Butterfly Focus Stacked Images

One of the features available when using the microscopic setting with the Olympus TG-5 is focus stacking. This article features some butterfly focus stacked images captured hand-held at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory.

The TG-5’s focus stacking feature is recommended to be used with a tripod. For static subjects this certainly would make sense. Butterflies don’t typically sit still long enough to make tripod adjustments. so I shot all of the images for this article hand-held.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO-1600, microscopic mode

When shooting with the focus stacking mode, the TG-5 provides two jpeg files. The first jpeg is a single exposure without focusing stacking. The next jpeg produced by the camera is the focus stacked image. This allows the user to evaluate the effects of using focus stacking.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO-1600, microscopic mode with focus stacking

As you compare the first two images in this article, you will see the importance of a static subject. If any part of your subject is moving, the focus stacked image will make that clearly evident.

Olympus TG-5 @ 15 mm, efov 83.3 mm, f/6.3, 1/30, ISO-1600, microscopic mode

For focus stacking to work well it is best to select a subject that is as still as possible. Too much subject movement, or camera shake, can cause a focus stacking attempt to fail.

Olympus TG-5 @ 15 mm, efov 83.3 mm, f/6.3, 1/30, ISO-1600, microscopic mode with focus stacking

The TG-5 produces jpegs when the focus stacking feature is engaged. Owners will need to assess whether the increased depth-of-field is worth the trade-off of not having a RAW file with which to work.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/20, ISO-1600, microscopic mode

The additional details in a focus stacked jpeg can be quite noticeable.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/20, ISO-1600, microscopic mode with focus stacking

As can be expected, it is a bit of a challenge to hand hold your camera still while exposing a run of focus stacking images. After the run completes, there is a pause while the camera combines them.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-1600, microscopic mode

To my surprise I was able to capture a few focus stacked images at fairly slow shutter speeds.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-1600, microscopic mode with focus stacking

I also shot a few images at higher ISOs to see what would happen to image quality between the single frame and the focus stacked version.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/100, ISO-2500, microscopic mode

The image above was captured at ISO-2500. The focus stacked version of this photograph is below.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/100, ISO-2500, microscopic mode with focus stacking

As you’ll see in the next pair of comparison images, the amount of additional detail in a focus stacked image can be quite dramatic… even at ISO-3200.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/80, ISO-3200, microscopic mode
Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/80, ISO-3200, microscopic mode with focus stacking

Here is an image comparison of the same species shot at ISO-1250 using a wider angle focal length…

Olympus TG-5 @ 10 mm, efov 55.6 mm, f/5, 1/50, ISO-1250, microscopic mode
Olympus TG-5 @ 10 mm, efov 55.6 mm, f/5, 1/50, ISO-1250, microscopic mode with focus stacking

And another image comparison of the same species shot very tight in at ISO-3200…

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO-3200, microscopic mode
Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO-3200, microscopic mode with focus stacking

Using a front quarter view shooting angle in concert with a wider angle focal length can enhance the noticeable effects of focus stacking.

Olympus TG-5 @ 10 mm, efov 55.6 mm, f/5, 1/30, ISO-1600, microscopic mode
Olympus TG-5 @ 10 mm, efov 55.6 mm, f/5, 1/30, ISO-1600, microscopic mode with focus stacking

Slight movements in hand-held camera positioning can cause the focus stacked version of the image to shift slightly in the frame. As long as there isn’t any subject movement, and the shutter speed used is fast enough, focus stacking can still be successful.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/100, ISO-800, microscopic mode

If the camera is unable to combine the image run successfully during a focus stacking attempt, a failure notice appears on the rear screen of the camera.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/100, ISO-800, microscopic mode with focus stacking

I imagine that the Olympus TG-5’s focus stacking feature could produce good usable images, especially when shot under controlled conditions at a low ISO, and using a tripod.

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs using DxO PhotoLab and the Nik Collection.

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2 thoughts on “Butterfly Focus Stacked Images”

  1. When it works, it makes a heck of a difference. It would be nice to be able to have such a feature for landscape photos also. Do you know how many images are combined for the stacked image?

    1. Hi William,

      I could not find a specific number quoted in the manual. When listening to the camera shooting at slower shutter speeds when set for focus stacking, my best guess is 7-8 images. I have one image that shows 6 clear residual wing positions left in a focus stacked composite (the butterfly moved its wings slowly as I was shooting). There may be two other ones but it is hard to determine the exact number. I haven’t found a setting that would provide this type of bracketing for landscape images… but I am still finding my way around the camera.

      When shooting landscapes using a tripod it is certainly possible to focus stack images by shooting a series of images with different focus points, then combining them in post. I have an article on the website about focus stacking: https://tomstirrphotography.com/how-to-focus-stack-images

      Tom

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