Sometimes we need to see the fine detail of something. This may require a magnifying glass or microscope and most people do not carry these around with them. What many do carry, however, is a smart phone. These have become an essential part of our working lives and all now boast high-resolution cameras. If the lighting is good, you can use your smart phone as a magnifying glass or low-powered microscope. Take a look at Figure 1.

It’s a photograph taken with my smart phone during an exhibition designed to help the general public understand science. I took the photo in order to show some of the finer detail of the wood surface and also to demonstrate to those on my stand that they can use their phones to explore the world around them.

To explore this method, move into natural daylight and set your phone’s camera to its highest resolution. Do not place the lens too close to the object as it will be out of focus. Often of course, the lighting is not good and the flashes on mobile phones tend not to improve the quality of the photograph.

An alternative can be to use an ordinary office flat bed scanner. Place the object on the scanner and turn its resolution up as high as it can reliably go. Scan the object, or part of it, because the file size can be large. Then open the scanned image and you will be able to zoom in and see fine detail that is not really possible with the eye. A couple of examples are given in Figure 2.

I would be interested to see any images that you have taken using these techniques (or other techniques) and maybe the editor could be persuaded to print a few. (I’m sure I can – Editor).