What focus stacking s/w do you use?

Just bought that first macro lens? Post here to get helpful feedback and answers to any questions you might have.

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mlackey
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:48 pm

What focus stacking s/w do you use?

Post by mlackey »

My MP-E is on it's way. Time to start thinking about focus stackign s/w.

What do you use, and why do you think it's better than other s/w packages?
Best regards,
Mike

rjlittlefield
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Mike, welcome aboard! :)

Your question comes up often enough that maybe we should write a FAQ about it. For now, let me summarize.

Here at photomacrography.net, something like 90-95% of recently posted stacks are done with Zerene Stacker. The remaining 5-10% are done with CombineZ* (CombineZM or CombineZP), Helicon Focus, or Photoshop CS5. Among the larger community posting at Flickr, daily average stacks over the last 8 months have been about 6.15 for Zerene Stacker, 2.08 for CombineZ*, 1.48 for Helicon Focus, and I can't tell for Photoshop.

Major advantages and disadvantages for each product are the following:

Zerene Stacker:
+ makes better images with challenging subjects, especially complex structures at high magnification. (See "An image comparison of Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus" for more information on this point.)
+ includes built-in retouching and 64-bit mode in the $89 Personal Edition.
+ runs native on Windows, Mac, and Linux
- handles only JPEG & TIFF; raw files must be converted using other software.

Helicon Focus:
+ provides integrated support for raw images (versus ZS which requires an explicit conversion step using other software).
+ includes a dust map capability that reduces artifacts caused by dirty sensor.
+ runs native on Windows & Mac.
- is more vulnerable to halos and stacking mush.
- costs $200 to get retouching and 64-bit mode.

CombineZP:
+ provides the widest choice of stacking methods.
+ is free and open-source.
- runs only on Windows and Windows emulators.
- handles 8-bit images, not 16 bits.
- user interface is not smooth, especially for retouching.

Photoshop CS5:
+ stacking is fully integrated with other pieces of Photoshop (and comes for free if you have Photoshop)
- usually produces worse artifacts than the other tools
- no controls to affect the outcome

Disclaimer: I'm the fellow who wrote Zerene Stacker, so I have an obvious conflict of interest. On the other hand I'm also motivated to understand the differences and I've spent a lot of time doing that. I've tried to confine my comments to verifiable facts; I'd surely appreciate being informed if I've messed up any of them.

--Rik

mlackey
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:48 pm

Thank you.

Post by mlackey »

rjlittlefield wrote: + makes better images with challenging subjects, especially complex structures at high magnification. (See "An image comparison of Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus" for more information on this point.)
Brain cramp!

Seriously, pretty convincing. Maybe you should request that this post (or the one mentioned above) be made "sticky"?

I'll be in touch (via your website) as soon as I get the lens unpacked and have taken a few shots. Unfortunately I'm out of town this weekend. I've done macro before, and while familiar am not expert. I cannot wait to see what I can accomplish with a virtually unlimited depth of field, I am really looking forward to this, I only wish I had known about "focus stacking" earlier, I only discovered this recently while searching for more than 1:1 macro. Can't wait to see what is possible.

Thanks for the reply, I really do appreciate the comparison.
Best regards,
Mike

macrochemistry
Posts: 36
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:32 pm
Location: Kiel, Germany

Post by macrochemistry »

There are many more stackers

Anyone tried this stacker?: http://bigwww.epfl.ch/demo/edf/
It's able to make 3D pics and it's free

What about http://photoacute.com/studio/

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Yes, I listed only the ones that I see used most often. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focus_stacking currently lists 7 more programs, in addition to the 6 that have been listed so far in this thread. I know at least 3 others that are not on Wikipedia's list (Syncroscopy Automontage, Picolay, and SAR Image Processor). I haven't tested all of them recently, so I will be interested to hear reports from other users.

--Rik

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