Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions
jimhughes
jimhughes Senior Member • Posts: 1,355
Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
4

Focus Shift Shooting works great, especially with silent shutter. But the settings are guesswork. There's no obvious way to figure out the required number of steps, or the optimum interval, to cover what you want covered.

Even Nikon's online documentation of FSS just advises you to experiment. C'mon guys.

I know Jim Kasson has a page about this, but it was too technical for me; I couldn't cook it down to some easily understandable guidelines.

I'd like to use FSS for macros in the field, even hand-held. So I don't want more shots than necessary, but I also don't want to get home and find out I didn't get enough.

I just Googled this but only found bloggers and 'tutorial' sites repeating the same thing: just try it and see what works.

Does anyone know more about these settings?

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Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 20,107
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
7

jimhughes wrote:

I know Jim Kasson has a page about this, but it was too technical for me; I couldn't cook it down to some easily understandable guidelines.

As far as I know there are no readily understandable guidelines - and probably never will be.

For high magnification subjects small (close) steps work best as depth of field is small.

For large prints or viewing at 100% or more on a monitor small steps work best because of the large magnification. For a 10x8 inch print fewer steps are likely to be OK.

If the detail is continuous (as in an insect photo) small steps work best, whereas with a landscape with near and far detail with nothing in the middle as little as 2 steps done manually might be enough.

These guidelines should help you narrow your initial options.

Once you have gained some experience, as with much photography, you should gain some understanding of what settings work best for the subjects you shoot and then view.

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Leonard Shepherd
In lots of ways good photography is much more about how equipment is used rather than anything else.

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john isaacs Veteran Member • Posts: 4,462
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

jimhughes wrote:

Focus Shift Shooting works great, especially with silent shutter. But the settings are guesswork. There's no obvious way to figure out the required number of steps, or the optimum interval, to cover what you want covered.

Even Nikon's online documentation of FSS just advises you to experiment. C'mon guys.

I know Jim Kasson has a page about this, but it was too technical for me; I couldn't cook it down to some easily understandable guidelines.

I'd like to use FSS for macros in the field, even hand-held. So I don't want more shots than necessary, but I also don't want to get home and find out I didn't get enough.

I just Googled this but only found bloggers and 'tutorial' sites repeating the same thing: just try it and see what works.

Does anyone know more about these settings?

We could, but the user engineering for cameras, especially focus backeting, is basically pathetic.

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NCB Senior Member • Posts: 1,441
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

I believe Panasonic (and possibly Olympus) has a reasonably easy to understand setup for focus stacking. Something like set near and far focus limits and number of steps you want in between. That would suit me. But nobody else seems to do it like that. It may or may not be the perfect way of doing it, but it's at least understandable.

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jimhughes
OP jimhughes Senior Member • Posts: 1,355
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

NCB wrote:

I believe Panasonic (and possibly Olympus) has a reasonably easy to understand setup for focus stacking. Something like set near and far focus limits and number of steps you want in between. That would suit me. But nobody else seems to do it like that. It may or may not be the perfect way of doing it, but it's at least understandable.

Jim Kasson has some blog posts about this but they're pretty technical.  It's not a simple calculation for the average photographer, but it's certainly possible for the camera processor which has all the information it needs, at least if you're using a Nikon lens.   FSS js a powerful feature which has professional applications - it deserves better than this dumb, half-baked UI.

Someone could conceivably do a phone app that crunches the numbers although it would require us to enter all the  parameters.

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jlafferty Senior Member • Posts: 1,088
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

Seconding all of this. How big's your subject? What focal length are you shooting on? What's the exact depth you're after - 1 inch, 5, 7? It's all user and subject motivated problems that require in-the-moment evaluation and solutions.

FWIW I *think* there's a way to take the guesswork out of this with Capture One, but I haven't used it to try yet:

http://www.paulbourke.net/miscellaneous/focusstacking/

Ideally the way this works is to choose a starting point for front focus, and a final point for rear focus, and the camera & software will figure out the intermediate steps for you. This is how it works on Hasse in their Phocus software and, to my knowledge, it's the only strike in their favor   The link above implies Capture One works similarly.

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

jimhughes wrote:

I know Jim Kasson has a page about this, but it was too technical for me; I couldn't cook it down to some easily understandable guidelines.

As far as I know there are no readily understandable guidelines - and probably never will be.

For high magnification subjects small (close) steps work best as depth of field is small.

For large prints or viewing at 100% or more on a monitor small steps work best because of the large magnification. For a 10x8 inch print fewer steps are likely to be OK.

If the detail is continuous (as in an insect photo) small steps work best, whereas with a landscape with near and far detail with nothing in the middle as little as 2 steps done manually might be enough.

These guidelines should help you narrow your initial options.

Once you have gained some experience, as with much photography, you should gain some understanding of what settings work best for the subjects you shoot and then view.

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http://jimlafferty.com
General scoundrel. Evocative beats academic.

Barleyman
Barleyman Regular Member • Posts: 451
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
4

I was testing with my Z6 last night some basic techniques,  just to get used to it.  All manual of course,  creating a 3 stack image and running through photoshop,  just so I could get the workflow down.

Then your question can up,  and I saw this:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-z6/6

Less a tutorial,  but a nice reference.  I plan on using this in a few weeks up the coast.

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Digital Shutterbug Veteran Member • Posts: 4,893
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

jlafferty wrote:

Seconding all of this. How big's your subject? What focal length are you shooting on? What's the exact depth you're after - 1 inch, 5, 7? It's all user and subject motivated problems that require in-the-moment evaluation and solutions.

FWIW I *think* there's a way to take the guesswork out of this with Capture One, but I haven't used it to try yet:

http://www.paulbourke.net/miscellaneous/focusstacking/

Ideally the way this works is to choose a starting point for front focus, and a final point for rear focus, and the camera & software will figure out the intermediate steps for you. This is how it works on Hasse in their Phocus software and, to my knowledge, it's the only strike in their favor The link above implies Capture One works similarly.

I'm sorry. I fail to see how Capture One helps in any way when using a Z camera. The decisions you mention, starting and ending points, and the number of images to take between those points, have to be made prior to ever getting the images into Capture One. How does the software assist in making those decisions? I'm missing something.

The Z cameras essentially give you one bit of help. They allow you to determine the starting point. It's then up to the photographer to guess at the increments and the number of steps to take. It's cumbersome, at best. In most cases you will have to try to cover all bases by taking more images than necessary. Then, toss the ones that are not needed.

I'm glad Nikon has given us an automated way of shooting focus stacks. But, its implementation is rather poor in my estimation.

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Steve

jlafferty Senior Member • Posts: 1,088
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

Well, if you don't understand or don't use tethering, then for sure you'll fail to see how Capture One helps. It's a raw capture and processing app. It has a sophisticated Live View module which, among other things, now has a focus stack component which was developed to help tackle exactly the problem described here. From my limited understanding of it - even in the article I linked - the implications are the opposite of what you imply.

I suggest you look into it more, or not, it's up to you.

Digital Shutterbug wrote:

jlafferty wrote:

Seconding all of this. How big's your subject? What focal length are you shooting on? What's the exact depth you're after - 1 inch, 5, 7? It's all user and subject motivated problems that require in-the-moment evaluation and solutions.

FWIW I *think* there's a way to take the guesswork out of this with Capture One, but I haven't used it to try yet:

http://www.paulbourke.net/miscellaneous/focusstacking/

Ideally the way this works is to choose a starting point for front focus, and a final point for rear focus, and the camera & software will figure out the intermediate steps for you. This is how it works on Hasse in their Phocus software and, to my knowledge, it's the only strike in their favor The link above implies Capture One works similarly.

I'm sorry. I fail to see how Capture One helps in any way when using a Z camera. The decisions you mention, starting and ending points, and the number of images to take between those points, have to be made prior to ever getting the images into Capture One. How does the software assist in making those decisions? I'm missing something.

The Z cameras essentially give you one bit of help. They allow you to determine the starting point. It's then up to the photographer to guess at the increments and the number of steps to take. It's cumbersome, at best. In most cases you will have to try to cover all bases by taking more images than necessary. Then, toss the ones that are not needed.

I'm glad Nikon has given us an automated way of shooting focus stacks. But, its implementation is rather poor in my estimation.

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General scoundrel. Evocative beats academic.

jimhughes
OP jimhughes Senior Member • Posts: 1,355
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
1

Capture One can control the camera, shoot a stack, and export it to Helicon Focus.  It's an alternative to Nikon's in-camera FSS for tethered shooting.

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Digital Shutterbug Veteran Member • Posts: 4,893
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
1

jlafferty wrote:

Well, if you don't understand or don't use tethering, then for sure you'll fail to see how Capture One helps. It's a raw capture and processing app. It has a sophisticated Live View module which, among other things, now has a focus stack component which was developed to help tackle exactly the problem described here. From my limited understanding of it - even in the article I linked - the implications are the opposite of what you imply.

I suggest you look into it more, or not, it's up to you.

Now I understand. I failed to see that it was tethered, therefore controlling the camera. That will be of benefit to many photographers. For me, not so much. If I was shooting a macro in a studio setting, I might be able to use it. But, studio based macro would be a small portion of what I would shoot. Most of my work will be in the field, where tethering a computer is not convenient, if even possible. thanks for the post.

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Steve

Digital Shutterbug Veteran Member • Posts: 4,893
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

Barleyman wrote:

I was testing with my Z6 last night some basic techniques, just to get used to it. All manual of course, creating a 3 stack image and running through photoshop, just so I could get the workflow down.

Then your question can up, and I saw this:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-z6/6

Less a tutorial, but a nice reference. I plan on using this in a few weeks up the coast.

Thanks. That is a good little article that further confirms what I understood about setting up the camera. It gives some good information as to starting points for the settings under different scenarios. That's helpful. It's a good read.

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Steve

MarkJ10 New Member • Posts: 22
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
1

Jim,

Nikon’s implementation is frustrating - so close, yet so far.

Jim Kasson confirmed that for step size 5-10 the system works as expected. But step size 1-4 are all the same. That is, the lens step size does not get smaller for step size values smaller than 5. I just leave the step size set to 1 all the time. For landscape the step size is not usually too much of a limitation for me when I’m shooting at f8 or f11. But I’ve not been very satisfied with results at peak sharpness of my lens, which is around f5-f5.6. And for macro, the smallest step size is often too large and leaves a small obvious out of focus zone between each step.

There’s another feature of the system that is frustrating to some, but that I’ve adapted to. When the system finishes the last image, it simply stops. This is in contrast to other camera systems where the focus point is reset to the start when the last image is recorded. I use this feature. I set the number of images to a relatively low number. When the last image is finished, I simply restart it if I need more. Another detail: I autofocus using a point set specifically where I want the sequence to start. Then, if I do need to return to the start I can refocus there reliably. Note that I use back button focus and autofocus lenses, so YMMV. But even with manual focus it’s possible to use this strategy.

So, yes, it could be better. I find that for my purposes it works pretty well for landscape, but less so for macro. That’s the opposite from what I’d hoped for.

So to summarize what I do:

- Select the starting focus point and autofocus there.

- Set the step size to 1.

- Choose the number of steps and other settings based on experience, erring on the low side for number of steps.

- Start the sequence.

- After it finishes, restart for more images if needed.

- or refocus to the start if needed.

Best regards,

Mark

Barleyman
Barleyman Regular Member • Posts: 451
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

MarkJ10 wrote:

Jim,

Nikon’s implementation is frustrating - so close, yet so far.

Jim Kasson confirmed that for step size 5-10 the system works as expected. But step size 1-4 are all the same. That is, the lens step size does not get smaller for step size values smaller than 5. I just leave the step size set to 1 all the time. For landscape the step size is not usually too much of a limitation for me when I’m shooting at f8 or f11. But I’ve not been very satisfied with results at peak sharpness of my lens, which is around f5-f5.6. And for macro, the smallest step size is often too large and leaves a small obvious out of focus zone between each step.

There’s another feature of the system that is frustrating to some, but that I’ve adapted to. When the system finishes the last image, it simply stops. This is in contrast to other camera systems where the focus point is reset to the start when the last image is recorded. I use this feature. I set the number of images to a relatively low number. When the last image is finished, I simply restart it if I need more. Another detail: I autofocus using a point set specifically where I want the sequence to start. Then, if I do need to return to the start I can refocus there reliably. Note that I use back button focus and autofocus lenses, so YMMV. But even with manual focus it’s possible to use this strategy.

So, yes, it could be better. I find that for my purposes it works pretty well for landscape, but less so for macro. That’s the opposite from what I’d hoped for.

So to summarize what I do:

- Select the starting focus point and autofocus there.

- Set the step size to 1.

- Choose the number of steps and other settings based on experience, erring on the low side for number of steps.

- Start the sequence.

- After it finishes, restart for more images if needed.

- or refocus to the start if needed.

Best regards,

Mark

What do you use for the other options?  Focus Peaking?  Silent shutter?

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MarkJ10 New Member • Posts: 22
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

Interval: 0, unless I"m using my sigma macro lens, then interval 1 because it seems to help to slow down the communication between the camera and lens.

First Frame Exposure Lock: on

Peaking: off

Silent: on (I don't want the shutter bouncing around for a sequence)

Another annoying thing is that there's no feedback about progress when shooting a long sequence. So Peaking can be helpful there as an indicator that it finished. But for some reason I don't always see it. Maybe it behaves differently in Viewfinder priority display mode.

While it's shooting the top display changes - I think it shows a flash disabled symbol - which indirectly indicates that the FSS is in progress.

jimhughes
OP jimhughes Senior Member • Posts: 1,355
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
1

For macro - like most people I just give up on understanding the settings. I set the step size to 1, select 50 images, do AF on a card held in front of the subject, and blast away. Usually 50 is more than enough. Depending on the background, it might or might not stop before 50.

I haven't tried it for landscape, because I totally don't know what it's doing in that situation, which is sad because it's no doubt powerful.

Someday, maybe, Nikon will release that 105mm Z-mount macro lens they keep teasing. And that might drive interest in Z for macro, and pressure Nikon to properly explain this feature - or maybe even do a serious and useful UI for it.

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Barleyman
Barleyman Regular Member • Posts: 451
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

I do watch a number of Landscape vlogs and when they focus stack,  they typically only do 2-3 images (foreground,  mid, and background).  Or they calculate the hyperfocal distance an do 1 foreground and one at the hyper focal.  Since they are usually at F11 or above,  it makes sense.

Macro sounds like a different animal,  where you have the lens more open,  and you are layering the shot,  like slices in focus,  each millimeters thick.

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(unknown member) Forum Member • Posts: 79
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
1

Is the quality/capability of the lens an issue as well?

For instance:

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---------

MarkJ10 wrote:

Jim,

Nikon’s implementation is frustrating - so close, yet so far.

Jim Kasson confirmed that for step size 5-10 the system works as expected. But step size 1-4 are all the same. That is, the lens step size does not get smaller for step size values smaller than 5. I just leave the step size set to 1 all the time.

-------

This issue might imply that the lens focus stepping motor at step size 4 is limit out for that particular lens. Presumably, a higher quality macro lens focus system may support the finer granularity of step size in the 1 to 4 range.

A test with different macro lenses may be of interest. But I'm hoping the forthcoming Z macro can meet the grade. Otherwise step settings 1 to 4 are basically superfluous.

jimhughes
OP jimhughes Senior Member • Posts: 1,355
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?

simpsondb wrote:

Is the quality/capability of the lens an issue as well?

For instance:

That's a good guess and they probably can't really do much with non Nikon lenses but try some standard increments. But with their own Z lenses we might expect more from them.  What they've given us so far isn't what I'd call professional.

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dpnikon New Member • Posts: 8
Re: Focus Shift Shooting - can we end the guesswork?
1
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; AutoHotKey script to run NKRemote, select live view and take
; a series of photos with different focus settings so that these can
; be combined using CombineZM to give extended depth of field.
;
; Usage: focus the lens on the nearest object to be in focus and then
; run this script. The number of photos in the sequence is defined by
; the variable NumberOfImagesInSequence below and can be overridden in
; the command line e.g. focus_stacking.ahk 30
; After taking the pictures run CombineZM to combine them into a single
; image with extended DoF.
;
; NKRemote can be downloaded from
; http://www.breezesys.com
;
; AutoHotKey is free and can be downloaded from:
; http://www.autohotkey.com
;
; CombineZM is free and can be downloaded from:
; http://www.hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/CZM/combinezm.htm
;
; This script comes with no warranty or support whatsoever and may
; be freely copied or modified as required.
;
; Written by Chris Breeze, www.breezesys.com
;-----------------------------------------------------------------------

MediumFocusSteps = 1 ; set this to 0 to focus in small steps
NumberOfImagesInSequence = 15

if %0% > 0 and %1% > 1
{
NumberOfImagesInSequence = %1%
}

; First check NKRemote is running and a camera is connected
IfWinExist, NKRemote
{
IfWinExist, NKRemote: Connected to
{
WinActivate, NKRemote
}
else
{
MsgBox, 48, Focus Stacking Script, NKRemote is not connected to a camera
ExitApp
}
}
else
{
MsgBox, 48, Focus Stacking Script, NKRemote is not running
ExitApp
}

; Turn on live view (this will fail if the camera doesn't support live view)
Sleep 1000
IfWinNotExist, Live View:
{
Send ^l
Sleep 2000
}
IfWinNotExist, Live View:
{
MsgBox, 48, Focus Stacking Script, Unable to select live view
ExitApp
}

; Take a series of pictures and adjust the focus after each shot
ImageCounter := 0
Loop, %NumberOfImagesInSequence%
{
ImageCounter := ImageCounter + 1
SplashTextOn, 200, 30, Focus Stack Progress , Image %ImageCounter% of %NumberOfImagesInSequence%

; Make sure NkRemote is still running.
IfWinExist, NKRemote
{
IfWinNotExist, NKRemote: Connected to
{
SplashTextOff
MsgBox, 48, Focus Stacking Script, No camera connected in loop!`n`n%ImageCounter% frames shot.
ExitApp
}
}
else
{
SplashTextOff
MsgBox, 48, Focus Stacking Script, NKRemote is not running.`n`n%ImageCounter% frames shot.
ExitApp
}
IfWinNotExist, Live View:
{
SplashTextOff
MsgBox, 48, Focus Stacking Script, Live View window is not open.`n`n %ImageCounter% frames shot.
ExitApp
}

; make sure live view window has input focus
WinActivate, Live View:
Sleep 250

SendInput {F8}

; give NKRemote time to take the picture, download and reactivate live view
Sleep 5000 ; increase this time by approximately 2500ms per image when auto-bracketing

if MediumFocusSteps > 0
{
; focus farther away in medium steps
SendInput ^{Right}
}
else
{
; focus farther away in small steps
SendInput {Right}
}
Sleep 250
}
SplashTextOff

Implanteer in Z7 ,,,?????

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