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08-22-2020, 07:14 PM   #1
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Focus Stacking In Camera Using Intervals?

From a prior post on this forum it seems that Pentax does not include in-camera focus stacking. I would have to go to Photo Shop and merge layers at different focus points. I do not have Photo Shop, and GIMP seems to require more editing and masking than I really want to do. I am relying totally on the free stuff using Raw Therapee and GIMP, or trying to learn it, but I had an idea and wanted to ask here if anyone had already tried this and if so if they have any tips.

Here is my idea. Set the camera to do interval shooting and to make an interval composite to get the final stacked image. Give yourself enough time to carefully adjust the focus slightly using manual focus between shots, starting with the closest in focus, then slowly focusing out a bit for maybe 5 or so shots as needed in the macro subject you are shooting. I could test in advance to see just how much change would be needed between shots. Then when the camera merges the separate shots, it should result in focus stacking, right?

I also thought I might be able to use the wireless and change the focus for each shot by using the touch screen on my smart phone, but I am not sure that is possible during interval shooting. If so, that would eliminate bumping the camera during manual refocusing.

Unless I get a total "thumbs down" here, I will give it a try in the next couple of days and report the results.

I am really new at all this but absorbing everything I can and trying to learn. I am using an entry level K-70 and I really love this camera.

08-22-2020, 07:49 PM   #2
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Hi Selvadero,

I'd advise you to leave Gimp if you have these needs, I know from friends it's a bit mangy.
You don't use Photoshop because you can't or you won't? It's important to know.

There are specific programs for focus stacking, Helicon Focus, Zerene Stacker, Picolay, CombineZP (free),
would make your life easier.

Let me know more,

Ciao Mario
08-22-2020, 07:57 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Focus Stacking In Camera Using Intervals?

I use Affinity, while not free, a cheap alternative to PS. I. shoot a series of aperture bracketed or EV brackets. On a tripod I shot 3 bursts. Stacked and aligned 7 of them and got a great macro. This was my first attempt at focus stacking, but I do a fair amount of HDR stacks.

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08-22-2020, 08:24 PM   #4

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Hi Selvadero

As far as I know he in camera composites will rather add ( like in long exposure composites ) information than subtract like one would need to get rid of the out of focus areas. I have used the stacking in an old Photoshop and it works well, but I would really like to hear from you what your results would be. I wager more a long exposure effect, but give it a try and show what you have

Go well

08-22-2020, 11:53 PM   #5
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If you're happy with open source software and don't mind using the command line the Hugin can be very effective

Nature photography with magnification: Using Hugin for focus stacking
08-23-2020, 08:17 AM   #6
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As far as I know, the Pentax K-70, like other Pentax cameras, will not do in camera focus stacking. As stated, Affinity Photo is a great alternative to Photoshop. At $50, one time purchase. Besides focus stacking, it also accomplishes panorama stitching, HDR stacking and others. In my experience, Gimp can be a bit unwieldy. YMMV.
08-23-2020, 09:08 AM   #7
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You can try integrating stacking with in-camera composite multiple exposure (preferable to interval), but doing the merge in PP is both easier and allows more control.

08-23-2020, 09:24 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by damianc Quote
If you're happy with open source software and don't mind using the command line the Hugin can be very effective

Nature photography with magnification: Using Hugin for focus stacking
Hugin / enfuse was going to be my suggestion as well. Unfortunately I don't know of many FOSS GUI options.

Really though, I'd still do it manually with layers (layer masks are useful but not necessary) in GIMP. It's pretty easy. You're just using a feathered eraser or selection to get rid of out-of-focus areas in everything above your base layer. G'MIC is a very useful GIMP plugin if you don't already have it. I don't think it has a module specifically for focus stacking, but it has a lot of useful tools for aligning and compositing images from layers as well as other useful photo editing tools.

As for OP's interval composite idea, you should get a sort of soft-focus effect with that method, which I don't think is what you're going for.

08-24-2020, 05:46 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Okay, I can confirm that my idea did not work . I was just hoping for something like I had in my old compact Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10, which worked great for in camera focus stacking. I had forgotten that the wi-fi only works in single frame shooting, and trying to manually refocus during the intervals was impossible without at least a small amount of camera movement, even with a good tripod. Then when the shots finally did stitch together in the camera, there was nothing to remove the out-of-focus regions (of course, how stupid of me). So the results were really weird - like all the edges were blurred and only areas that were in focus in each of the interval shots were in focus in the final merged photo. There might be some situation where that would be desired, but I am sure there are better ways.

As for photo editing software, I will check out Affinity or try doing it in GIMP. There was a good YouTube video on focus stacking in GIMP. I just do not want to pay $10 a month ($120 per year FOREVER) to use Adobe products. Raw Therapee does everything I need for RAW processing and I am getting better and better at it. It includes the K-70 defaults now, including Pixel Shift so I don't think I need Lightroom. I also like the fact that Raw Therapee does not require cataloging. I do my own photo organization and use the free Irfanview for all that.

So thanks for all the advice here. I am learning from you all and from my own experimentation.
08-24-2020, 07:59 AM   #10
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I've had good results with the free CombineZ (ZP, ZM?)

It's quite dated and I think it doesn't get any further support, but it offers different stacking methods to choose from at the click of one button (ok, maybe some more, but you can tell it to output the results of all different stacking methods and will take some CPU time afterwards to render them)
08-24-2020, 11:09 AM   #11
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I found a detailed comparison between Affinity and Photoshop at Affinity Photo vs Photoshop 2020: which should you choose? and based on that I don't think Affinity will give me the simplicity I was wanting. From the website:
"You cannot open multiple images as layers in Affinity Photo. If you need to open multiple images as layers you need to do this manually, by opening all of the images and copy the layers each image into a single image with all the layers."
"Affinity Photo Focus Stacking and Panorama Stitching Could Be Improved
From a macro photographer’s viewpoint, focus stacking could be improved, as it is not quite up to speed. For instance, Affinity Photo doesn’t show the layer masks and which part from each layer was used to create the focus stack, but only outputs the resulting layer. So you cannot easily finish the blend yourself.

The panorama feature suffers from the same failure to show a layer mask of which part of each image layer was used to create the panorama, so you can add finishing touches to the panorama stitching yourself. You have to do this in the stitching process and cannot edit it after you applied the Panorama stitch to a pixel layer.

I must admit though that the initial panorama results that Affinity Photo outputs, is often much better than the results I got from Photoshop."

---------- Post added 08-24-20 at 11:22 AM ----------

So I kept searching and I think I have found the answer. There is a focus stacking software program called Helicon Focus 7 that can focus stack unlimited layers by either of three different methods and even allow touching up or masking areas where there might have been movement of the subject. It also includes the ability to insert a scale which would be helpful to me for my detailed scientific botanical photos. They have a 30 day fully functional free trial after you download, and then you can decide whether to buy a license from one of three different versions, depending on your needs, in either a one-year subscription or lifetime and the price is reasonable.

I downloaded it and tried a few photos that I already had on the computer at multiple focus points, and it seems to work great. I will keep trying it for the thirty days and then decide whether and what version to buy. They even have a fancy extension tube that fits in front of the camera and will automate the focus bracketing if you don't want to have to take different shots at different focus points yourself. Unfortunately they have this for Canon and Nikon - not Pentax.

Helicon Focus - Helicon Soft

Last edited by Selvadero; 08-24-2020 at 11:29 AM.
08-24-2020, 11:23 AM   #12
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I gave up on Adobe because Affinity does , most things better and easier.

I bracket shoot EV or DOF so focus stacking gives me plenty of workroom. This was hand held and stacked.

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