Focus Bracketing, Focus Stacking on OMD

Michael Meissner

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The specifications page on the Olympus site says Pen-F doesn't support the focus stacking.
But I've just browsed through the firmware file and it seems it does.
So, is focus stacking really available in Pen-F?

I can most likely remove the lens limitation from the firmware. Will you be able to test if it works?
I don't own a Pen-F, but maybe Bushboy that I responded to can try it. His response seemed to indicate that maybe the Pen-F supported it, but I don't see any indication that it supports focus bracketing, just focus stacking (like the E-m10 mark II).
 

ABel

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I don't own a Pen-F, but maybe Bushboy that I responded to can try it. His response seemed to indicate that maybe the Pen-F supported it, but I don't see any indication that it supports focus bracketing, just focus stacking (like the E-m10 mark II).
I've studied Pen-F firmware 3.0 more carefully, and there's definitely no focus stacking, only the focus bracketing.
 

Phocal

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I don't own a Pen-F, but maybe Bushboy that I responded to can try it. His response seemed to indicate that maybe the Pen-F supported it, but I don't see any indication that it supports focus bracketing, just focus stacking (like the E-m10 mark II).
You have focus bracketing and focus stacking backwards...…………………….
 

Michael Meissner

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You have focus bracketing and focus stacking backwards...…………………….
Yep, sorry about that.

Focus bracketing is when the camera takes lots of pictures with any micro 4/3rds auto focus lens, and you have to manually merge them in post processing. Several of the newer cameras support focus bracketing, such as the E-m10 mark II and Pen-F, but don't support focus stacking.

Focus stacking is when the E-m1 mark II, E-m1 mark I (firmware 4.0 or later), or E-m5 mark II (firmware 2.0 or later) camera takes a limited set of pictures (8-ish) using a select set of Olympus lenses (pro and macro lenses), and merges the images in the camera to produce a single JPG image. The firmware hack allows the camera to use any micro 4/3rds auto focus lens.

Panasonic has a slightly different version of the feature in their mid/high level cameras with 4K post-focus support (i.e. 8MP resolution).

Here is a video comparing the Olympus and Panasonic approaches. Later cameras like the G85 also got in camera post-focus merging that is mentioned in the second link:
 

archaeopteryx

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My m5ii focus brackets at 10fps. 100 frames in 10 seconds.
Thanks! Do you find this holds up with declining shutter speed? In other words, does it pretty well stay 10 fps to 1/10 and then drop to 8 fps at 1/8, 4 fps at 1/4, and so on? In principle with electronic shutter there can be nearly zero dead time between images. But that doesn't mean there isn't some lag in the implementation. Just checking on details of what to expect.
I only have the Panasonic 45mm macro
Same here. I don't see it as significant for macro as the eight frame (10 on some bodies? maybe up to 30?) limit with Olympus stacking is well below the 40-120 images I typically stack at magnification. Eight frames is more in the landscape range for me.

My experience is alignment is both the most computationally expensive and important step in stacking. It's not uncommon I use three alignment passes taking several minutes on a Core i5. Unless a body could do it exceptionally well it doesn't seem worth the battery drain.
 

Bushboy

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I have only been doing this for a short while (3 months), so don’t have a lot of experience with it.
I shoot aperture priority f4
Auto iso up to a high limit of 3200
I have not noticed a noise problem like you mentioned.
The aperture priority mode seems to work on the old focal length equals shutter speed rule. I notice it shooting at 1/90 sec with the 45mm macro just about all the time, it just ups the iso till it gets what it needs.
So I can’t answer your first question because it just blasts the shots of at high speed electronic shutter.
This works well for me, so I just go with it.
As far as I can tell, there is no delay (lag you call it) between shots.
Actually, watching the lcd screen as the shots happen, I see the wind (really a slight breeze) moving the flower around slightly. This seems cause no problem latter on while stacking in the computer. Camera on a tripod when the subject is small.
Like you say, 8 stacked images might be ok for landscape, but closeup nature shots, 8 shots will most likely be useless. I find 100 to be about right, if I need more, and it is easy to tell just by watching the screen, I simply fire away another 100. Easy. I only use the ones I need, bin the rest.
As for the computer work, man, I am a computer dummy.
I run a 2012 MacBook Pro, I think it has 4gb ram.
It handles the stacking easy, just let it take the time it requires. Sometimes 5/6 minutes to stack image.
I have the Affinity Photo app. I like it.
It’s all jpg for me, all the way. It’s just easier and I like the results. It’s only fun right?
The alignment, you mention, man, I know nothing. Affinity does this before the merge, automatically. It takes about 1/3 of the whole process time, I guess. It seems to work well, so I’ll just go with that. You are right, to do this in camera, would be crazy. The battery lasts amazingly well, I think it could do thousands of focus bracketed shots easily. I usually come home with 1500-2000 bracketed shots. And the battery doesn’t even look like anywhere near spent.
The old MacBook/Affinity does me proud man!
This Olympus bracketing has been the answer I have needed in my photography, so glad I found it. Finally getting the shots I like after years of trying.
All I can say is “get one, give it a go”.
Phew!
 

Bushboy

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Just for good measure....
A weed on my lawn. Even weeds have flowers...
 

Bushboy

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The last one has been very challenging for the software, the alignment, I think,now that you’ve got me thinking...
 

archaeopteryx

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The last one has been very challenging for the software, the alignment, I think
Yes, there's some obvious haloing and motion ghosting. The first two have halos as well. I should give Affinity a try as it's been a while since my last comparative test of stacking software but what I found at the time is I could beat Helicon and Zerene by using Panotools (Hugin) for pre-alignment and then doing additional alignment in Picolay. All of them have problems with ghosting if there's much motion. In general, it's a difficult problem as motion results in frame to frame obstruction of depth information and it's been (possibly dated) experience alignment codes in stackers seem to assume no motion and therefore don't attempt to warp pixels in ways which would track motion. Not that that's a perfect solution---there's still the difficulty of out of focus areas expanding and preventing any clear view of deeper pixels, in which case stacking has to halo as the information needed to do otherwise simply isn't available---but it helps.
I have not noticed a noise problem like you mentioned.
With my basic toolchain (G7 4k post focus, ffmpeg, Picolay) alignment fails to converge with certain stacks above ISO 1600 and from ISO 6400+ I've never had success. However, I seldom go that high, there is a new version of Picolay since my last attempt, and I haven't tried with a Panotools bootstrap. (In particular, Panotools does a hierarchical alignment search and I get the impression Picolay doesn't, meaning Picolay's ability to bypass frame to frame noise is probably somewhat restricted.) I'd also anticipate some difference in image properties between extracted 4k frames and full resolution.
All I can say is “get one, give it a go”.
That's kind of a complicated tradeoff I'm not settled on as yet. But thanks for the help. Probably more in your This or That thread later.
 

Bushboy

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Your understanding of the technology far surpasses mine.
I am always impressed with your geek factor!
:)
Hey thanks for linking that old post of mine. That was my focus stacking beginning.
Haloing, motion ghosting. Now I know what to call it.
I’m going to try and minimise it.
Thanks man.
 

archaeopteryx

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Best I've found for minimizing artifacts is to minimize subject motion. Easier to do with the .mp4s from 4k post focus but I often make several captures, review, and stack whichever is the stillest. Reducing the depth of the stack is usually helpful and, while not my first choice, I've found there's often something acceptable.

Geometrically, the closer the lens is to the subject the more out of focus portions of the subject can obscure in focus ones. With some subjects, composing with this in mind can make a big difference. For others, like this one, you're just kind of stuck. A corollary of the geometry is backing up to lower magnification and then cropping can helpful. Don't really like to do this with the 8MP from 4k post focus but it's OK. Full resolution bracketing (and 6k post focus) offer additional latitude.
 

PakkyT

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Reviving an old thread since my questions are about the same subject, better to continue this thread for the next person who has the same questions a couple years from now and finds this one.

Obviously like most of you, I am stuck home most of the time and was thinking about unexplored (by me) features of my trusty old E-M1.1. So I was looking at the focus bracketing feature and have a couple questions.

None of my lenses are supported for focus stacking, which is no big deal since I can still use bracketing. However looking at Olympus Workspace, according to the help files even with more than 8 shots, if you want Oly Workspace to stack them, the photos still need to have been taken with a supported "stacking" lens. Is this correct? Did Oly really give us focus bracketing ability and no way to stack them on the computer with Workspace? I wouldn't be surprised since Oly does have a bit of a history locking users out of features simply to make them buy specific Oly branded stuff (pre 4/3rds and m43, they did this with Panoramic shooting if you were not using an Oly branded SM or xD memory card).

Assuming I can not use Workspace then, what free or cheap alternatives are there for software I can stack my images? I use a Mac and currently have Apple's Photos, darktable, GIMP, PhotoScape (don't even remember installing that one), and Polarr. I am sure GIMP can probably do it with a lot of work (many layers & masks) but I would have to figure out the technique, so I hoping someone might have a suggestion for SW that has an automated stacking feature.
 

archaeopteryx

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Assuming I can not use Workspace then, what free or cheap alternatives are there for software I can stack my images?
Hi, actually, this thread might offer better luck for stackers besides Workspace. ;)

Manual alignment and then merging with layer masks in GIMP (or anything else) does work but is pretty tedious. Whilst it's not hard to find tutorials and examples of this method I wouldn't recommend it unless you like the :dash2: feeling.

For entry-level pyramid stacking, Affinity's currently 50% off with 90-day trial. For those who have Windows I'd also recommend Picolay for a free depth map stacker.
 
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Brian_G

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In this video:
This guy states (at about 10-11 minutes) that a flash cannot keep up with the speed, by which the camera focusses and shoots, because the batteries of the flash didn't cycle enough.
Did any of you have this experience?
He further states that this virtually negates the usefullness of in camera focus bracketing. He is reviewing the EM10.2. Do you think he is right about this? Would this also be true for the focus stacking by the EM1?
I've only dabbled with focus bracketing on my PEN-F, but in the setup menu there is provision for a delay between shots to allow the flash to recycle. Is this not a feature of all cameras that can do focus bracketing or stacking?
 

archaeopteryx

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Is this not a feature of all cameras that can do focus bracketing or stacking?
Specific to Olympus so far as I know, though I'm not up to date on the latest Nikon Z and Fuji X firmware. Restricted workarounds are possible for certain Panasonic bodies but I don't know of anyone regularly using them.

(Continuous lighting works better for my needs, so lack of flash integration isn't necessarily a big deal.)
 

Growltiger

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It is a specialist task, not included in most software.
Best known are:
Photoshop, Helicon Focus, Zerene Stacker.
None of those are cheap.
I think Affinity does it too, and is quite cheap.
 

Brian_G

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Specific to Olympus so far as I know, though I'm not up to date on the latest Nikon Z and Fuji X firmware. Restricted workarounds are possible for certain Panasonic bodies but I don't know of anyone regularly using them.

(Continuous lighting works better for my needs, so lack of flash integration isn't necessarily a big deal.)
I meant to say " all Olympus cameras that can do bracketing."

However, I have looked at the manual for the EM10 mk3 and the delay (recharge) feature does not seem to be an option.
It looks like it's a feature of later models, since the EM10 will only bracket 8 shots, whereas in the menu of the PEN-F you can select the number of shots (up to 999!) plus an optional value called "Charge time" which can be up to 30 sec to allow for flash recycling.
There is a similar option available for the EM1 Mk2, and presumably the Mk3 too.
 

Brian_G

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It is a specialist task, not included in most software.
Best known are:
Photoshop, Helicon Focus, Zerene Stacker.
None of those are cheap.
I think Affinity does it too, and is quite cheap.
I've done focus stacking with Affinity Photo and it works well.
It's also available in On1 Photo 2020.
 

Bushboy

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Olympus only as far as I know.
Works well with static subjects like mushrooms. Hopeless with flowers in the breeze. I been using the little flash unit, quite good if you take a minute to dial in required amount of light in manual mode. Varying the aperture does wonders for distracting backgrounds. Blow away ugly shadows, make your subjects pop, results impressive for sure. Tiny little unit, no trouble at all. Results are instant and obvious. Very easy.
 

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