E-M5 Mk III focus stacking vs focus bracketing for close-ups

trailguru

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Upgrading from an E-M10 Mk II to an E-M5 Mk III I was curious to know just how well the in-camera focus stacking works vs manaul focus bracketing with close-ups. In short - not so well. This camera fixes the number of exposures to 8. Fine for landscape but focus close, say 75mm, and 8 exposures are too few. So I ran a test and, with a differenetial of 2 at f8, first with in-camera stacking (8 exposures) then with manual bracketing (16 exposures - reasonable for a close-up). The bracketed set, merged in Photoshop CS6 (old school I know) delivered a sharp band of focus nearly 2.5x that of the in-camera stack. For a 'control' I also merged the 8 exposures used by the in-camera stacking in CS6 and the result was a close match to the in-camera output. Conclusion - E-M5 Mk III in-camera focus stacking is no good for close-ups (and micro and macro). Use focus bracketing.
FBKT-30MM-f8-D75mm-d2-17-1to16-CS6-stack.JPG
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FSTK-30MM-f8-D75mm-d2-9-1to8-camera-stack.JPG
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One clear advantage of in-camera stacking is that the camera captures focal planes both in front of (few) and behind (most) the initial focus point. This is handy if features of your subject (flower parts, insect antenna) that you want in focus extend towards the lens, but are difficult to focus on.

I’ll also note that my E-M1 II can customize the number of shots in focus stacking (up to 15), and since focus stacking saves both the rendered stacked image and the original RAWs you can re-stack later with your software of choice.
 

Andy H.

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No good for close ups ......... yeah, right! Stacked SOOC.
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So I ran a test and, with a differenetial of 2 at f8, first with in-camera stacking (8 exposures) then with manual bracketing (16 exposures - reasonable for a close-up). The bracketed set, merged in Photoshop CS6 (old school I know) delivered a sharp band of focus nearly 2.5x that of the in-camera stack.

Of course a stack of 8 will give you less focus depth that a bracket of 16 with the same focus differential.
 
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Agree with your premise, especially for closeups - if you need more depth of field than the 8 frames give, you need to use focus bracketing, with a tripod, and assemble with a program.

But, in my experience, where the Olympus in camera focus stacking excels is with hand held stacked images. Even when the subject (like a flower) is moving slightly, or with some hand shake, the resultant stacked image can be quite good. Using the same source frames to stack with Olympus Workspace or Affinity results in garbage. Others can speak up if some other programs out there that can compensate for movement like Olympus can with it's in camera stacking.

EM-5 MKii hand held with bracket of 8....

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Pasque Flower - on Flickr
 
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Bushboy

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I have never needed to go as low as differential 2.
Maybe I just don’t go close enough...
In cam stacking, almost always works for me, it’s quick and effective. Bracketing is a real drag, just because of the time on computer factor. But, hey if I came across a truly fabulous subject, probably I would use both.
It always depends. Making hard and fast rules is not yet applicable for me. Different situations, require slightly different settings. Carry at least 2 batteries is necessary for me, as I can go through a fully charged battery just for one pic... One pic might take 200 pics to get! 😂
 

RAH

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Conclusion - E-M5 Mk III in-camera focus stacking is no good for close-ups (and micro and macro). Use focus bracketing.
I don't really agree. I used it for close-ups and found it to be pretty effective (i.e. the 8 shots were enough). Of course, it isn't as good as 15, but as I said, it worked well for me given the limitation. And it's instant gratification, of course (no stacking in post-processing).
 

RAH

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Cool! Because I’m thinking of getting one...
That's a good idea. I think that the E-M10.2 (which I already have and recently upgraded to E-M5.3) is excellent, and you can get a refurb body very cheap, if Oly still has that available. If you want one and they still have their refurb webpage, you'd better act NOW!
Edit: I just checked - the webpage is still there, but they don't have any E-M10.2 bodies, just a 2-lens kit for $400 (which isn't bad). They have a Mark III body for $324, but, um, it's a Mark3. ;-)
 

trailguru

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One clear advantage of in-camera stacking is that the camera captures focal planes both in front of (few) and behind (most) the initial focus point. This is handy if features of your subject (flower parts, insect antenna) that you want in focus extend towards the lens, but are difficult to focus on.

I’ll also note that my E-M1 II can customize the number of shots in focus stacking (up to 15), and since focus stacking saves both the rendered stacked image and the original RAWs you can re-stack later with your software of choice.
That's the same for the E-m5 Mk III in-camera stacking, the 1st two exposures are closer than the focus point. In the e. g. above that amounts to 2 or 3mm (settings = 30mm Macro lens @ f8, focused @ 75mm, differential = 2).
 
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