Olympus FW 4.0. Focus stacking. 60mm macro. F2.8. Interval "2"

I recently downloaded firmware 4.0 onto my Olympus EM-1.  Two of the new features are 1) focus stacking and 2) focus bracketing.

Last Saturday I used the focus stacking feature for the first time, along with the 60mm macro, to photograph plants and flowers at the local botanic garden.

It works like this:

I went to the bracketing menu and set it up for focus stacking.  It will take 8 images and combine them into a final jpg. Fortunately all 8 images are retained as jpg images on the memory card (if you have set up your camera to take jpgs) or as jpg+raw (if, like me, you take your pictures in raw format).  Processing the final image takes quite a few seconds, but the 8 source images are recorded at approximately 8 frames per second.  It is because of this that I felt comfortable hand-holding all of these shots. Unfortunately you can't use a timer; however, when using a tripod, you can use your iPhone or Android as a remote.

You further need to specify in the menu the space between each focused shot, using 1 through 10.  I shot these images at F2.8 using space interval "2".  From what I have read, using F2.8 I might be able to go up to "5" without seeing bands of blurry focus between the eight images.

When it is all said and done, for each composition I had 17 images on the memory card.  Eight jpg and eight raw images, plus the final jpg composite.  I deleted the eight source jpgs.  But the good news is that if you have a potential portfolio image, you can run the raw files yourself through software like Helicon Focus and perhaps obtain a better image than the composite created in-camera.

I suggest being a bit loose in your compositions as the final image is cropped more than you might think.  Some cropping is inevitable since some wiggle room is necessary to account for changes is scale as the focusing distance changes.

I noticed too that the cropped final image is nevertheless a full 16mp, which means it is upsized.  I would prefer it if this did not happen.  Since all of these images, for example, will be viewed small here on the blog (750 pixels wide) or no bigger than HD (1920 pixels wide) or iPad (2048 pixels wide), I see no reason to upsize only to have me downsize for web and computer viewing. There's no need to upsize unless you are making a big print.


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wow - these are very nice, and it's almost unbelievable that this can be done handheld. Seems like that firmware upgrade made an exceptional camera even better.

Peter F. said...

Thanks Wolfgang.