and then combine them in camera in a multiple exposure with a locked down tripod in camera or do it in a Computer Program. You need to shoot the bride in the same LIGHT as the Moon though – meaning about the same time of the day – night or early morning I would guess.

        Basically move the tripod left or right (not up and down now) AFTER you see where you want the Moon and the Bride to be in your final image. Hope that I have not confused you.

        Maybe, you are over-thinking things!
        Here’s a cheap way to me.

        For Bride:
        Lens choices to me on FF – maybe a 60mm Macro (Micro-Nikkor), grid screen and level tripod or in-camera level – aimed at the Moon. Shoot bride off center – maybe far right and use fill flash to expose her properly and bring out details.

        For Moon:
        Leave the tripod exactly where you shoot the bride and then shoot the moon with an old Nikkor 500mm F8.0 Mirror lens.

        You can reverse the procedure and shoot the Moon first and then shoot the Bride last with the respective lenses, depending on how you are going to composite the image.

        Send me a check now or fuss at me for confusing you even more – lol.

        Others can add to this or trash it.

        • IanZ28

          Jabs has the right answer.

          shooting a wedding is already a complicated process with a lot to do and a lot to photograph.

          Getting the right focal length, framing, lighting (and exposure), DOF, and pose is a lot to ask when you could be taking other images.

          Simply take any moon photo (your own or one you can use with permission) and paste it into the image over the existing moon.

          • Jabs


            Thanks, but kinda shy and love to keep away from compliments or the spotlight – lol

            I try to simplify things often and use equipment or techniques that enhance productivity.

            That is one reason why they have Computer Programs as many photographers do the same exact things – FAKE it or ‘enhance it’ as they “politically correctly” say.

            Shooting the Moon is too time consuming to include in a Wedding shot at the same time, as it’s a one day affair with an already flustered bride and thus TIME is money plus she already is focused on other things, so why add to her problems.

            Do it in Post!

            I like the Beach idea but that too is too time consuming but I was merely offering options if they wanted to now do it the ‘hard way’ – lol.

            How many of us live near a Beach too?

            You never know what people will want here, so I give them options even if I would not do that personally.

            Let us see what others think or can add to this discussion, perhaps! We might learn a thing or two.

  • I bought one of those couplers over 20 years ago when I visited Singapore, used to use it with my 180mm ed lens.. was fun to play with.

    I still have it… should give it a try with my 70-200 and the 1.7x teleconverter.

  • Joe Jaro

    I use the scope converter on my old 400mm f3.5 nikon and the result is truly impressive. I fully agree with the above first hand. As it’s an older series lens, no need to fix things either and my 400mm suddenly has a second life 🙂

  • Here is how I did the Nikon Lens Scope converter to G lens modification. ->

    • thanks, I just posted your link on twitter and facebook

  • Rob

    Have you ever considered any sort of editor? Perhaps not for breaking news, but for most postings it would be quite beneficial. I can’t remember the last time I read an article here without grammatical errors in it. With the reach of your website, one would expect such basic things to be covered.

    • Yes, I am definitely considering to get somebody to fix my spelling and grammar mistakes.

    • Seriously – this is your biggest issue????

      Admin, dont worry, if spelling errors are their biggest gripe ya doing OK!

      • ha!

        Agreed! Specially for the work the admin does with this website.
        But being grammatically correct and spelling error free. Will only bring a more professional feel to the site.

        me.. meh I’m just a user who cuold car least about, all it of.

      • Rob

        It wasn’t meant as an insult. Improving the look and professionalism of the site will only serve to attract more advertisers and help support it for everyone who comes here.

        • No Rob, I did not take this as an insult because it’s obvious. The problem is that I do not plan posts weeks in advance, when I get something interesting I sit down and I post it online immediately. It will be very difficult to find somebody that is available 24hr to review my writings. The speed of delivering news on NR is crucial because other websites are getting press releases weeks in advance and can prepare accordingly. I do not have that luxury. After all, if you dont see it first on NR, I have failed 🙂

          • maybe

            admin. you could still post as you usually do.

            and have someone who visits the site frequently (we all know there are many out there that do) and would be able to edit the post into a grammatically correct and error free post ?

          • Not Banned

            1 – “Hire” multiple editors who cover you round the clock.
            2 – Post as you always do – but post to a holding site.
            3 – Editors “race” to edit. FCFS basically. They edit, then the post goes live.
            4 – Profit share some pittance with your editors to encourage activity.
            5 – At the end of each year (quarter?) “fire” the worst performer(s) as measured by quality not quantity to encourage quality.
            6 – Hire replacements from the willing pool.

          • Jabs


            Maybe I have a simple answer for your spelling.

            1. Open a Firefox Browser session and then copy and paste the Article.
            Let Firefox correct the issues for you.
            2. Maybe also Open Office or Libre Office on Macs.
            3. On iPhones, I don’t know if the Browsers there have spelling and grammar checks???
            4. I think Firefox just introduced a Browser for smartphones but forgot the name – look around then.

            I believe that you said before that English was not your native language, so I don’t know how to fix that without getting very expensive – LOL.

            Anyhow, you have the right work ethic and all, so don’t worry too much, as we understand you plus appreciate you a lot – mistakes and all (lol). The information presented and your dedication counts more to me than that stuff.

          • Jabs


            Here is the link to Mobile Firefox, but it seems to be for Android now mainly and thus what to do?


            • If it was only so easy 🙂 WordPress has a built-in spell checker and I use it all the time (I know, you can’t tell).

            • Goodthinking

              I think that idea of having a couple editors come in and rewrite your post the proper way is a good idea.

              The way i see it is like this.

              You post what you wanted to post live. (we read it)
              When your editors come in and find errors..
              They will fix the errors.
              They Repost and it goes on hold for your approval. (to make sure they just fixed it.. and didn’t add anything silly)
              And when you approve it switches with the error prone one. And continues live error free.

            • Jabs


              Grammar mistakes are hard to pin down, as computers don’t think. Same for ‘spell checks’ in Programs. English is weird and illogical at times, so leave it alone as it takes time to learn and write English properly as the rules are often contrary to other languages mainly.

              Leave well enough alone or marry an English speaking wife as your ‘second wife’ and now watch NikonRumors disintegrate totally and with perfect English too – LOL.

              It’s OK – good things often come in slightly flawed packages and awful plus meaningless things often come in so perfect a package, that the life is gone from them.

              It’s a Rumors web site, so the rumors count and not the occasional mistakes.

              Not College here, so ignore that.

              The tenacity or determination of the Web site’s director and not their English ability is what counts, so I prefer you to inform us and not teach us English, as many here speak plus understand English much worse than you. This seems to be a global Web site of readers, so your ‘mistakes’ are probably shared with many readers who are even newer to English than you.

              You don’t see them complaining!

              Relax – all new things come in time or take time.

              I get you and probably most of us here do too.

              That’s all that counts!

            • Yes, this may work – the only problem is that the RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter posts are generated based on the first post. I have over 26k RSS subscribers, almost 18k Facebook fans and 35k Twitter followers.

    • AM

      I thought this was a photo site and not a grammar site.

      • Jabs

        It is now Officially – a grammar, troll, political, complainer, learning, flood control and reporting web site for ALL camera lovers especially Nikon users.


        Where’s the D800 Nikon = just for you too.
        36megs only – naw – I want 500megapixels and 200fps all for $1999.95 US too and it better not be larger than a flash drive or else.

        I am switching to REALITY!

  • John

    @Janne: No modification needed. Just use a piece of rubber to fill the gap to get the aperture fully open and you are good to go.

    @Fabrizio Belardetti: No crafting of plastic needed either. I once used a small piece of paper (that doesn’t leave residue)!

    • John: I like more permanent solution. I would lost the rubber piece after all for sure, and then I have to do it again, and again, and again… =D

      But nice invent you got! I came up only with the hard solution.

  • Michael

    Things appear in 3D? Viewing with one eye?! That’s amazing!

    • ha!

      It’s true. It’s like this time when i was a lad. And some friends gave me some mushrooms.

      i couldn’t believe how clear and crisp everything was. and the contrast of things was intense.

      i spent a good hour staring at the moon. and seeing it not as a flat surface. But as an actual ball suspended in space. It was nuts. I thought it was all an hallucination.

      Until the day a friend should me a combo similar to this. i looked up at the moon with it.. And bam it was that exact same thing. You could see the curvature of the moon.

      It’s really a WOW! moment.

  • Smudger

    I have a Nikon Lens Scope Converter but the image quality is rather poor even when attached to top notch glass. Nowhere near the performance of a “proper” ‘scope. Rather like using a spotting scope for photography…….

    Horses & courses

  • Anonymus Maximus

    Hi guys

    regarding moon: there is a very helpful app for iphone called focalware.
    It will give you the future angle of the moon or sun at any point on earth at any time in the future.
    If you know your shooting location in advance you can easily find out what time to be there to get the moon at the right angle.

    • Paranoid Android

      what?? no Android????

      • Anonymus Maximus

        don’t really know if it is available for other os

        • just Paranoid

          actually i don’t use android myself, that was on behalf of the Android whiners.

          cool app btw. useful for dating too i guess…

  • I can’t believe no one has said this…

    I can see uranus in this thing!

    • Does it mean “your anus” ????? 😀

  • Vertigo

    How does the original nikon adapter compare to a 3rd party “lens2scope” adapter ? The lens2scope has the advantage of being available in an angled version, but is it as good optically ?

    • Lisa

      I have the lens2scope. The image is crisp sharp and outperform my Bushnell space master easily when attached with my 100-400 Canon EF. I don’t know how it works on a Nikon though..

  • I have a spiratone teletach eyepiece like this for Nikon lenses. Just another inexpensive possible option. It does magnify the image more than a camera does.

  • If the scope converter divides the focal length by 10 to work out magnification wouldn’t it be 50x on that 500mm lens? Also, how does it then change and work differently when attached to a macro lens? Wouldn’t a 105mm lens simply give 10.5x magnification? “25x the magnification of the lens it’s attached to” wouldn’t that mean a 105mm lens is roughly 2x, therefore would be 50x.

  • terrance

    oh, yeah!! I wanna try this on my 1000mm reflex nikkor.

  • Richard

    People considering using anything as a scope should consider them in this order:
    1. Real astronomical telescope
    2. Digiscoping using a spotting scope
    3. Camera lenses with eyepieces bolted on them.

    Flexibility is on the side of the astro scope. It can be used as a camera lens, prime focus (normal focal length) or extended using eyepieces or camera teleconverters. It (of course) can also be used visually. Neither of the other two can meet this requirement and do it with any decent results, except photographic use only of very expensive camera telephoto lenses. Price is also on the side of the astro scope. Though you can spend thousands, you can do amazing work with a scope costing just a few hundred dollars. Here’s a moon shot, 1000mm f8 scope, cost me $400 with the mount.

  • Image

    Here’s my moon shot with no telescope or digiscope.

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