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Questions on beginner software for small stacks.
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
Posts: 46

PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:35 am    Post subject: Questions on beginner software for small stacks. Reply with quote

Hello again,
My tripod has cleared customs and should be here Monday. I will order the Acratech Head this week and it should be here no later than Friday. My next questions are to do with software.

I have read the forums here and see Zerene and Helicon are the most popular; and for a pro license 200.00 to 289.00 price range. I have also read here that Helicon is faster but Zerene is the most accurate for critical stacks.

Is there a adequate lower price or free piece of software that can handle small stacks of 3 to 8 images? Or is the old adage true in that we get what we pay for? I plan on 1:1 shots of flowers, nature paths, rocks, mushrooms etc... and do not ever see myself composing a 20 to 100 or more frame stack. Any input would be great.
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 18250
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Take a look at Picolay. I have not used it personally for a long time, but it seems to be under continuous development and a few other people here in the forum have shown good results with it recently.

--Rik
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
Posts: 46

PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
Take a look at Picolay. I have not used it personally for a long time, but it seems to be under continuous development and a few other people here in the forum have shown good results with it recently.

--Rik

Thanks Rik, I will look into it!
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ChrisR
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Joined: 14 Mar 2009
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Location: Near London, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Try CombineZP too - free. It was "OK" when I used it last - a long time ago!
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
Posts: 46

PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisR wrote:
Try CombineZP too - free. It was "OK" when I used it last - a long time ago!

Chris, I tried and it seems that Hadleyweb is not accessible. I will keep looking for it.
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
Posts: 46

PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:11 pm    Post subject: First Stacks, Three images Reply with quote

I downloaded both Zerene and Helicon trial versions. This is a stack of four pixel shift images all processed the same way. They were shot indoors with low outside window light @ F22 ISO 400. I used tiffs via silkypix for my individual pictures so all things would be equal. I have not done any PP other than saving them to a size under 300KB in Tiffen which works really well for this. I tried downsizing these files using Infranview and everyone of them came out mushy.

It will be a tough decision and luckily I have 29 more days to mess around.

Zerene PMax:



Zerene DMax:



Helicon Method B Depth:



This is my first stacks so all input would be greatly appreciated.
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:49 pm    Post subject: Corner to corner the better picture is Zerene. Reply with quote

After pixel peeping these images, DMax and PMax are sharper than Helicon. In the top left where the yellow seed is in the background, Dmax is the sharpest with PMax in 2nd. I also see ghosting with Helicon. Easy to think I had vibrations as I am on the 3rd floor of an apartment and these were shot with 3 second exposure times. Zerene so far has to be my choice.
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ChrisR
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've done very little with Helicon because I haven't bought it, but I'd be surprised if real sharpness were an issue, though the different pyramid methods may extract detail differently.
Zerene does take a little getting used to, but not much. If you get the settings somewhere about right in Dmap, you get a faithful image, though with some ghosting inherent in the method it uses ( same for Helicon). Usually a pretty quick retouch from the Pmax result, corrects those and you're done. "Transparent foreground" will always need some special attention because the lens sees around it.

The reason I haven't got Helicon is that you really need to buy the Pro version (to get retouching capabilities) and you have to pay again every year Evil or Very Mad. (That may have changed?). ZS is a one-off payment. Albeit some of the features Helicon has, are rather nice and absent from ZS.


Actually, for some reason, none of these three mages looks as sharp as it should.
You should be able to post them 1024 square at jpeg quality 7 or so without the forum software getting in the way (sub 300kbyte images).
Perhaps there was movement in the originals?
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisR wrote:
I've done very little with Helicon because I haven't bought it, but I'd be surprised if real sharpness were an issue, though the different pyramid methods may extract detail differently.
Zerene does take a little getting used to, but not much. If you get the settings somewhere about right in Dmap, you get a faithful image, though with some ghosting inherent in the method it uses ( same for Helicon). Usually a pretty quick retouch from the Pmax result, corrects those and you're done. "Transparent foreground" will always need some special attention because the lens sees around it.

The reason I haven't got Helicon is that you really need to buy the Pro version (to get retouching capabilities) and you have to pay again every year Evil or Very Mad. (That may have changed?). ZS is a one-off payment. Albeit some of the features Helicon has, are rather nice and absent from ZS.


Actually, for some reason, none of these three mages looks as sharp as it should.
You should be able to post them 1024 square at jpeg quality 7 or so without the forum software getting in the way (sub 300kbyte images).
Perhaps there was movement in the originals?


I agree they are not as sharp as they should be. I am not sold on pixel shift being anywhere near as good as Zerene or Helicon; and the originals are pixel shift images at four different focus points then stacked again in the relative software.

What I do know about pixel shift is the color is usually extraordinary and sharpness is better than a single raw file provided there is no movement.

I really need to shoot a stable rock or piece of ground with some depth and color in no wind; as my apartment feels every step I take and my neighbors beside me. Plus my cheap tripod is rickety as all get out as well.

From what I have read on Helicon Pro, you can buy an unlimited license for 200.00 or pay 55.00 a year and keep renewing.
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ChrisR
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Flash, is handy for testing Wink
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisR wrote:
Flash, is handy for testing Wink

Another expense! I have looked at the one below but honestly I would prefer a ring flash option. Problem is there is no such thing as a cheap ring flash for Pentax. This hobby's start up cost is higher than golf Shocked


Yongnuo YN585EX Speedlite for Pentax Cameras
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?atclk=TTL+System_Pentax&ci=647&N=4168864822+3857973351+4062787797&
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Deanimator



Joined: 23 Oct 2012
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Location: Rocky River, Ohio, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisR wrote:
Try CombineZP too - free. It was "OK" when I used it last - a long time ago!

Let me second that.

It took a LOT of tinkering to make it work on my PC, but once I did, it's worked pretty well.

I tried Picolay and couldn't get anywhere with it. Somebody else who uses it was kind enough to share settings, but I haven't done any focus stacking for about month and didn't have anything to try it on.
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ChrisR
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any flash will do, though pop-ups are weak. Diffused (tissue paper) even they can work.

I have a Yongnuo ring flash (only use it on manual). but first I'd advise a simple off-camera flash, which you can fire with a "pc" lead, so it can be any make.
There are lots, used, for film cameras, very cheap, which have some degree of manual, fractional control. I have three Nikon SB 27s, none of which cost more than £15, though that was over a period.
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisR wrote:
Any flash will do, though pop-ups are weak. Diffused (tissue paper) even they can work.

I have a Yongnuo ring flash (only use it on manual). but first I'd advise a simple off-camera flash, which you can fire with a "pc" lead, so it can be any make.
There are lots, used, for film cameras, very cheap, which have some degree of manual, fractional control. I have three Nikon SB 27s, none of which cost more than £15, though that was over a period.


I am always trying to think simple but I have never used a manual flash. OK I get it, the manual part is the flash power has to be set, aperture and ISO is set manually, exposure is set to best fit the shot ( circumstances ). In other words the camera is not synced it just fires the flash and all the settings are on the user.

I have used tissue paper and paper towels to calm down harsh indoor light when testing things but have never used them outdoors yet.


Last edited by MacroLens on Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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MacroLens



Joined: 06 Jul 2017
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deanimator wrote:
ChrisR wrote:
Try CombineZP too - free. It was "OK" when I used it last - a long time ago!

Let me second that.

It took a LOT of tinkering to make it work on my PC, but once I did, it's worked pretty well.

I tried Picolay and couldn't get anywhere with it. Somebody else who uses it was kind enough to share settings, but I haven't done any focus stacking for about month and didn't have anything to try it on.


I work in IT and have for years but as I have now reached my 50s, my patience with tinkering has worn thin. If you would be willing to share some of your knowledge on making it work, I would be willing to give Combine ZP a try. But not a very long one if it continuously crashes on me.
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