Helicon Tube?

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billjanes1
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Helicon Tube?

Post by billjanes1 »

On browsing the Helicon site, I saw a page on Helicon Tube which is a short extension ring that can automate focus stacking by micro-stepping auto-focus lenses with Nikon and Canon autofocus lenses with a built in motor. It costs US$200 and appears interesting. Does anyone have experience with this device?

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Nice!!!

Darn it, looks like they beat me to it. I just could not find a factory to make that extension with wire breakout. I will post some images of my setup :-)

Smokedaddy
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Post by Smokedaddy »

I'd be interested if it worked with a Canon MP-E65.

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

Looks interesting, but less than I initially thought. At first I thought it would extend automatically by a small step size. But it stays the same length and manipulates the AF system of the lens to change focus by a small step. That's something many cameras can do just fine without the help of this ring.

Then they say there is no effect on optical quality, but any time you add extension to a lens optimized to work without extension, you increase aberrations.

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Post by rjlittlefield »

Smokedaddy wrote:I'd be interested if it worked with a Canon MP-E65.
Alas, it will not. The MP-E 65 does not have a focus motor to control.

--Rik

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Re: Helicon Tube?

Post by rjlittlefield »

billjanes1 wrote:Does anyone have experience with this device?
I have no experience with it. On quick scan of the documentation, I don't see any obvious flaws except for the limitations noted by Lou, and the fact that because it adds extension, it won't work at long focus distances. But I'm not sure I understand the tradeoffs between $200 for this device, versus $300 for a CamRanger which also shoots focus stacks this way and also does a lot more, or for that matter Helicon Remote. Perhaps the key is in their snippet about "enable automated focus bracketing in single or continuous shooting modes". I can see this thing being used with burst mode shooting to rapidly acquire full resolution stacks in the field.

--Rik

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Alas, it will not. The MP-E 65 does not have a focus motor to control.
I believe Helicon Tube use lens control protocol to change things like focus, aperture, etc. At least that how mine works. So yeah, it will not work on a manual lens, only AF lenses.

However, you can use the same system on other cameras because the device talks to an AF lens (Canon for mine) directly. Sort of like Aputure DEC follow focus system.

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Post by rjlittlefield »

mjkzz wrote:However, you can use the same system on other cameras because the device talks to an AF lens (Canon for mine) directly.
I'm not sure what you're saying. It looks to me like the Helicon Tube steps focus when it sees that a photo has been taken. I assume that it gets that info from electronic connection to the camera body. I can see how this would probably work in conjunction with, say, a Metabones adapter for mounting a Canon lens on an MFT body. Is that what you're talking about, when you say "other cameras"?

--Rik

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Post by ChrisR »

A couple of camera bodies ago, I planned to modify a Nikon TC16A, AF converter, to step focus. You'd have fun fitting an MP-E to one, but in principle I expect they could be made to shift the focus of any lens stuck on the front, to an extent.
It would need a servo or other motor, connected to the converter's internals to rotate the "screwdriver" mechanism.
It could work, perhaps after modification found widely on the net, to work with any Nikon body, in tethered focus control mode?
Last edited by ChrisR on Sat Apr 01, 2017 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Rik, I am not sure if you can get the signal that a picture has been taken from lens contacts, even with native camera. However, you can get that info from external source and it works for almost all camera, including some point and shoot camera, I have successfully made a Leica M9 to give me that electronic signal.

Having that signal, it is not hard to make a Canon lens step by predefined step size. Here is my prototype -- it can step rapidly or set focus manual with that round dial, I can control both aperture and focus with this device. Because my device is controlling all function of the lens, I can mount this on a Sony or Nikon with proper mount at the other end. It is just I can not find a factory to make that "Modified Extension Tube w/ Contacts" with various mount interface the the other end for different cameras.


Image

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

I do not have Helicon Tube, but looking at the picture on their site, it seems that there is a photo sensor that detects flashes going off, so this is one way to get that signal (camera has taken a picture)

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Post by JL »

Although this is, apparently, an interesting gadget I do not know why to choose an electro-mechanical device instead of looking for a software driven solution. Probably is just another example of Canon / Nikon refusing to provide their users with the functionality that they deserve, anyway that is another story.

As far as I know Magic Lantern include a "stack focus" function. I have not used it, but some of the Canon users may try it and report on how it works.

Furthermore, some of the Olympus cameras, and I guess the latest Lumix models, include that function in their menu set. The camera that I am currently using, a Lumix G7, do not have such function, but there is an app that you can buy for $1.50!! (GSimpleRelease) that allows to select the starting and ending focus points, change the focus interval (sort of trial and error) and automatically shoot all the frames via the camera´s wifi. Easy and cheap.

billjanes1
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Post by billjanes1 »

mjkzz wrote:I do not have Helicon Tube, but looking at the picture on their site, it seems that there is a photo sensor that detects flashes going off, so this is one way to get that signal (camera has taken a picture)
In looking at the Helicon web site, I can find no manual for the FB Tube, but I infer from the video that the photo-receptor on the tube is to upload configuration data from a cell phone or tablet. Once this is done, one shoots in burst mode on the camera. One would start shooting at the nearest object that should be in focus and one would continue shooting until the focus increment moves the point of focus to the most distal object that should be in focus.

There does not be a clear method to determine when this distant point has been reached and the burst should be terminated. One could try to chimp with magnified views, but this could be difficult to determine on the small LCD of the camera. This is unlike Helicon Remote where one selects the near and far points in the image space. The software determines the focus increment and stops when the far point has been reached. In addition, one can view the images on the larger LCD of a cell phone or, even better, a tablet.

For more extreme macro, one would likely want to use mirror up and allow a settle time for vibrations to die down after raising the mirror and before taking the shot. Also, one might want to use electronic first shutter if available. Depending on the camera, this could be difficult to accomplish in burst mode. Shooting in live view would be an option, since the mirror would already be up. If using flash, one would want to allow time for the flash to recharge. Furthermore, in extreme macro, one would likely use focus with a rail rather than focus by ring, and possibly use a microscope objective. For deep stacks, many would use Zerene but both of these Helicon methods can of course be used with any stacking software.

Like Rik noted, the tube might be useful for stacking in the field for modest stacks.

Any further thoughts?

Bill

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Post by Lou Jost »

"For more extreme macro, one would likely want to use mirror up and allow a settle time for vibrations to die down after raising the mirror and before taking the shot. Also, one might want to use electronic first shutter if available. Depending on the camera, this could be difficult to accomplish in burst mode. Shooting in live view would be an option, since the mirror would already be up. If using flash, one would want to allow time for the flash to recharge. "

The Olympus in-camera focus bracketing function solves all those issues, and I would recommend it to anyone considering this. No mirror to lock up, first curtain AND second curtain electronic shutter (usable with flash on the PEN F though not on older cameras), and user-selected charging delay time between shots (or automatic shooting of each shot as soon as the flash is ready if using Olympus flashes).

billjanes1
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Post by billjanes1 »

Lou Jost wrote:"For more extreme macro, one would likely want to use mirror up and allow a settle time for vibrations to die down after raising the mirror and before taking the shot. Also, one might want to use electronic first shutter if available. Depending on the camera, this could be difficult to accomplish in burst mode. Shooting in live view would be an option, since the mirror would already be up. If using flash, one would want to allow time for the flash to recharge. "

The Olympus in-camera focus bracketing function solves all those issues, and I would recommend it to anyone considering this. No mirror to lock up, first curtain AND second curtain electronic shutter (usable with flash on the PEN F though not on older cameras), and user-selected charging delay time between shots (or automatic shooting of each shot as soon as the flash is ready if using Olympus flashes).
Lou,

The Olympus sounds very good and those features should be incorporated into Nikon and Canon. I have been considering the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and it appears to have these features too. Does the Olympus focus stacking try to process the stack in camera (which would concern me) or merely produce a series of JPEG or raw files to be processed in the usual way?

My only problem is that I am pretty heavily into Nikon and I hesitate to invest in another system. Some of my colleagues are ditching Nikon and Canon and moving to MFT or the Fuji and these latter companies should wake up.

Bill

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