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Old Dec 20, 2013, 7:19 PM   #1
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Default Macro and dof

One of the problems with shooting macro is the tiny dof. The closer you get to a subject, the smaller your dof will be - when you get close enough to shoot 1:1, your dof is really small. Who needs a f1.4 lens for a small dof when you are shooting a couple of inches away from your subject - here's an example shot at f13:



I actually quite like this shot, the dof is rather nice. Notice that the focus has the first pencil in focus to the bottom of the frame.

Now let's assume you want all of the pencils in focus. That may not be possible no matter how much you stop the lens down. They do make software now that you can use to "extend" the focus of a picture. The basics are to take a series of frames, each with a slight difference in focus points, then use software to merge these frames together so that only the sharpest parts of each of them are used and you get more that's sharp than you could get with a lens.

In the past the few times I've played around with stacking I've used Photoshop. However, I've been underwhelmed with it's capabilities - it makes mistakes. Here's the same scene where I used the above frame as the first one and put several others (4 or 5) together using CS6's auto blend feature. It worked up to a point, but it made some mistakes:



If you look at it casually you might not notice how it struggled in a few places. Here's a crop of one of them, with a circle around the problem. As you notice in the first picture, it's sharp all the way down - the program didn't choose the right frame to use here:



I then downloaded the trial version of Helicon Focus, a program that has been around for a number of years. I had once thought about it but didn't really have the funds to buy it. I'm now frustrated enough with CS6 that I was willing to buy something, so I tried it. It's definitely better than CS6, but it complained that I hadn't bracketed the frames correctly - I had tried to make sure that each pencil was in focus, rather than pay attention to how much I was moving the camera forward between frames. Apparently that makes a difference.



Since I'm not always really good about such things, I decided to check out other programs, and went looking around the internet for other suggestions.

Quite a few people mentioned being happy with Zerene Stacker, another program similar to Helicon Focus.

It also has a 30 day trial, so I tried it. I liked it the best of the 3 - it didn't have the obvious mistakes that CS6 had, and it seemed more accurate in the places that were probably affected by my not exactly bracketing the focus in the Helicon Focus example. It did crop the picture closer than the others - I can live with that if there's not the mistakes that CS6 makes. I was really impressed with it using the default settings. Now I need to read through the tutorials and see what all the options it has do.



I ended up buying Zerene, it looks like it will work well for me. I think I could have gotten Helicon Focus to work as well, but it seemed it would be more fiddly.

I learned from this that I should pay more attention to how much I move the camera on the macro rails I have when shooting a series to stack, it looks like the various software options will give better results if you do, but that zerene stacker can manage all right even if you don't.
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Old Dec 21, 2013, 7:36 PM   #2
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Thanks for a very thorough review of these focus-stacking options. Will look forward to seeing more of your results with Zerene as you work with it.
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Old Dec 22, 2013, 2:09 PM   #3
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G'day Mtngal

Thanks for the "tutorial" - it does make sense to me
As to photoshop's abilities ... I do lots of panos and find the PS / PSE pano module to be an over-rated almost waste-of-time feature, even tho magazines rave about it. So I have gone 3rd-party [pixtra] for better software too

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Old Dec 23, 2013, 9:04 AM   #4
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Mole - If you have the time you might enjoy playing around with focus stacking since you do a lot of close-up and macro photos. I'd be interested in your experiences with trying such things out.

Phil - Thanks very much for your experiences about panos. I do them every so often (not a lot) and have always used CS6 (or whichever version of CS I was using at the time). As long as I've shot the series reasonably closely with something that's not too wide, it seems to do OK, with no mistakes. But I rarely seem to have my tripod with me for some reason (I should carry it more!) and so often the frames don't quite line up and the merging is dreadful - I can't manage to correct any mistakes without a huge amount of extra work and frustration, and will give up before I get it right. So 3rd party software can do better? I always assumed that nothing would work.
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Old Dec 23, 2013, 1:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtngal View Post
... Phil - Thanks very much for your experiences about panos. I do them every so often (not a lot) and have always used CS6 (or whichever version of CS I was using at the time). As long as I've shot the series reasonably closely with something that's not too wide, it seems to do OK, with no mistakes. But I rarely seem to have my tripod with me for some reason (I should carry it more!) and so often the frames don't quite line up and the merging is dreadful - I can't manage to correct any mistakes without a huge amount of extra work and frustration, and will give up before I get it right. So 3rd party software can do better? I always assumed that nothing would work.
G'day again
Invariably it will do better
I will PM you and arrange something

Phil
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