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Overview of Focus Stacking

The range of sharp detail (depth of field) can be a major challenge with many subjects—more on that below. This article shows how focus stacking sidesteps the limitations of depth of field, making composite images having sharpness over a much deeper zone than is possible in a single frame. Let’s start by looking at a macro photography challenge: the impossibility of making a sharp image even when the lens is stopped down as far as it can go.

Below, a single frame taken at f/9 offers detail over the bicycle cassette for about the depth of a single cog—yet it is an 11-cog cassette. Use of f/13 instead of f/9 would extend sharpness to perhaps two of the cogs. but with some loss of brilliance for fine details (due to diffraction). Using f/22 would damage overall contrast and micro contrast substantially: stopping down is a non-solution for high quality and it still would not deliver a sharp image through all 11 cogs.

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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.

Save yourself those years of trial and error by jump-starting your photographic technical execution when making the image. The best lens or camera is handicapped if the photographer fails to master perfect shot discipline. High-resolution digital cameras are unforgiving of errors, at least if one wants the best possible results.

  • 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.

11-Cog Bicycle Cassette
Focus-stacked image, 15 frames
f9 @ 0.3 sec, ISO 64; 2016-05-19 11:09:50
NIKON D810 + Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2

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