Focus Stacking – Illustration of Results

Summary - A few days ago I wrote about the Depth of Field and Diffraction tradeoff. I mentioned focus stacking as an alternative. Here are illustrative examples.

Summary – A few days ago I wrote about the Depth of Field  and Diffraction tradeoff. I mentioned focus stacking as an alternative. Here are illustrative examples.



Enter the Nature ExhibitDetails here

Check out the Nature Exhibit entries to date


Roll mouse to see aperture extremes
f/45 and f/3.8


Each image is a single exposure (not stacked)
Illustrates maximum depth of field for this setup
Nikon D300, Nikkor 105mm 1:1 macro, tripod, remote release

About this post

You want everything from near to far in focus, but

You don’t want to sacrifice sharpness for depth of field

To accomplish this –

You need focus stacking software

(But mostly for macros or extreme closeups, less so landscapes)


This is a follow-up to this post


For detailed info

Search for focus stacking as a general topic, or

Search for Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker

Two popular programs I used for this post

My purpose is not to provide a focus stacking tutorial

The two program sites listed above do that

Nor is it to review focus stacking programs

Web reviews cite the two above as among the best

Free 30-day trials are available

Be your own judge

I think they’re a bit pricey

Unless you really need them

There also is a free program that I didn’t try

In contrast to the above rollover

Here is the result of a four-exposure stack

Click for full screen

You need it to actually see differences

Left to right

Single exposure; stack using Helicon; stack using Zerene

The red X’s show where I focused

Left image @ f/36 – max. DOF, max. Diffraction

Each stack @f/8 – min. diffraction (DOF through stack software)


Figure Zero

Slight differences can be seen between

The single exposure and the stacks &

Between the two different stack programs themselves

I used default settings throughout

Might be able to better with fussing, but

I’d rather not have to spend the time (nor the $100 or more)

OK – Here’s an example that

Shows the utility of focus stacking software


Click image for full screen – not very useful without doing so

Left is single exposure followed by Helicon & Zerene

For the single exposure – f/36, focused on the 6 in the 16

Stacks – 19 exposures each at f/8

Focus – roughly equal steps along the ruler from front to back


Fig 1.

Something to note – image gets cropped during stacking

(Why? Web search reveals all 😉 )

It’s clear that stacking greatly enhances DOF over the 1-exposure


The next three images are 1:1 blow-ups of Fig 1.

Fig. 2 is centered near the single exposure’s focus point

Difference between single & stacks minimal (as expected)


Fig. 2


Fig. 3 (close end of ruler) shows

1 – Improved focus due to stacking

2 – Loss of detail in center image along right side

As compared to the right-hand image

(it’s easy to see if you click for full size)

This is an observation occasionally seen in reviews




Fig. 4 (off in the distance) shows

1 – Dramatic focus improvement using stacking

2 – Here, the center version appears sharper

(reversing the perceived quality at the near end in Fig.3)




So there you have it –

The previous post explaining

You can’t have sharp focus from zero to infinity

With a single exposure

While simultaneously maintaining perfect sharpness

Today’s post provides an alternative

Which, while valuable for some macro work

Adds marginal value to non-macro work

 As shown in Figure Zero

Landscapes using a telephoto lens and

With important foreground & background matter

May be an exception to macro-only

More to follow in a few days

IF anyone is interested ??


Subscribe (see sidebar) and don’t miss anything. New posts daily.

  • No sidebar? Click the blog title at the top of this page.

Another option – Click on the “Follow” button at the bottom right of the screen.

  • Or – “Follow” in your admin bar, displayed at the top of the screen, for logged-in users.

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.