Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker?

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It is logically impossible to focus stack raw files, you need the images. Programs that support raw files simply put them through a basic raw converter first. So you are probably better off using the JPGs from the camera, or ideally doing the raw conversions yourself where you have full control over the processing.
I was imprecise. I was trying to ask if the process was automated with the raw conversion happening within the stacking application (either overtly or behind the scenes). Sorry for the confusion.
 

Growltiger

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I was imprecise. I was trying to ask if the process was automated with the raw conversion happening within the stacking application (either overtly or behind the scenes). Sorry for the confusion.
I understand. The answer to your original question, regarding Zerene, is no, it doesn't provide automatic raw conversion. If you take raw files you have to convert to TIFF or JPG yourself, then stack them. This seems preferable anyway, since you control the raw conversion.
 
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I would think that would be especially helpful considering that you use three different stacking programs and might want all three to be using the same source files.

After converting the raw files, what file format do you use for output to your stacking programs and why?

TIFF, for no reason other than it’s supported by so many programs.

Most of the programs I use for post processing support the RAW files from my various cameras, whether they are all equal in their conversion I’m not sure. I feel if you’re going to let a specialised program like a focus stacker auto convert your RAW files, you might as well just use files converted by the camera.
 
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I wonder which will give the better focus stack result...

Files which have had a lens profile applied, i.e. via dedicated software like Adobe, or even the files Olympus uses for in camera focus stack, or JPEGs in general. Or files converted using possibly a generic converter using computer installed codecs?

I guess it could depend on the quality of the lens being used, but worth checking out someday.
 
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I have been using helicon focus with great success. I looked at zerene. I did NOT do extensive comparison testing. I found the helicon focus interface easier to use, and when I tried it, it just worked. Still happy with the software. It is easy to use and fits into my workflow with tiff's bulk processed in capture one, moving to helicon focus, then to photoshop. As an old fart, I try to keep this stuff simple.
Gary

I agree. Helicon just looks like easier to use. Raws in C1, export tiff, then stack in Helicon. Bring result into PS - then LR for cataloging.
 
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My methodology in Helicon:

1) Bring all of the NEF files into ACR and apply basic necessary settings. Sync these settings.

2) Add all NEF files to Helicon Project. Apply/Render all 3 methods.

3) Save best result as a DNG file to same folder as NEF files

4) Bring DNG file into ACR - the .xmp files are recognised. Apply any further settings necessary.

5) Open in Photoshop as a Smart Layer.
 
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Tim Grey, whose instructional videos I have enjoyed, seems to agree with you:

Tim’s Quick Answer: In the context of capturing photos, I would say that Adobe DNG is indeed somewhat better than TIFF. DNG is also most certainly better than JPEG in terms of overall image quality and flexibility. In general I would say that DNG is on par with proprietary RAW capture formats in terms of image quality and post-processing flexibility.

Further down he says:

The TIFF file format will generally provide very good image quality, but with a file size that is about three times (or more) larger than a RAW or DNG capture file without as much flexibility in post-processing.

So maybe I'll start using DNG as output from Helicon Focus.
 
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I preferred the editing capabilites offered by Zerene when I originally evaluated both Zircon and Zerene (several years ago) so I bought Zerene and have been very happy with the results.
I do have Focus Stacker but I have also used the stacking offered by CamRanger (via an iPad or computer) for larger products or on location.
Bit off topic but does Focus Stacker produce a suitable TIFF back to your editor as it is an Apple program isn’t it?
Thanks
 
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I don't really understand your question but Focus Stacking (however you choose to do it) merely creates a series of images (with different focus points in each frame).
ZereneStacker then selects only the sharpest area in each frame and uses those to create a composite image.

Zerene needs Tiffs so you will need to convert RAW images to Tiffs before you feed them into Zerene Stacker.
I choose to do all my RAW editing in ACR and can then output the files from there in whatever format I need.
 
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Focus Stacking (however you choose to do it) merely creates a series of images

That's the definition of focus bracketing and Nikon's term for it called focus shifting, not focus stacking. Focus stacking is the act, as you properly explained, of selecting the sharpest area of each focus-bracketed or focus-shifted image and creating a single composite.
 
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I have not done any focus bracket shots for a really long time so am not up to date. I tried all three main (?) players, Zerene, Helicon, and PS, and found all quite capable and could not put my finger on which was better.

Unless things have changed my preference would be to keep a raw workflow as long as possible and not convert even temporary TIFF's. AFAIK Helicon uses a raw in (any camera raw file?) and outputs as DNG thereby moving the raw development to the end of the workflow. This file is 'a nearly raw', in as much as it is a Linear DNG. I think that this would be my first choice all others features being equal. I may well be wrong and other software allows the same workflow!
https://www.heliconsoft.com/raw-in-dng-out/
 
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AFAIK Helicon uses a raw in (any camera raw file?) and outputs as DNG

That's correct but only if you license the Pro or Premium version. I don't remember the output options if you license the Lite version.

https://www.heliconsoft.com/helicon-focus-versions-licensing/

As for your question about which camera's raw files are supported, the following is from the website: "Helicon Focus uses Raw converter to open Raw files, there are several converter options to choose from. Adobe DNG Converter is one of the most powerful converters supporting the widest range of formats. So actually when you’re asking about supported Raw file formats you should refer to the list of formats supported by the Raw converter you are using."

https://www.heliconsoft.com/faq-helicon-focus/
 
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That's correct but only if you license the Pro or Premium version. I don't remember the output options if you license the Lite version.

https://www.heliconsoft.com/helicon-focus-versions-licensing/

As for your question about which camera's raw files are supported, the following is from the website: "Helicon Focus uses Raw converter to open Raw files, there are several converter options to choose from. Adobe DNG Converter is one of the most powerful converters supporting the widest range of formats. So actually when you’re asking about supported Raw file formats you should refer to the list of formats supported by the Raw converter you are using."

https://www.heliconsoft.com/faq-helicon-focus/
Thanks, I did not realise about the versions.
 

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