Lab Lifter

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017


A little lab lifter makes for a reasonable starter's 'up and down' stage, with the added bonuses that they're pretty cheap and taking it outside for macro use won't hurt it either.

Also known as a lab jack or lab scissors jack, Ebay was the place I found mine, and a lab jack like this one served me perfectly well until I decided to make a fancier stage using bits of microscope.

Using a Lab Lifter

Lab Lifter

A lab lifter, pretty good value for money as a vertical stage when you're just starting out.

You can increase the consistency of the vertical lift by tightening the nuts, and if you like lighting from below then replacing the metal tray with a perspex tray is very easy.

About £25 at the time of writing, although there seem to be less available on eBay nowadays than there used to be.

The lab lifter that I have has a range of about 6 inches up and down which is more than enough. It has a nice big knob on the front so it is surprisingly effective at doing small increments, and perfectly ok for starting out. Not great though, as moving it up and down also causes a bit of lateral movement which is a bit annoying because you then have to refocus the camera.

But, once you're set, it's perfectly ok and a big enough stage to have both an insect examination stage for your specimen and a helping hand for your diffusion. Lab lifters tend to be pretty strong sturdy bits of kit so weight won't be a problem.

Buying a Lab Lifter

These things used to be very common on ebay and cost about £25 but at the time of writing they seem to be in pretty short supply.

That said, just googling for a Laboratory Scissor Jack will find you no shortage of laboratory type supply stores that carry these items, for about the same sort of cost.

Improving a Lab Lifter

I made a small change to mine so that it was a bit handier for extreme macro. It was all about improving the available light. I quite like light coming from all directions, but the metal table of the lifter meant that no light could come from below. It's pretty easy to find small acrylic clear plastic sheets cut to size on ebay, so I found one of the same size and drilled the necessary holes so I could replace the metal top. This lets light through from a flash below. Works great for me!

Re-using a Lab Lifter

You can easily re-use the jack once you're done using it inside, for outside macro use. If you've bought one, unless you sell stuff on a lot, you may as well find a use for it, that's my view.

They can easily take the weight of a camera and big lens, so with a little bit of re-engineering they don't make the worst ground level macro camera support in the world.