Nikon Z Focus Stacking

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I tried the focus shifting feature of the Z7. It was fairly straightforward. I used the Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 lens, shooting 20 shots, with a step width 2. I used Photoshop 2018 to stack the image. The result was quite satisfactory as a test. Even a fairly flat subject I chose here does not fall in the acceptable depth to show the detail, even with f/22 or f/32 aperture. This is where the focus stacking comes in handy. I only close down the lens to f/8 for optimal resolution. JPEG fine* ISO64. An indumentum (fine hairs covering the leaf and stem) is well resolved in the 46MP FX output. I could not have achieved this sharpness by simply closing down to f/32. I think this result shows that the Nikon Z7's image quality (in conjunction with the best macro lens) matches that of a medium-format digital camera, especially when the Z7 is used in its native ISO64.

(I noticed that I could not use a silent shutter; even if my setting was SILENT, the mechanical shutter was used during the auto shooting. Don't remember reading about this restriction in the Z7's user manual.)
 
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Nov 3, 2018
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I tested the SILENT shutter of the Z7 and it works the same as the focal-plane shutter for the range of 1/8000 to 30 seconds.
So I assume the FOCUS SHIFTING does not allow the silent shutter (it just ignores the silent mode setting).
 
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Oh, yes, it was my stupid mistake! --- I was setting my SILENT at the normal shooting menu.... I did not realize the FOCUS SHIFTING itself has a SILENT mode submenu. If I turn it on, yes, the silent mode works fine during the focus shifting, regardless of the shutter speed. I just tried 2 seconds with my AF 60mm f/2.8 macro lens. The normal silent mode setting is overridden by this submenu "silent" under the focus shifting. During the silent mode, I heard only a tiny clicking sound of the AF motor moving.
 
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I did another focus stacking test. A yellow hibiscus flower: a five-lobed stigma tip, and some pollen shedding anthers. I used the same AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8, set at f/8, 4 seconds exposure. ISO 64. JPEG fine*. For focus shifting, I set No.of shots = 55, focus step width = 2, silent mode on. The focus depth did not reach as deep as I expected, but on my second thought, this is just fine actually.

If this were taken by someone else, I would have probably thought this was just a casual closeup shot of the flower, maybe taken by f/11 or f/16, because this shot looks very natural. But if you actually try this, you would realize the depth you can get in a normal shot is way shallower than you would like. Focus stacking is a nice technique to know if you are into this type of photography.

I am showing the final, stacked image here. The steps were fairly easy, but it took good one hour for Photoshop 2018 to merge this image. (Photoshop was tilting a few shots for alignment, even if my camera was firmly set on a heavy tripod during the shoot.) The result is an amazingly sharp depiction of the flower's stigma and pollen grains at 46MP resolution. (This Nikon macro is an excellent lens.) The magnification of this shot is close to 1:1- I did not use any extension ring.

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I did another focus stacking test. A yellow hibiscus flower: a five-lobed stigma tip, and some pollen shedding anthers. I used the same AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8, set at f/8, 4 seconds exposure. ISO 64. JPEG fine*. For focus shifting, I set No.of shots = 55, focus step width = 2, silent mode on. The focus depth did not reach as deep as I expected, but on my second thought, this is just fine actually.

If this were taken by someone else, I would have probably thought this was just a casual closeup shot of the flower, maybe taken by f/11 or f/16, because this shot looks very natural. But if you actually try this, you would realize the depth you can get in a normal shot is way shallower than you would like. Focus stacking is a nice technique to know if you are into this type of photography.

I am showing the final, stacked image here. The steps were fairly easy, but it took good one hour for Photoshop 2018 to merge this image. (Photoshop was tilting a few shots for alignment, even if my camera was firmly set on a heavy tripod during the shoot.) The result is an amazingly sharp depiction of the flower's stigma and pollen grains at 46MP resolution. (This Nikon macro is an excellent lens.) The magnification of this shot is close to 1:1- I did not use any extension ring.

View attachment 1638630 View attachment 1638631 View attachment 1638632

That's very impressive. How did you choose to use 55 steps? Do you think you could you have done as well with fewer?
 
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I like these. Great colors and selective sharpness. Focus stacking kept only the right part in focus. I too want to know why you picked 55. Also,were there shots at the end that you disregarded due to the bg being focused "too much"?
 
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Nov 3, 2018
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Great shot and good focus!

The number of shots I used is just a guess. Depending on the lens and subject distance, you have to experiment with different STEP WIDTH and TOTAL NUMBER -- to see if it covers the entire depth you are looking to achieve. Also, I do not know if it's better to use a very large number of shots with a tiny step - or smaller number of shots with a bit larger step width will yield the same result. I suppose at some point it comes down to the quality (algorithm) of the post-processing software you use.... One thing for sure is that each shot must have enough depth to carry over to the next shot, and the next, and so on, until all the depth you want is covered. Then hope that your software logic will do a good job merging them.
 
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