Focus stacking and focus bracketing

Normally in photography one tries to separate an object from the background with the help of the smallest possible depth of field. This helps to reduce the viewer’s gaze to draw attention to the important part of the picture. However there are situations in which the depth of field is too small and needs to be expanded. This is mostly necessary when you make macros and you are very close to the object. For this purpose, many cameras from OM Digital Solutions provide focus bracketing and focus stacking. How these two functions work and what differentiates them I want to show you here.

The differences between focus stacking and focus bracketing

In case you are using a camera of the OM-D series focus bracketing and focus stacking differentiate in the following two points.

  1. With focus stacking you can shot not more than 15 images, whereas in case of focus bracketing you can shot up to 999 images.
  2. With focus stacking you are getting a JPEG file, which is stacked out of the different images and each single shot in addition in RAW/JEPG. In case of focus bracketing you just get the single images and not a final stacked one. Those images can be used for stacking in a dedicated software afterwards.

Both methods are suitable to expand the depth of field of your images. Focus stacking is easier to use, as the result can be viewed directly in-camera. In addition, the camera shows you a small frame, which indicates the area which will be lost after the images are stacked. Focus bracketing does make sense in case the number of images available in focus stacking is not enough.

Last but not least it is important to know, that Fokus bracketing can be used with all Micro Four Thirds, which have autofocus functionality. Whereas focus stacking is usable only with compatible lenses. Which of the lense are compatible depends on the camera you are using and is also changing from time to time. Therefore please have a look at the OM Digitalsolutions Q&A website if needed.

The settings

In “camera menu 2” you find the entry “Bracketing”. Select it, navigate to “Focus BKT” and open it with the right key on the keypad.

Select “Focus stacking” to activate focus stacking or select “off” in case you would use focus bracketing instead.

The amount of images you would like to take is selectable in “Amount of images” In case you have selected focus stacking you can select up to 15 images. Otherwise, up to 99 images are possible.

In addition, you can define the focus difference between every single shot.

Which value to be selected depends on the object, aperture and focal length. Therefore you could not tell which is the best fitting one. Best you start with the standard value 5 and change it in case you see issues in the final image. As a starting point, I determine the distance between the focus points when using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro on the closest focus distance

SchrittgrößeDistance of focus points on the object
10.2 cm
20.3 cm
30.5 cm
40.7 cm
50.8 cm
61 cm
71.1 cm
81.3 cm
91.4 cm
101.5 cm

In case you would like to use an external Flash you can choose the time your flash needs to recharge in the flash charging time.

Attention:

As focus stacking is using the silent shutter, the flash is deactivated. In case you would like to use the flash you have to activate it in the camera2 menu under “Antishock / silent”.

Finally, a small animation of images that were taken with different sharpness settings.

After merging the single images the final result looks like this. Compared to the normal image the depth of field is increased.

Out of 15 images merged result

In case you do have any comments please leave them below.

Customize your AF points

The E-M1X and the E-M1 Mark III do have already a lot of AF layout presets, which are usable in many different situations. Customize your AF points to increase your AF hitting rate. You can adjust them like follows

Customi7e your AF points in the menu

1 In the gear menu select A2 “Target Mode Settings” and open the menu with the arrow right key.

2 You can program and save up to four AF field presets.

3 To be able to select those presets you have to activate them under “Mode Settings”.

You also can watch the following film, which shows step by step how to program your AF fields.

Almbach Gorge the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens?

Bild der Kugelmühle der Almbachtalklamm

In my article “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO” I showed you already the 8-25mm lens and how flexible you can utilise it. In my holidays I have been in the Alps and visited the Almbachklamm nearby Berchtesgaden. I planned to use the E-M1 Mark III only with one lens. As the Almbach Gorge (Almbackklamm) is very narrow I decided to go with the 8-25mm F4 lens.

Bild der Kugelmühle der Almbachtalklamm

The Almbach Gorge

The Gorge is not far away from Berchtesgaden and close to the B305 in the direction of Salzburg. It belongs to the little village Marktschellenberg. At the entrance is the last working pebble mill, which is still producing marble balls with water power (title image). The gorge is 3km long and ends with the Theresienklause, a dam which was utilised to transport wood through it. The way back is again through the gorge or via the Etterberg and the church of pilgrimage “Maria Heimsuchung”. We left the gorge at half of the way and went directly to the Ettenberg. In case you would like to know more about the route you will find it here.

The gorge, the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO lens

As mentioned earlier the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens is the perfect combination for such a trip. The gorge is at least up to the half very narrow and a wide-angle lens is needed. In addition, there are a lot of motifs, which are a bit farer away. Means that the zoom area of the lens will be completely used. Right at the beginning, there is a small ravine. You can reach via a little bridge and therefore a nice easy motif.

8mm F11, 1,6 sec
22mm F11, 1,6 sec

The images already show how useful the zoom range of the lens is. It shows how it can be utilised to create your image. Also the E-M1 Mark III is the fitting camera for such a hike. With the built-in LiveND filter you can make long time exposures. A physical ND filter is not needed. Thanks to the image stabilization you can realize these images without a tripod. You. can leave it at home and save weight.

25mm, F13, 2 sec

Many claims that zoom lenses are only used in their extreme focal lengths. In this case 8mm or 25mm. However, this hike showed something else. I also used the focal lengths between the extremes, depending on how the composition of the picture required it. The picture of the church, for example, was made with 18mm. The picture of the watercourse was taken with 14mm.

Conclusion

As already indicated in the headline, the decision to take the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO with me on the hike was, in retrospect, exactly the right one. The lens covered exactly what was needed with the focal length range. But the E-M1 Mark III was also able to show its strengths to the full. In particular, the image stabilization in combination with the built-in LiveND filters was very helpful in realizing images that would normally only have been possible with a tripod and physical filters. So I only had one camera with one lens with me. I could leave the tripod and ND filter at home. This saved a lot of weight, which would otherwise have burdened me on the hike.

More information also at “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO”

Fast selection of images

When using a function like continuous shooting mode, ProCapture or Focus Bracketing you get very fast a lot of images. The SD card gets filled up very fast and not every image is needed. The normal way to delete single images is very time consuming and therefore not helpful. Cameras from the E-M1 series have fortunately do have a fast selection of images to easily select many images in a short time.

How fast selection of images work

Rückseite der E-M1X

1. Press the replay button to see the images on the SD card

Topansicht der E-M1 Mark III

2. Use the thumbwheel to switch from the single image view to the thumbnail view.

Topansicht der E-M1 Mark III

3. Select the first image, which you would like to select. Press and hold the movie record button.

Topansicht der E-M1 Mark III

4. Rotate either the forefinger wheel or thumbwheel to select the other images. You can select up to 200 images.

As soon as you have selected the images you can either delete or mark them as protected or share them with OI.share.

Taking a coffee cup at home

Even if you have no studio equipment and have to stay at home, it is possible with simple tools to shoot beautiful images. Windows are perfect light sources and with some creativity, you can even handle to hard light. But first about my image. I had the plan to shoot an espresso cup with fresh, steaming coffee. Here my result.

First I looked for a suitable window that had enough light and set up my image. A wooden board from the kitchen served as background. A piece of fabric as a black background that I found in the closet. In theory, a t-shirt, duvet, or something similar would probably work as well. Since the light through the window was too hard, I had to think of something. Since I had no alternative, I cut up sandwich bags and stuck them to the window with adhesive tape. You can see this quite well in the next picture.

On the other side, you can see a brightener that I still had at home. If you don’t have something like this at home, you can alternatively use a simple piece of white paper. Coffee is made quickly and the cup, like it, is quickly put into the image. But I quickly discovered that the steam after the fresh brewing was not strong enough to be visible in the picture. So a creative solution was needed. First I tried a match, but unfortunately, the smoke was too strong. It looked unnatural. Then my son had the idea to light a coffee bean and let it burn until it glowed. This worked very well. The advantage is that you could put the bean in peace behind the cup and the smoke lasted long enough to take a picture.