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  • Andrew JK Tan

Nikon D850 - Brilliant Focus Stacking results

I have had quite a bit of experience using the Nikon D850's Focus Shift capability on flower photography. To me having the Focus Shift capability in the D850 simplifies and shortens the overall photography workflow so much when I want to employ the Focus Stacking technique.

However I have not tried it on animals yet. I had to find live subjects that can remain motionless for a reasonable period of time for the Focus Shift to execute and complete. I decided then that the reptiles in the Reptopia exhibits in the Singapore Zoo could provide me with the opportunities needed.

I found two reptile species that were cooperative enough for me to try Focus Shift on. The first one was the Parson's Chameleon.

My setup was as follows:

1. Nikon D850 set to DX mode

2. Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 @400mm focal length

3. ISO3200

3. 1/30s

4. Aperture at f8.0

5. Step Width : 8

6. No. of Images : 10

7. Tripod setup

8. Distance to subject was about 7 feet away

My setup was at an effective focal length of 600mm on a tripod. I pre-focused on the nearest distance that I wanted in focus which then became the starting point for the Focus Shift. Even though the Chameleon was absolutely still , it's eye was moving occassionally and at regular intervals so I could not capture too many shots. I decided on 10 shots max. which was why my step width was set to a value of 8 which was pretty high for me. Normally I prefer to use narrower step widths of 5 to 6.

Here is the result of the Parson's Chameleon capture

Parson's Chameleon - Stack of 10 images

I then stacked the 10 images (JPEG FINE) using the Pyramid algorithm in Helicon Focus and the final stacked result was just marvelous. Stacking the 10 images were extremely fast in under 2 minutes.

The results were actually extremely impressive, the cripsness and the amount of details captured throughout were just spectacular. No edge softness as far as the subject in concerned and just so you understand the chameleon was actually in a glass exhibit which meant I actually had to shoot through glass.

My second setup for the Leaf Tailed Gecko was as follows:

1. Nikon D850 set to DX mode

2. Nikkor 60mm f2.8 micro (macro)

3. ISO800

3. 0.8 seconds

4. Aperture at f5.6

5. Step Width : 4

6. No. of Images : 20

7. Tripod setup

8. Working distance was about 6 to 10 inches away

....... and here are the stacked close up results , used Helicon Focus to stack 20 shots

Hind Legs , stack of 6 images

Again the stacked results were exceptional , the amount of details captured were just awesome.

So the Focus Shift capability again was extremely useful given the right subject (motionless). Using Helicon Focus to stack , the results generated from the final file was just extremely detailed and accurate. The cripness and the details just can't be obtained if I were to photograph the same subjects (at the same distance) using high F-stop numbers like F18 or F22.

The downside though is that you must always have a tripod at hand to use Focus Shift effectively.

To all Nikon D850 users out there, do give the Focus Shift capability a whirl , with the right subjects the stacked results will BLOW you away. In addition I would strongly recommend Helicon Focus to do the stacking as it does it much much faster and much more accurately than Photoshop.

Andrew JK Tan signing off for now !! Till the next blog.

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