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Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon:
Otus lenses are ideal for focus stacking

Why Lens Performance Matters for Focus Stacking

A high quality stacked image starts with the best possible image quality for each of the frames. This matters even more than with a single image because the stacking process must combine images; any lens shortcomings confuse that process, particularly since some aberrations can change shape as the focus changes, and real depth of field and peak MTF contribute to improve or degrade the “signal to noise” ratio, so to speak.

When stacking, less than ideal lens performance makes it difficult to determine where the best blend is, both for the stacking software itself and for hand touchup following stacking. For example, Warm and Cool Aspen needed a lot of touchup, due to overlapping branches and leaves at different distances that are small and moving between frames (creating blur and double images when stacked). With less than world-class performance, that process is unnecessarily tedious; in that example the lens delivered very good but not great performance, which made the touchup process tedious at “blend points”—areas where overlapping frames are close, with one frame holding only a modest advantage.

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Diglloyd Making Sharp Images articulates years of best practices and how-to, painstakingly learned over a decade of camera and lens evaluation.

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  • Eases into photographic challenges with an introductory section.
  • Covers aspects of digital sensor technology that relate to getting the best image quality.
  • Technique section discusses every aspect of making a sharp image handheld or on a tripod.
  • Depth of field and how to bypass depth of field limitations via focus stacking.
  • Optical aberrations: what they are, what they look like, and what to do about them.
  • MTF, field curvature, focus shift: insight into the limitations of lab tests and why imaging performance is far more complex than it appears.
  • Optical aberrations: what they are, what they look like, and what to do about them.
  • How to test a lens for a “bad sample”.

Intrigued? See Focusing Zeiss DSLR Lenses For Peak Performance, PART ONE: The Challenges, or (one topic of many) field curvature.

Variants Stacked,Compromise available in full article
f9 @ 1/5 sec focus stack 3 frames, ISO 64; 2016-10-02 08:51:32
NIKON D810 + Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art @ 24mm

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