Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

Started Jan 6, 2017 | Discussions
deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

Does anyone have any recommendations for free or affordable focus stacking software?

I'm not going to be doing anything terribly sophisticated, and I doubt I'll be doing a lot of slices per image.

I'm willing to buy something at a moderate price.  Is the personal version of Zerene adequate?  The middle level version is out of my price range.

Thanks.

Almagest Contributing Member • Posts: 560
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

deanimator wrote:

Does anyone have any recommendations for free or affordable focus stacking software?

I'm not going to be doing anything terribly sophisticated, and I doubt I'll be doing a lot of slices per image.

I'm willing to buy something at a moderate price. Is the personal version of Zerene adequate? The middle level version is out of my price range.

Thanks.

I've been using a new program called Affinity Photo. It has a photo stacking feature and a whole lot more...

This was my first try at stacking.

You can get Affinity Photo now for $39.00

Warren

petrochemist Senior Member • Posts: 2,498
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

Combine ZP is both free & reasonably capable. Originally written for use with microscopes but seems to work fine at lower magnifications too.

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OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?
1

Almagest wrote:

deanimator wrote:

Does anyone have any recommendations for free or affordable focus stacking software?

I'm not going to be doing anything terribly sophisticated, and I doubt I'll be doing a lot of slices per image.

I'm willing to buy something at a moderate price. Is the personal version of Zerene adequate? The middle level version is out of my price range.

Thanks.

I've been using a new program called Affinity Photo. It has a photo stacking feature and a whole lot more...

This was my first try at stacking.

You can get Affinity Photo now for $39.00

Warren

Nice image.  Nice knife.

Thanks.

OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

petrochemist wrote:

Combine ZP is both free & reasonably capable. Originally written for use with microscopes but seems to work fine at lower magnifications too.

Thanks.

OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

petrochemist wrote:

Combine ZP is both free & reasonably capable. Originally written for use with microscopes but seems to work fine at lower magnifications too.

I downloaded Combine ZP and started playing with it yesterday.

Again, thanks.

phil from seattle
phil from seattle Senior Member • Posts: 3,232
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

I've used Affinity Photo, Zerene and CombineZP. Zerene, while far away the priciest, seems to produce the cleanest results. Affinity does ok though I haven't done a lot of comparisons to the others but it doesn't have many options. CombineZP works pretty well though has a somewhat crude UI and has a number of glitches. I got some weird reflections where the image was mirrored outside of the box that bounds the original image stack. (see image) I cropped them off and all was well. For free, it's a tolerable problem. I plan on playing more with the AP stacker (focus merge) when I get some time.

CombineZP weird reflections.

OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

phil from seattle wrote:

I've used Affinity Photo, Zerene and CombineZP. Zerene, while far away the priciest, seems to produce the cleanest results. Affinity does ok though I haven't done a lot of comparisons to the others but it doesn't have many options. CombineZP works pretty well though has a somewhat crude UI and has a number of glitches. I got some weird reflections where the image was mirrored outside of the box that bounds the original image stack. (see image) I cropped them off and all was well. For free, it's a tolerable problem. I plan on playing more with the AP stacker (focus merge) when I get some time.

CombineZP weird reflections.

I tried CombineZP last week.  I didn't have a lot of time to mess with it and didn't even use my focusing rail for the images.  I'll probably give it a more serious try this weekend, using my light tent and the focusing rail.  I've got old computer cards that have enough depth to make them an interesting test.

Holger Bargen Veteran Member • Posts: 4,034
Picolay
1

Here is another free software written for focus stacking and mciroscope photos:

http://www.picolay.de/

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OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Picolay

Holger Bargen wrote:

Here is another free software written for focus stacking and mciroscope photos:

http://www.picolay.de/

Thanks.

OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?

I had another crack at CombineZP last weekend.  Even though there were some glaring artifacts, I was impressed with the results,  I attribute those to:

  • poor composition
  • insufficient number of slices
  • imprecise movement of my macro rail system

I'm going to keep working with it.  I expect that with some practice, I'll get pretty good results.

dperez Regular Member • Posts: 321
Re: Picolay
1

If you try Picolay and you're successful, please put something in here...  I"ve been playing with it off and on for a couple days, and so far I've been unsuccessful getting it to do anything...

I"ve tried most of the stacking software from Photoshop (dreadful) to Combine ZP (clumsy and not great results) to Helicon Focus (sometimes works, but often has poor quality results with flowers), so anything new that purports to work is worth a try.  And Zerene is too expensive for fiddling with flowers.

I started with a small stack - 12 images in jpegs.  Put them in and told it to stack with the defaults.  About 30 seconds later it pops up an error that there's not enough storage for the current command.  As near as I can tell, there's NOWHERE to tell it where to store whatever it's storing.  And it's sitting on a disk with a TERABYTE of empty space.  On a box with 32GB of memory.  So, I have no IDEA what "storage" it doesn't have.

Hit OK on the popup and it continues counting steps...  Yesterday I let it sit for an hour and it count over 3800 steps.  Nothing changed, nothing got aligned or generated or anything else.  Just steps.

Tried it today with THREE images - jpegs.  SMALL jpegs (or what I think of as small at 3000x2000 px).  Popped up the same "not enough storage" error.  Continued counting after I closed it.  In the last 20 minutes or so it's gotten up to step 892 and counting, but mostly it just sits there like a stump.

And no, there's nothing in the manual I can find for "what to do when it sit there indefinitely"...

Good news is, it's free, so all you lose playing with it is a little time.

OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Picolay

I had similar results with Picolay.  I actually got it to sort of work once or twice, but believe I also got the interminable grinding away at nothing too.

I've still got Picolay installed, but ditched it when I got CombineZP working, which was a major project.  I've got 8gb of RAM and plenty of disk space.  What ended up working was:

  1. Telling CombineZP that I only have one processor core.
  2. Running it as Windows 95.

CombineZP can be hit or miss, but it does work.

Now that I've got DSLR Controller and my capture technique pretty well down, I may try Picolay again.

OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Picolay
1

I got Picolay to work, at least without crashing.

So far, I prefer CombineZP, and get better results with it.

Holger Bargen Veteran Member • Posts: 4,034
Re: Picolay

dperez wrote:

If you try Picolay and you're successful, please put something in here... I"ve been playing with it off and on for a couple days, and so far I've been unsuccessful getting it to do anything...

Dear dprez,

I was successful with Picolay  here are two examples:

They are not perfect and I am not an expert regarding this technology. I also have no experience with other programs that may do a better job.

I found some problems with hairs appearing two times in the photos and things like that. I know that other programs have some options to repair these effects manually but within the procedure of calculating the stacked photos.

I also had the problem you observed. With my 24 MP K-S1 I never run into problems - but the program did not like my 36 MP photos from my K-1 (FF camera). I reduced the resolution of my photos and it worked fine.

I also do not have much experience with the settings the program offers.

Actually I try to avoid the image stacking technology but try to maximize DOF with a small aperture and lots of distance rings or a bellow in between camera and lens. I run into problems with diffraction going this way. But the problems with diffraction can be solved by a program doing deconvolution sharpening like Piccure+.

I may have a little more resolution with image stacking as the lens works at an optimal range regarding the MTF chart of the lens - but I won't have problems with artefacts that can occur as a result of image stacking - especially if your object has fine hairs.

Best regards

Holger

I"ve tried most of the stacking software from Photoshop (dreadful) to Combine ZP (clumsy and not great results) to Helicon Focus (sometimes works, but often has poor quality results with flowers), so anything new that purports to work is worth a try. And Zerene is too expensive for fiddling with flowers.

I started with a small stack - 12 images in jpegs. Put them in and told it to stack with the defaults. About 30 seconds later it pops up an error that there's not enough storage for the current command. As near as I can tell, there's NOWHERE to tell it where to store whatever it's storing. And it's sitting on a disk with a TERABYTE of empty space. On a box with 32GB of memory. So, I have no IDEA what "storage" it doesn't have.

Hit OK on the popup and it continues counting steps... Yesterday I let it sit for an hour and it count over 3800 steps. Nothing changed, nothing got aligned or generated or anything else. Just steps.

Tried it today with THREE images - jpegs. SMALL jpegs (or what I think of as small at 3000x2000 px). Popped up the same "not enough storage" error. Continued counting after I closed it. In the last 20 minutes or so it's gotten up to step 892 and counting, but mostly it just sits there like a stump.

And no, there's nothing in the manual I can find for "what to do when it sit there indefinitely"...

Good news is, it's free, so all you lose playing with it is a little time.

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OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Picolay

Holger Bargen wrote:

I also had the problem you observed. With my 24 MP K-S1 I never run into problems - but the program did not like my 36 MP photos from my K-1 (FF camera). I reduced the resolution of my photos and it worked fine.

I had similar problems with CombineZP  It turned out to be an issue with both the settings and the Windows emulation mode.  I eventually got it working to where it doesn't crash and gives tolerable results.

I also do not have much experience with the settings the program offers.

Would you mind saying which settings you did use?  I'm not super motivated to use Picolay, but once I figured out what was wrong with CombineZP, I got acceptable results.  I'd hate to discard something that could be made to work without at least some effort.

One thing I noticed about Picolay is that the user interface has an odd mixture of German and English.  Some messages come up in German, some in English and as I recall, some in both.

Being a gun collector and a military aircraft enthusiast, I read enough German to figure out what's going on.  It certainly came in handy when I started using DSLR Controller, since all of the best YouTube videos on that app are in German.

Holger Bargen Veteran Member • Posts: 4,034
Re: Picolay

deanimator wrote:

Holger Bargen wrote:

I also had the problem you observed. With my 24 MP K-S1 I never run into problems - but the program did not like my 36 MP photos from my K-1 (FF camera). I reduced the resolution of my photos and it worked fine.

I had similar problems with CombineZP It turned out to be an issue with both the settings and the Windows emulation mode. I eventually got it working to where it doesn't crash and gives tolerable results.

I also do not have much experience with the settings the program offers.

Would you mind saying which settings you did use? I'm not super motivated to use Picolay, but once I figured out what was wrong with CombineZP, I got acceptable results. I'd hate to discard something that could be made to work without at least some effort.

One thing I noticed about Picolay is that the user interface has an odd mixture of German and English. Some messages come up in German, some in English and as I recall, some in both.

Being a gun collector and a military aircraft enthusiast, I read enough German to figure out what's going on. It certainly came in handy when I started using DSLR Controller, since all of the best YouTube videos on that app are in German.

I just did a new download of the program directly from the website of the author of the program:

http://www.picolay.de/

It is always a good idea to get the latest version as the author seems to be still in a process of development of the program.

The author seems to be a professor for marine sciences at a German university. He seems to focus on photos he takes using his microscope.

The resolution of classical microscopes is restricted due to limits of physics. For this reason it does not make any sense to go higher than 5 MP or 8 MP. Maybe he does not run into problems with limited memory of his computer system like we with our big files.

I selected the settings

filter smart ON

auto-align ON (1x)

Test 4 parameter sets.

That's it.

Best regards

Holger

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OP deanimator Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Picolay

Holger Bargen wrote:

I just did a new download of the program directly from the website of the author of the program:

http://www.picolay.de/

It is always a good idea to get the latest version as the author seems to be still in a process of development of the program.

The author seems to be a professor for marine sciences at a German university. He seems to focus on photos he takes using his microscope.

The resolution of classical microscopes is restricted due to limits of physics. For this reason it does not make any sense to go higher than 5 MP or 8 MP. Maybe he does not run into problems with limited memory of his computer system like we with our big files.

I selected the settings

filter smart ON

auto-align ON (1x)

Test 4 parameter sets.

That's it.

Best regards

Holger

When I reinstalled the previous version that I'd tried, it told me there's a new version which I downloaded and installed.

When I get a chance, I'll try it with the settings you used.

We'll see if it does any better than CombineZP.

Mikedigi Forum Pro • Posts: 10,745
Re: Picolay

Any further comments on Picolay and Combine ZP, please?

I have not tried either yet but this discussion is helpful so far.

For example I would be happy to stack my FZ1000 and FZ330 pics at 50% size, which, per the above comments, helps when using Picolay.

Mike

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chunkysoup New Member • Posts: 7
Re: Free or Affordable Focus Stacking Software?
2

Rough test with Picolay (41 stacked images). I didn't tweak any settings; just loaded images and ran program. I couldn't figure out how to save final stacked image as anything other than bmp file though? It was a pain to have to convert the file after. I'll have to mess with it more.

Shot in Albany, NY with Olympus E-M1 and 12-40mm @ f2.8

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