Olympus Week - Addendum To Stacking

on February 23, 2017

I was wrong when I thought that I could not use the focus stacking facility in the new Olympus camera I played with - you can indeed stack close-up images in Photoshop Elements 14 - but not automatically, and not neatly.

The process involves using the panorama maker to throw up 3 to 5 separate images - the ones taken in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mk II as a focus bracket sequence do very well. You then click the mask section of the layers and use a white brush to reveal the sharp section of each layer. It reveals the best of each and then the whole can be melded together at the end of the process. The full Photoshop program does this automatically, but the Photoshop Elements compels you to do the masking.

There is also a Photomerge™ guided edit in PSE 14 that incorporates different versions of a group shot into an improved one. It also will do the trick, and does not require you to paint anything out.

This means that you need not use a PRO lens in the Olympus range to get your initial folder of images - any lens is usable. I did have a 17mm Zuiko in the loaner outfit this last weekend but it had been over-scrubbed in the centre of the front element and was a little inclined to fuzz out. Fear not - the fresh 17mm lenses are a treat to use.

The pamphlet accompanying the loaner - an interim production as they are going to make a much more detailed one - listed a number of features that I did not exercise - the 4K recording for video and the 121 AF points in the viewfinder. The 25,600 ISO sensitivity would have been far outstripped by the studio lighting. I have no idea what to use a 1/32,000 second shutter speed on, though the idea of filming my tax refund before it is spent would be one thought. You have to be fast...

I do think the ideal lens choice for most people with this new camera would be the equally new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100 f:4 PRO lens. You could use all the features on the camera and really never change it for all your shooting.

Notes about studio use - getting older is the pits when you have to climb ladders and sink on your knees to the floor to frame picture shots. You pay for it next day big time. Young readers may laugh now but we seniors know that revenge is coming...One feature of many modern cameras that reduces this trauma is the folding LCD viewfinder. You can tilt or swivel it out to let you see the framing of the shot without having to stoop or peer. But some movable screens only tilt out flat.

This is fine as a substitute for the old waist-level finder, but does not help the shooter when they revolve the camera into vertical orientation. And remember that portrait framing is what most magazine illustrations run to.

The screen of the Olympus can be out sideways and flat and you essentially have a vertical waist level finder. Very civilised of them. I should add a dedicated L-Bracket ( Really Right, Kirk, or Nanking Knockoff...) plus the appropriate Arca-Swiss mounting block for smooth operation.

The 25mm f1.2 is no slouch at illustration when you just run it flat at f:16. There is a circuit in the camera that reduces the native 200 ISO sensitivity to cope with over-bright lights and it does not seem to harm the dynamic range of the rig one bit.