21
Jan
16

Focus Bracketing/Stacking

Olympus continues to be a pioneer with some of their latest technology advances. With their most recent firmware upgrades for the OM-D series cameras, we are now able to create images with a significantly greater depth of field through the use of Focus Bracketing & Focus Stacking. There is an option to create “in-camera” results (Focus Stacking) and also through the post processing processes (Focus Bracketing). Bracketing has always been an option in the past. However, it was extremely time consuming and required many manual focus steps, along with a lot of trial & error and guess work.

2015-12-30 18-46-40 (B,Radius25,Smoothing4)-Edit

 

The process I use to accomplish Bracketing and Stacking results are as follows:

  • “Focus Stacking” a.k.a. In-camera processing
    • Select the front most portion of your image that you want clear and use that as your focus point. Use a tripod or something to stabilize the camera.
    • Go to the camera “menu” and select “Shooting Menu 2” & “Bracketing”. Click “On” and proceed to “Focus BKT”. Now select “Focus Stacking” & select”On”.
    • Next select the “Set focus differential”. You have a step range from 1 (Narrow) to 10 (Wide). A focus step refers to the amount of focus movement where 1 is the smallest setting. When shooting at the widest aperture value, I would recommend using smaller focus step 1 or 2. Your selection will depend on your subject matter, aperture setting, distance, etc.
    • After you have these settings in place make sure you hit OK all the way through.
    • At this point you are ready to hit the shutter release (Tip: I would recommend using a cable release so as to not bump the camera).
    • The camera will process a JPEG image and at this point you can now see the preview.

Below is an example of an in-camera Focus Stacked image using this process along side of a single non stacked image. The differential is quite amazing. Click on the images to see the full view.

Focus Stacked

Focus Stacked

Non-Focus Stacked

Non-Focus Stacked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • “Focus Bracketing” Requires 3rd party post-processing software
    • Select the front most portion of your image that you want clear and use that as your focus point. Use a tripod or something to stabilize the camera.
    • Go to the camera “menu” and select “Shooting Menu 2” & “Bracketing”. Click “On” and proceed to “Focus BKT”. Now select “Focus Stacking Off”
    • Select “Set number of shots”. You can select up to 999 shots. I have found that anything between 10 and 60 shots work well.
    • Next select the “Set focus differential”. You have a step range from 1 (Narrow) to 10 (Wide). A focus step refers to the amount of focus movement where 1 is the smallest setting. When shooting at the widest aperture value, I would recommend using smaller focus step 1 or 2. Your selection will depend on your subject matter, aperture setting, distance, etc.
    • After you have these settings in place make sure you hit OK all the way through.
    • At this point you are ready to hit the shutter release (Tip: I would recommend using a cable release so as to not bump the camera).
    • Now you have to take the images into a program like Photoshop or HeliconFocus (I have had good success with HeliconFocus). After you merge the images, you can perform your normal edits.

Below are two series of images where I used this process. The first image is the processed bracketed image and the second one is a single non-bracketed image.

Bracketed

Bracketed

Non-bracketed

Non-bracketed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bracketed

Bracketed

Non-bracketed

Non-bracketed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all cases it will require experimenting with various settings. All of the images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the 60mm f2.8 macro lens.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Focus Bracketing/Stacking”


  1. 1 abower
    January 23, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Thank you. I think these options are great for macro photographers. I believe that the focus stacking option is only available on the M1, not the M5 II.

  2. 4 William
    February 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I’ve been experimenting with the EM-1 in camera bracketing but find the Olympus instructions lacking specifics (as usual)!! Thanks for these tips. Very helpful.


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