When I saw Frank’s challenge keyword, stack, I immediately thought of the focus bracketing feature of the Fuji X-T2. In macro and close-up photography, obtaining sharp results right across the image frame is challenging. Still, focus bracketing, followed by photo stacking and blending in post-production, can produce good results, with subject areas in focus.
When I bought my pre-owned Fuji X-T2 two years ago, I had just enough budget for the body and one lens, the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR. I wanted a macro lens, but the Fujinon XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro and Fujinon XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lenses are expensive. I considered buying an extension tube for macro photography as I did with my Nikon D5100, but I remembered the challenges of doing focus stacking with the extension tubes. Last August, after I rented the XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro, I decided that it was best to save my money and budget for a [native Fujinon macro lens.]
With the 1.52 crop-factor of the APS-C sensors of Fujifilm X-series cameras, the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR has a focal length of around 24-85mm (in terms of a 35mm camera), which is similar to the well-known “standard” zoom lenses with a 24-70mm focal range. The XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR has a minimum focus distance of roughly 30cm. The focus distance isn’t as close as the 25 cm minimum focus distance of the Fujinon XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens but is slightly closer than the 26.7cm minimum focus distance Fujinon XF60mmF2.4 R Macro. The 55mm focal length is almost the same as the 60mm focal length of the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, so why not try to create some focus stacked close-ups using the XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR?
With a quick refresher on photo stacking in Adobe Lightroom, I picked a few objects, slapped on the L-bracket, and set up my tripod to use the light from the kitchen window. On my Fuji X-T2, focus bracketing (FOCUS BKT) is in the SHOOTING SETTING -> DRIVE SETTING -> BKT SETTING menu. Scroll and select FOCUS BKT. My shooting setup was FRAMES 50, STEP 5, INTERVAL 0, with my image quality set to RAW + FINE JPEG. I set the lens aperture and focal length to 2.8 and 55mm, respectively. I set the camera was to auto-focus and auto-exposure with ISO 200.
After importing the JPEG images into Adobe Lightroom, I selected the photos I wanted to photo stack from the Library module’s filmstrip. I clicked Photo->Edit in->Open as Layers in Photoshop to open the selected photos in Adobe Photoshop from the Lightroom menu. Once in Photoshop, I selected all the layers in the Layers panel, then clicked Edit->Auto-Align Layers in the menu. I was sure to have select Auto in the Auto-Align Layers dialogue before pressing OK. The Auto-Align Layers process took over 10 minutes on my iMac (27-inch, Late 2013, 3.5 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7,32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4 GB). I surmised that photo stacking the JPEG images would take even longer.
I selected all the layers in the group and then clicked Edit -> Auto-Blend Layers from the Photoshop menu. In the dialogue, I selected Stack Images and clicked OK. The process consumed and additional 10 minutes. When completed, I had my focus-stacked image shown as a layer mask. The resultant image was too large to save back to Lightroom, so I flattened the layers into one.
What do you think of the results? Have you used focus stacking in your macro photography?