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  • Andrew JK Tan

Nikon D850 - Use Focus Stacking to get the Best Image Quality

We are into the second week of the New Year and I hope this blog finds you in the very best of health and raring to learn and capture new gems in your photography journey.

In this very first blog of the year , I am going to share with you the benefits of using the Focus Stacking technique and tips on using the D850's Focus Shift feature.

So why use the Focus Stacking Technique ?

1. To obtain the BEST possible image quality by using the optimum F-Stop values (f5.6 , f8.0)

2. Maximizing the Depth Of Field (DOF) desired

3. Avoid "soft" images due to the use of very large F-Stop values like f10 or larger

4. Getting the best BOKEH while maximizing DOF

Stack 20 images , Step Width 4 , f5.6 , 1/8s , ISO800 , Nikkor 80-400mm @400mm focal length

Shot through glass enclosure , Shooting distance 2 meters , tripod setup , Leaf-Tailed Gecko

Click on image to see the Flickr Lightbox version

TOP 5 TIPS on using D850's Focus Shift feature to aid in capturing the frames required for Focus Stacking. Do note that these tips are based on my personal shooting workflow and could be different for other photographers.

1. Pre-focus slightly nearer than the nearest point (in your composition) that you want in focus

By doing this , I am 100% sure that the nearest point I want in focus will definitely have tack sharp focus.

2. Use Focus Shift Step Widths between 3 to 8

For me , I roughly devide my Step Widths used into 3 groups :

Fine - step widths of 3 or 4 , for macro work , f5.6 - f10.0

Normal - step widths of 5 or 6 , for general work , f5.6 - f8.0

Wide - step widths of 7 or 8 , for wide angle work where nearest subject is 6in. away , f5.6 - f8.0

3. DON'T go overboard and stack too many images

With the D850's Focus Shift feature , it is so easy and fast to capture shots at different focus distances automatically. A photographer can easily go crazy and use smaller step widths and stack more images. Note , the D850 can capture 300 images using this feature.

My experience tells me that the more you stack , the higher the rate for stacking errors to be introduced by the stacking software. Stacking more images will also mean capturing more frames which then means a longer photography process.

The maximum frames I have stacked so far is 70 images , if possible I try to work with between 20 to 50 images (only when required)

4. Best to store the Focus Shift captured images in a SEPARATE Folder. This option can be selected prior to starting Focus Shift.

5. Depending on the distance of the subject being photographed to the background , lens focal length and working distance to subject , I prefer to use an aperture of f5.6 to get good bokeh and the best image quality.

However when the need arises , I may use apertures of f2.8 or f4.0 to get the best bokeh but when I do this , I will lower down my step width.

Stack 11 images , Step Width 6 , f8.0 , 1/60s , ISO400 , Nikkor 80-400mm @400mm focal length

Shot through glass enclosure , Shooting distance 2 meters , tripod setup , Gaboon Viper camouflouged amongst the dried leaves.

Click on image to see the Flickr Lightbox version

That's it for my very first blog of 2018. Hope you have enjoyed reading it and learnt a thing or two that you could use in your own workflow when you using the Focus Shift feature.

Till the next blog , enjoy your photography journey.

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