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Focus Stack Capture

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Focus Stack Basic

A focus stack allows the automatic capture of an image sequence at different focus points while in Live View. The images can then be used with other 3rd party software to create a composite image with greater depth of field. This is similar to an HDR image that is created for use with varying exposure only instead it allows a greater perceived image depth.


The controls associated with a Focus Stack Capture are located on the Focusing tab of the Camera Control Panel as shown to the right. The Focus Step Size is used to set the amount of focus change after each capture. The Focus Stack Shot Count specifies the number of shots in the focus stack sequence. The Start Focus Stack is used to start and stop the focus stack capture operation. The focus stack captures images beginning at the closest focus point and moves outward to more distant focus points. AF-S lenses are also recommended for focus stack operations and they most reliable move compared to older lenses that do not have an internal motor.



Recommended First Steps to a Focus Stack

The following are some recommended steps to getting started with capturing a focus stack with a Nikon Camera - Notice that the Focus Step Size, starting points, and Focus Stack Shot Count can be fine tuned as you become more familiar with using the focus stack operation to obtain the desired focus stack image.


If your lens has a M/A - M switch, make sure it is set to M/A.

Make sure the Focus Mode on the Autofocus tab shows either AF Single-servo (AF-S) or AF Continuous-servo (AF-C). See the Focus Mode for information on setting this value.

Set the Focus Step Size to 30.

Set the Focus Stack Shot Count to the number of images you want to Capture in the focus stack.

Make sure the Auto Focus On Live View Capture is NOT checked.

If your camera has a Live View Mode control make sure it is set to Tripod.

Turn on Live View. 

Press Auto Focus to try and attain focus on the subject. If Auto Focus cannot be reached use the Focus In and Focus Out buttons to get the subject reasonably in focus.

Use the Focus In button to defocus the image to where you want to start the image stack.

To take any "slack" out of the lens focus, you should then Focus Out slightly; this will minimize any slack in the lens and gearing. 

Press the Start Focus Stack button to begin shooting the focus stack.

If at the end of the focus stack capture you have not transitioned through the desired focus point, you can start another focus stack capture at the last shot point. The first image capture in the second capture stack will be at the same focus point as the last shot capture in the previous focus stack (i.e., you would have 2 images at the same focus point).

Note that there can be some combinations of Camera and lens where small values (under 30) of the Focus Step Size will not cause the focus to move. 


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