Macro Focus Stacking

Started Apr 8, 2013 | Discussions
digital ed
digital ed Veteran Member • Posts: 3,529
Re: Macro Focus Stacking

rgolub wrote:

Thanks.  About as close to underwater as your going to get on the surface (Alaska muskeg, basically a very squishy bog).

Did you find that the Surface Pro / Helicon Focus combo better than the Android / Helicon Remote (or whatever they call it) any better?

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RG
www.lostrange.com

I can use the full version of Helicon Focus/Remote on the Surface Pro so it it much more convenient. Additionally, I have ControlMyNikon installed so it gives me some options. I liked the Motorola Zoom Android tablet but it is still lacking many operational features that other Android tablets have. I believe Google has basically abandoned the Zoom and focuses on the other Android tablets.

I have SurfacePro 128 set up to run just like my Win 7 Ultimate desktops and have many PC programs installed and used. So far have not found a PC program it will not run. It is far more capable for running Helicon, especially because of its speed of processing. I think of it as a tablet desktop.

I will be up in Alaska at the end of May. Hopefully I can find subjects for my photos as well as you did.

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(unknown member) Forum Pro • Posts: 19,115
Re: A first try using Helicon Focus

Duncan C wrote:

KEVZPHOTOS wrote:

Duncan C wrote:

I just downloaded a trial of Helicon Focus, and it certainly makes the process simple.

However, I see some of the same artifacts that I see with PS CS 6's merge layers command. It has areas where it selected pixels from the wrong layer, creating "blurry bits" that don't belong.

They are stack smoothies

I mention those in my stacking blog:

Focus Stacking

Here's another example of this:

http://kvincentphotography.ca/img/s1/v19/p886879223-4.jpg

(excerpt from my blog)

It is worth noting though - that it's important to make sure that each separate shot is "spaced" the same amount apart to ensure the best quality final stack. For example, let's say that I want to capture a total DOF of 10mm in ten images at a ratio of 1:1 using f/16, then in theory each shot should be taken 1mm apart (ie: forward or backward) on the rail to avoid what I call "the smoothies" which are regions of the image that after being blended show no detail...which has occurred because the frame overlap capture was not sufficient enough and hence some areas were not in focus.

This is why I still shoot at f/22 when I'm doing a macro 1:1 stack...because the DOF is so small...and one requires a certain amount of frame overlap to ensure that image detail in not lost.

Hope this helps,

KEV

"No problem can be solved at the level of consciousness which created it" - Albert Einstein

I used Nikon Camera Control and focus fine-tuning, so I am absolutely positive that my focus spacing is even. I also don't believe that it is an issue of my steps being too great, since I got sharply focused pixels from Photoshop for some of the areas that came out blurry from Helicon Focus.

In PS, I can go back after the fact and adjust the layer masks that select the parts of each image to combine. It's tedious, but gives me very precise control over which pixels come from which layer of the image.

Overall, it looks like Helicon Focus does a better job "out of the box" than PS does, but it still isn't perfect, and I don't see a way to touch up the results by hand in Helicon.

I've always used Zerene Stacker....I have never obtained great results with Helicon in the past, so I stuck with ZS.

ZS can handle 60-80 TIFF files no problem, and doesn't seem to produce any of the issues that you mention here.

Only once in a while a stack will screw up, but that's always because of MY error.....ie: some rig movement occurred when shooting the images.

KEV

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"No problem can be solved at the level of consciousness which created it" - Albert Einstein

digital ed
digital ed Veteran Member • Posts: 3,529
Re: A first try using Helicon Focus

Duncan C wrote:

Overall, it looks like Helicon Focus does a better job "out of the box" than PS does, but it still isn't perfect, and I don't see a way to touch up the results by hand in Helicon.

This will show you how.

How to edit Helicon stacks

Go to the retouching tab.

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_sem_ Veteran Member • Posts: 4,996
Re: Macro Focus Stacking

Duncan C wrote:

rgolub wrote:

Purists will tell you to use a focus rail instead of the focus ring.  It does make a difference at time - mostly with 'larger' shots (big flowers, more closeups than true macro) or if you rig the shot to use lots of slices.

What is better about moving the camera? Less optical changes to the image?

I gather purists do not all agree on this. The same rule does not apply to all macro lenses, at least not to the same degree. Obviously, some extend when changing focus. Less obviously, the effective focal length (perspective) and the pupil positions change with focus too.

Check the Photomacrography forum already mentioned above. There's loads of stacking stuff there, and the support of Zerene Stacker is pretty active there (rjlittlefield).

There's some relevant stuff at Nikongear too although they've gone pay mostly

http://nikongear.com/live/index.php?/topic/49066-focus-stacking-retouching-tutorial/

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JojCsbqDBfw)

http://nikongear.com/live/index.php?/topic/49089-important-features-to-have-in-a-lens-for-macro-work/

_sem_ Veteran Member • Posts: 4,996
Re: Macro Focus Stacking
OP Duncan C Veteran Member • Posts: 7,664
Re: A first try using Helicon Focus

KEVZPHOTOS wrote:

Duncan C wrote:

I just downloaded a trial of Helicon Focus, and it certainly makes the process simple.

However, I see some of the same artifacts that I see with PS CS 6's merge layers command. It has areas where it selected pixels from the wrong layer, creating "blurry bits" that don't belong.

They are stack smoothies

Nope. PS did not have those blurry haloes when using the same stack, and different settings greatly improved, but did not eliminate the problem. I also looked at the images and there are sharp pixels of those areas if you select the right layer. It seems to be a problem with the halo of the near elements blurring over onto the layers that contains the sharp BG elements and confusing the stacking SW.

paulski66
paulski66 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,168
Excellent thread...thank you.

No text.

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OP Duncan C Veteran Member • Posts: 7,664
Re: A first try using Helicon Focus

digital ed wrote:

Duncan C wrote:

Overall, it looks like Helicon Focus does a better job "out of the box" than PS does, but it still isn't perfect, and I don't see a way to touch up the results by hand in Helicon.

This will show you how.

How to edit Helicon stacks

Go to the retouching tab.

I've been playing with the parameters and improved the results significantly. However, I find the brush-based retouching tools to be really horrible. They are really laggy, so trying to draw onto the image with a brush is all but impossible to do smoothly. It's like trying to use a brush on partly dried contact cement. (I'm a Mac user/developer, and it may be that the Mac implementation is poor. I'm using an older 8-core Core 2 Duo Mac Pro that has very good performance for multi-threaded tasks like Photoshop. I may try the retouch on my newer quad-core i7 Macbook Pro, which is slightly faster for single-threaded tasks.)

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Re: Macro Focus Stacking
Kerry Pierce
Kerry Pierce Forum Pro • Posts: 19,757
Re: Rail vs. Focus

Robin Casady wrote:

bigpigbig wrote:

Rob Casady wrote:

Moving the camera on a rail will also change magnification, but I think it is less than changing the lens focus ring.

I would really like to know if this is true.

I'll do some tests when I get time. I'll probably start a new thread, rather than bury it here.

I can test with moving the camera on a rail, moving the camera body only with bellows, and changing the focus ring on the lens.

I use a D800E w/ 105 Macro and Helicon Remote to capture images then Helicon Focus to stack them.

I have the 105mm Micro VR, so I can test with that.

For certain scenes and lighting it works great, for others there are artifacts.

Let me know what situations give you artifacts so I can see if using a different shooting method gets rid of them.

I have a Manfrotto Macro Slider I could use, but the automated process of Helicon is just SUPER fast, accurate and convenient.

Yes, it would be interesting to know whether a stepper motor rail is worth the expense.

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned interest in you doing these tests.  I, for one, certainly would appreciate reading what you have to report on something of this nature.  So, thanks in advance for doing this.

Kerry

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BJN
BJN Veteran Member • Posts: 5,074
Why do you trust focus fine-tuning so much?

I haven't tried using lens micro adjustments for focus bracketing, but I wonder if you've done controlled tests to see if the focus increments are indeed evenly-spaced and reliably so? I'd be very surprised if they were either that precise or that consistent.

There's a reason most focus stacking is done by moving the camera or the subject in precise increments. Focus bracketing via an auto focus lens may require more depth of field to provide the necessary detail overlap.

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BJ Nicholls
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digital ed
digital ed Veteran Member • Posts: 3,529
Re: Why do you trust focus fine-tuning so much?

BJN wrote:

I haven't tried using lens micro adjustments for focus bracketing, but I wonder if you've done controlled tests to see if the focus increments are indeed evenly-spaced and reliably so? I'd be very surprised if they were either that precise or that consistent.

There's a reason most focus stacking is done by moving the camera or the subject in precise increments. Focus bracketing via an auto focus lens may require more depth of field to provide the necessary detail overlap.

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BJ Nicholls
SLC, UT

First, with focus stacking you do not use auto focus. The software adjusts the focus in steps it has calculated. Helicon, using DOF information, does the step calculation for you and steps in the increments necessary to have appropriate focus information in each stack step.

None of the stackers are perfect. Quite often it is necessary to either change how the stack is calculated or adjust/eliminate individual images in the stack to correct for the blurriness in the resultant image. This is not a trivial exercise and it seems the complaints in this thread about blurriness in the final image is because the posters do not know this is often necessary or do not know how to do it.

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Ray Soares Veteran Member • Posts: 3,116
Zerene Stacker software...

It's the best dedicated software IMO ( also google Michael Erlewine - Macrostop which is a great source with free e-books! Michael is a top macro photographer and his books are really good source to start with macro-photography of flowers).

I have CS6 and also tried the Helicon but I do prefer the Zerene software.

You don't need a rail, and a good lens like the Nikon 85mm f1.4 G does the job really well, although an APO macro lens is better suited for the job.

Manual focus of course: just turn the focus a bit in each pic.

And forget about focus stacking without PP ( this is the strength of Zerene IMO): you gonna always have to clear some edges as unless you take literally thousands of pics of the same subject, some areas will have not enough data to compute a perfect final stacked pic.

I usually use 50 to 80 pics with my Zeiss Macro planar f/2 100mm, mostly at f/4, mirror up, delayed shutter, indoors always ( as any wind induced movement will ruin the pic ), base ISO, CLOSE your viewfinder PLZ, remote, a good tripod, good lightning and you are set.

I quite always leave some defocused areas to show some depth, otherwise the pic will appear too flat IMO...

All samples with the D4 and the Zeiss 100mm:

Best

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Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: Rail vs. Focus

Kerry Pierce wrote:

Robin Casady wrote:

bigpigbig wrote:

Rob Casady wrote:

Moving the camera on a rail will also change magnification, but I think it is less than changing the lens focus ring.

I would really like to know if this is true.

I'll do some tests when I get time. I'll probably start a new thread, rather than bury it here.

I can test with moving the camera on a rail, moving the camera body only with bellows, and changing the focus ring on the lens.

I use a D800E w/ 105 Macro and Helicon Remote to capture images then Helicon Focus to stack them.

I have the 105mm Micro VR, so I can test with that.

For certain scenes and lighting it works great, for others there are artifacts.

Let me know what situations give you artifacts so I can see if using a different shooting method gets rid of them.

I have a Manfrotto Macro Slider I could use, but the automated process of Helicon is just SUPER fast, accurate and convenient.

Yes, it would be interesting to know whether a stepper motor rail is worth the expense.

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned interest in you doing these tests.  I, for one, certainly would appreciate reading what you have to report on something of this nature.  So, thanks in advance for doing this.

Kerry

I posted the experiment results in the Macro and Still Life forum.

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
— Bertrand Russell

OP Duncan C Veteran Member • Posts: 7,664
Re: Rail vs. Focus

Robin Casady wrote:

Kerry Pierce wrote:

Robin Casady wrote:

bigpigbig wrote:

Rob Casady wrote:

Moving the camera on a rail will also change magnification, but I think it is less than changing the lens focus ring.

I would really like to know if this is true.

I'll do some tests when I get time. I'll probably start a new thread, rather than bury it here.

I can test with moving the camera on a rail, moving the camera body only with bellows, and changing the focus ring on the lens.

I use a D800E w/ 105 Macro and Helicon Remote to capture images then Helicon Focus to stack them.

I have the 105mm Micro VR, so I can test with that.

For certain scenes and lighting it works great, for others there are artifacts.

Let me know what situations give you artifacts so I can see if using a different shooting method gets rid of them.

I have a Manfrotto Macro Slider I could use, but the automated process of Helicon is just SUPER fast, accurate and convenient.

Yes, it would be interesting to know whether a stepper motor rail is worth the expense.

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned interest in you doing these tests.  I, for one, certainly would appreciate reading what you have to report on something of this nature.  So, thanks in advance for doing this.

Kerry

I posted the experiment results in the Macro and Still Life forum.

This board has a macro and still life forum? Cool. Off to explore...

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
— Bertrand Russell

Kerry Pierce
Kerry Pierce Forum Pro • Posts: 19,757
Re: Rail vs. Focus

Robin Casady wrote:

I posted the experiment results in the Macro and Still Life forum.

Thanks.  I'll head on over there and take a look.

Kerry

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rgolub
rgolub Senior Member • Posts: 2,061
Re: A first try using Helicon Focus

You may also need to reshoot with shorter focus changes.  That blur looks big enough that it will be hard to completely remove.

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RG
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JP Scherrer
JP Scherrer Forum Pro • Posts: 10,477
Re: Rail vs. Focus (+1 interested !)

Hi Robin !

I beleive that both techniques give the same -or very near- result at the end, and each one should chose its own way....

Personally, I tried -not scientifically, of course- the rail, the bellow and the rotating distance ring ways, and ended-up using exclusively the ROTATING DISTANCE RING method !

.....but I'll be very interested on your findings !

J-P.

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OP Duncan C Veteran Member • Posts: 7,664
Re: Macro Focus Stacking

I've been experiementing more with focus stacking. I still don't have it down completely. The images in my latest series were a tad over-exposed. I'm not sure why; I measured the exposure quite carefully before I started the stack, but it seemed to wander into over-exposure in the middle of the series. I guess I need to leave more "head room" than I did.

There is also an annoying glow around the bug that almost looks like over-exposure blooming, but I'm pretty sure is an artifact of my less than expert focus stacking technique. I don't see blooming in the individual images.

I'm using a free trial version of Helicon Focus (set to pyramid 1, 2 for those that use the program.)

I shot with a Nikon D600 and Tamron 90 mm f/2.8 macro.

I used Nikon's Camera Control Pro 2 control software, and shot with the D600 connected to my MacBook with USB. I used the focus control feature of Camera Control Pro 2 to move the focus in very small steps of less than a millimeter.

The shots were lit with an on-camera flash shot through a pop-up diffuser. Believe it or not, that light source is the best macro lighting I've found, and I've used tons of different setups.

Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: Rail vs. Focus (+1 interested !)

JP Scherrer wrote:

Hi Robin !

I beleive that both techniques give the same -or very near- result at the end, and each one should chose its own way....

Personally, I tried -not scientifically, of course- the rail, the bellow and the rotating distance ring ways, and ended-up using exclusively the ROTATING DISTANCE RING method !

.....but I'll be very interested on your findings !

The thing about bellows is that you can either move the lens, or you can move the camera body. If you move the lens, the magnification changes radically, which is not good. However, if the lens remains the same distance from the subject, and you just move the camera body, the magnification changes only a little.

Of all the methods, I think that moving the camera body only (not the lens) on bellows is the best. Second best is using a rail to move camera and body while leaving focus fixed.

Moving the focus ring on the lens wasn't too bad with the 105mm Micro VR. It may work differently with different lens designs. ZereneStacker coped with it, but my Helicon Focus results were very poor; probably because I just used default settings. I don't know enough about it to know how to make the proper settings. I'll have to study it more.

It is difficult to make precise adjustments to a focus ring without computer control. So, probably best left to Helicon Remote for macro subjects.

Changing the focus ring is, of course, the best method for larger subjects and landscapes. Otherwise, you might have to build a very big rail.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51282459

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
— Bertrand Russell

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