Photography gear can add up quickly. Need a capable camera body? That’s an easy $2,000. How about a nice telephoto lens? Well, depending on the brand and your desired focal length, that could range anywhere from a few hundred bucks all the way up to $14,000 or more. Plus accessories and a camera bag—you can easily spend a year’s salary on Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).

But, a new initiative is offering some relief. The website, Pixels and Prisms, has just released open-source blueprints for a 3D printed Canon EF 163mm f/2.4 telephoto lens. 

What is Pixels and Prisms?

According to the website, Pixels and Prisms aims to be an online resource for open-source photography projects and tips. This 3D-printed Canon EF lens is the first project it has released, with plans to share new blueprints soon, along with updates to existing ones.

Lens features

3d printed canon ef lens
At 11.6 ounces, this 3D printed Canon EF lens (right) is considerably lighter than traditional telephoto. Pixels and Prisms

Related: DIYer 3D-prints a working 35mm movie camera

The 3D printed Canon EF lens is, at 163mm, a telephoto with a maximum aperture of f/2.5 and minimum aperture of f/11—yup, the aperture is adjustable! The aperture diaphragm consists of 12 rounded blades, which is also impressive given the DIY construction.

The focus is also adjustable and can even be locked in either the fully-extended or retracted position. Plus, photographers can modify the focal length using additional elements and extenders. (Hello, 600mm anyone?)

Construction & sourcing glass

3d printed canon ef lens
The lens is composed of 23 parts.
Pixels and Prisms

The blueprints to construct the lens are free and all the parts, aside from the internal glass elements, are 3D printed. Those elements cost the developer $13 to source. Assembly is easy—no screws are required, just regular household glue. In total, the lens consists of 23 parts, plus pegs to help facilitate movement.

In terms of sourcing glass, Pixel and Prisms recommends perusing the offerings on Surplusshed and eBay for reliable finds. Building the 3D-printed Canon EF lens requires glass with a 65mm diameter. 

While a bit unconventional, we have to admit that the lens is an interesting—and super affordable—way to wade into the world of telephoto photography. For those who can embrace the quirks and distinct look, it might be a suitable option for the next travel, street, or portrait photography project.

3D printed Canon EF lens sample images

So what types of images does a plastic, DIY lens produce? It turns out, the answer is something oddly impressive. Sample shots—provided by the developer—reveal good sharpness at the center of the frame, with a sudden, dramatic transition to softness further out. The bokeh looks smooth in some cases and busy in others. Ultimately, it’s a dreamy look, though certainly not one everyone will appreciate. View more samples here.

3d printed canon ef lens
Though built unconventionally, the lens is still capable of producing sharp images. Pixels and Prisms
3d printed canon ef lens
As one might expect from a $13 lens, the bokeh is a tad busy near the edges. Pixels and Prisms
3d printed canon ef lens
With a 163mm focal length, the lens could be suitable for street, travel, and portrait photography. Pixels and Prisms