• Andrew JK Tan

Nikon D850 - Photoshop VS. Helicon Focus Stacking Comparison


As I continue my journey into the world of focus stacking , I started to analyze the stacking results from Adobe Photoshop CC's Auto-Blend Stacking tool. I started to notice some "flaws" which I initially thought were coming from selecting inappropriate Focus Step Widths but as I continued to experiment with the focus step widths used I started to suspect it was more due to Photoshop's stacking capability.

This prompted me to download the 30 days trial version of HELICON FOCUS which is considered to be the standard for focus stacking software.

In the following series of comparisons , you will see the results at 200% magnification for different parts of the "eye" of the flower after stacking. For each comparision I will first show the one done by Photoshop then followed by HELICON FOCUS.

200% magnification screenshot - Photoshop Stacking result

You can see some patches of blur masking details in various areas

200% magnification screenshot - HELICON FOCUS Stacking result

200% magnification screenshot - Photoshop Stacking result - Notice the blur patches in the lower right area masking details

200% magnification screenshot - HELICON FOCUS Stacking result

200% magnification screenshot - Photoshop Stacking result - blur patches clearly visible with some details "missing"

200% magnification screenshot - HELICON FOCUS Stacking result

For me in this very tough stacking exercise which involved stacking 46 JPEG FINE images , it is very clear to me that HELICON FOCUS is the winner and much more accurate at stacking the same set of images.

Focus Shift Details for stacking this image

1. Lens used : Nikkor 60mm f2.8 micro

2. Focus Step width - 5

3. No of images stacked - 46

4. Lens aperture - f8.0

As of penning this Blog, this is the very first time I am using HELICON FOCUS and there are many more cool features in this specialised stacking software.

1. HELICON has 3 methods of stacking - I was only using the weighted average algorithm

2. HELICON was so much faster , Photoshop took more than 30 minutes to stack , HELICON took LESS than 5 minutes

3. As shown above, HELICON is so much more accurate.

Final Stacked image by HELICON FOCUS - Weighted Average algorithm , time taken to stack less than 5 minutes

Final Stacked image by Photoshop , time taken to step > 30 minutes

Well it looks like I have to invest in HELICON FOCUS for the speed and accuracy. This software is not as cheap as I would like it to be , but I think it is worth it as I am now hooked on creating Focus Stacking images.

Thanks for the new addiction Nikon !!!

Signing off for now.