Everybody Gets A Prize! – Part Three

Everybody Gets A Prize! – Part Three

And if you hit the focus stacking piñata hard enough, all sort of cameras and systems fall out!

I thought It was only me and the Olympus users who were in on the secret of automatic focus stacking. Hah. It looks as though lots of people using a modern mirrorless from one of the big Japanese makers – and some who are using DSLRs – can get lucky.

My Fujifilm X-T2 and many subsequent models have the auto bracketing. Olympus cameras do – Panasonic cameras do ( though they use a slightly different idea that makes use of a 4k burst while running through the focus range ) and YouTube says newer Sony picture boxes will do it too.

How about Nikon? Now that they are producing top-quality mirrorless cameras – the Z 5 , Z 6, and Z 7, surely they might be candidates?

I called Michael Philips, our state Nikon Australia expert, and put the question to him. He confirmed the good news, and went off and did some experimenting of his own to find the answers to some of the questions. Looks like the Z -series full-frame users as well as D 780 and D850 shooters all get to use what Nikon calls ” focus shift “.

The internal commands are remarkably similar to the system on my Fujifilm. You dive into the menu and tell the camera how many shots you want to take, what spacing you expect between them, and what time interval to use between shots. Let’s grab a camera and do it:

a. Number of shots – well you have to guess here. I can encompass a small fighter plane model in 8 shots. A twin-engine bomber might need 15-20. If I ever build a model of a B-36 I may have to go out to 100 shots – you can do this with any of them.

b. Spacing – Again a guess, but no-one says clearly in their instructions what that might be. Millimetres? Inches?

The best YouTube explanation for the Fujifilm was that the numbers from 1 to 10 on this control specified a percentage of distance. You got a 20 percent increase in focal distance between first and second shot with the control on ” 1 ” and this progressed up to 100 percent by ” 5 ” . Then it went to 120 percent and thus on to ” 10 “.

Still not all that helpful, so the YT presenter and I recommend you set the thing at 8 to 10 and it seems to work.

c. Interval – Well, if you opt for the electronic shutter on these cameras you can set the interval at nothing and watch it zip through 20 shots in a second. With solid lighting that’s the way to go.

With flash you need to leave some interval for the capacitors in the flash to charge up. Also consider whether you are heating up a flash tube beyond its ability to work if you ask it to flash a hundred times in quick succession.

As an aside, I tried saving the output from the sequence of shots as a set of RAW images. Do-able, but a mistake – you then have an immense amount of information to process while the Adobe PS program is doing the alignment and blending. The wait is agonising.

A better choice for me turned out to be capturing my planes in a smaller jpeg sequence – processing through to a final one-layer jpeg, and then passing this through the Adobe Camera Raw filter that is built into the PS program. One RAW image to deal with.

One difference between what Michael told me about the Z-series bodies and my own Fujifilm: I can start the image sequence by manually focusing on the closest point of the model aircraft and then let the box start up and do its thing. The Z-series need to use the AF mode for lens focusing – you just use the joystick button to move your AF selection to that closest point. Then the process is the same.

My only regret for all this is that the adapted Tokina 35mm macro lens I use for real close-ups cannot be automatically controlled by my camera. But all the real Fujinon lenses can and the ease of use is just fabulous.

Note: Michael mentioned that the Nikon cameras have a provision to make a separate storage folder for the stacking batches – which would be nice when they got to the computer.

A tip of the Little Studio hat to the industry that has done what I really wanted them to do – even before I knew it.


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