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Thread: XF Focus Stacking Issues

  1. #1
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    XF Focus Stacking Issues

    I've been experimenting with the new focus stacking tool on my XF / IQ 260 combo and I've concluded that it's still not ready to use reliably, at least not with my setup. Besides usability issues in the design it does not focus correctly and could leave you with a completely missed shot if you rely on it.

    Implementation problem - The biggest issue is that the lens does not reliably return to the preset focus distances. For instance, set the near point on an object 48 inches away and the far focus near infinity and set the shot count to 2. The camera takes two frames but the near frame isn't focused at 48 inches - it ends up closer to 60 inches. The motor control counter shows the correct value but the lens' distance scale shows a different position. Simply moving the front control wheel (+- single increments) causes the reading to jump to a much different value, probably where the lens is actually sitting.

    Design flaw - The focus stack tool does not allow use of auto focus or even the focus confirmation lights so setting focus with other than live view is hit and miss at best.

    I did download the latest FW versions (7.01.1 and 2.01.2 for the body and back) and I don't see any improvement from the original release.

    I'm amazed the Phase released firmware with such an obvious bug - twice!

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    Workshop Member Wayne Fox's Avatar
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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Stocks View Post
    Design flaw - The focus stack tool does not allow use of auto focus or even the focus confirmation lights so setting focus with other than live view is hit and miss at best.
    Others have reported they can utilize auto-focus (although in a somewhat clunky manner) but my experience matches yours, nothing I do allows me to use auto focus to set the points. As far as your other observations, Iíll try to do some testing tomorrow to see if I get similar results.
    wayne
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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    It was suggested to leave the focus stack tool to focus and then go to the focus stack tool and enable auto focus. When I do that the lens reacts and returns to a similar focus distance, but not to the same location.

    My bigger complaint is that no matter how you choose the near and far distances I can't count on the system to return to those same points. In my experience it never has. The motor units reading has the correct value but the lens is actually at a different position.

    On the plus side I did dust off and upgrade my copy of Helicon Focus. It supports a RAW in DNG out workflow that yields a RAW stacked image. It doesn't read Phase One RAWs but DNGs from a P1 back work fine. It's very well integrated with Lightroom so you can select the frames to stack in LR and export directly to Helicon Focus. The resulting stack is automatically returned to LR for processing as a RAW file. Hopefully Capture One will implement the same kind of integration.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Guys,

    This focus stacking procedure has been perplexing. And to top it off, the issuance of an unannounced additional firmware update that is a different number than the official release version is odd as well.
    I haven't looked to see if there is an update to the manual that describes focus stacking use, but I have been experimenting with the focus stacking tool a bit and discovered a procedure that seems to work every time. It involves manual focus.

    Manual Focus Stacking Method:


    1. Initial camera boot-up
    2. Go to Focus Stack Tool Screen
    3. Gear readout is a number that appears to be the current lens position
    4. Iris indicator is red
    5. Near and Far lens positions are empty with red lines
    6. Adjust number of captures with left rear dial
    7. Select first focus limit using right rear dial to change lens position by increments of 10
    8. Refine first focus limit using front dial to change lens position by increments of 1
    9. Press one silver button to register first focus limit
    10. Press other silver button to duplicate first focus limit (unnecessary step but good to learn procedure)
    11. Both lens position registrations match (confirms a zero stack)
    12. Select second focus limit using right rear dial to change lens position by increments of 10
    13. Refine second focus limit using front dial to change lens position by increments of 1
    14. Press appropriate near or far silver button to register second focus limit
    15. Press rear button to start process


    Although this procedure may not be the most ideal, it seems to work every time. It seems you would view your subject through the viewfinder and use the front dial and right rear dial to define your focus points.

    I am open to other options. So, please share alternate procedures.

    Ken

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    That procedure works on my system in so far as the camera will expose the series of frames. The problem is that the lens doesn't return to the pre-set focus distances. In my latest trial, the near distance was 669 motor control units and the lens' focus distance scale read just below 6 feet. After the series the lens focus scale was at 10 feet but the motor control unit readout was 669. The second trial with the same settings resulted in the lens scale at less than 5 feet, but again the motor control unit scale read 669.

    This setup was an IQ 260 and an SK 150LS lens but I've had the same results with the SK 80LS as well. I also validated the trim setting on the lens is correct and autofocus is working fine. I've also confirmed the focus settings with live view and taken individual frames to confirm that the selected focus settings are appropriate.

    Granted this is a very demanding setup with a long-ish lens focused close and wide open, but then so is macro photography. I have been able to create stackable frames in a more typical (for me) use case mimicking a landscape scenario with the 35LS shooting a high number of frames from very near to infinity. The lens may not hit the exact chosen marks but there is enough DoF and frames to fill in the details anyway. But if I were doing a shoot for real I'd shoot more frames than I think I need and shoot at least 2 closer than I need.

    The XF is the basis of an awesome system, and I certainly wouldn't trade back to a DF, but it's frustrating to have an exciting new feature only to discover that it is plagued with issues.

    I guess it's human nature. I was happier with the system three days ago when I didn't know I was missing the focus stacking tool.
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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Before I got my CAPcam, I used a Cognisys Stackshot.

    For macro work, if you don't need to tilt/swing, it works flawlessly and I can highly recommend it. Don't move the subject. Don't refocus the lens. Move the camera.

    I'm happy to be proved wrong, but I'm not convinced that the motors in auto focus lenses are good enough for the kind of work where depth of field can be in the order of a couple of hundred microns.

    Kind regards,

    Gerald.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Another troubling issue I've encountered is having the system lock up requiring a camera power off/on cycle.

    I was simulating a landscape near/far composition where you might set up the composition and then run through multiple focus-stack sequences as the light changes - all using the same settings. In this case I was using the 35LS Blue Ring lens. I've had the camera lock up in as few as three trials or as many as 15 (or so). It's relatively easy to correct - clear the error, power cycle the camera, re-enter the focus stack settings and continue on. I've also observed wide variations in the lens scale settings so it's not very repeatable.

    I've shared my experiences with my dealer so they can provide feedback to Phase One (if they don't already know of the issues). In the mean time be wary of relying on the new tool in any important scenarios.

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    Senior Member aztwang's Avatar
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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Here is the directions straight out of the new manual....

    Using the Focus Stack Tool
    The Focus Stack tool is designed to automate the sequence capture involved in making a focus stack of images.
    To setup a capture sequence for focus stacking you need your lens to be set to Auto Focus. When inside this tool the front and side dial will adjust the focus of the lens in MCUs (Motor Control Units) .Front dial is used for small increments (x 1 MCU), and side dial is used for larger increments (x 10 MCU).
    1. Setup the near-focus distance using the front and side dial. Once you have set the near-focus, store this value by pressing the rear key.
    2. Then setup the far-focus with the front and side dial. Once you have the far-focus adjusted, press the front key to store this value.
    3. Finally use the rear dial to adjust the number of captures you need for the focus stack, and when you are ready to capture press the rear button to start the sequence.
    Once you have created the images to be used in the focus stack, you can bring them into Capture One (or if you already shot the images tethered, which is also possible).
    In Capture One 9.1 and later you will be able to easily select all images by the Sequence ID metatag created by the XF Camera Now you can create a smart folder or a selection of these images. And then when you are done editing, you can output them, and stacke them using your preferred focus stacking software.

    Don

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    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Quote Originally Posted by aztwang View Post
    Here is the directions straight out of the new manual....

    Using the Focus Stack Tool
    The Focus Stack tool is designed to automate the sequence capture involved in making a focus stack of images.
    To setup a capture sequence for focus stacking you need your lens to be set to Auto Focus. When inside this tool the front and side dial will adjust the focus of the lens in MCUs (Motor Control Units) .Front dial is used for small increments (x 1 MCU), and side dial is used for larger increments (x 10 MCU).
    1. Setup the near-focus distance using the front and side dial. Once you have set the near-focus, store this value by pressing the rear key.
    2. Then setup the far-focus with the front and side dial. Once you have the far-focus adjusted, press the front key to store this value.
    3. Finally use the rear dial to adjust the number of captures you need for the focus stack, and when you are ready to capture press the rear button to start the sequence.
    Once you have created the images to be used in the focus stack, you can bring them into Capture One (or if you already shot the images tethered, which is also possible).
    In Capture One 9.1 and later you will be able to easily select all images by the Sequence ID metatag created by the XF Camera Now you can create a smart folder or a selection of these images. And then when you are done editing, you can output them, and stacke them using your preferred focus stacking software.

    Don
    The issue is though that it isn't AF really as you're essentially just manual focusing by the camera controls. It works but is just less intuitive to use than pointing at the near image, AF for focus, store the setting, repeat for the far image using AF and store and then fire off the sequence.

    TBH, I expect that I'll just end up remembering the near/far MCU numbers for each of my lenses and then just dial them in. Dialing in the numbers also changes the focus point indicator on the lens so you can use that to be approximate for your near/far points just by looking down at the lens.

    It works overall but it doesn't feel quite 'finished' yet.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

    As Oscar Wilde said, "my tastes are simple, I only like the best"

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    In terms of usability improvements I agree that I'd like to easily access auto-focus but I'd also like to be able to use the focus confirmaton indicator lights while focusing. I'd also like to see the XF calculate the number of frames needed based on lens, focus distances and f/stop.

    Of course that all assumes the bugs are fixed. I have seen numerous issues where the frames don't hit the set points. In particular it seems that it misses the near focus point by focusing too far away so I end up not having the full range of focus settings to make the stack. If I repeat the sequence multiple times I've found that the camera doesn't repeat the same focus points from run to run so it appears there is a general problem returning to a preselected focus distance by MCUs.

    I've also seen the camera lock up after repeating the stack sequence a few times.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Just to throw it in there. Could it be that the people for whom it is working ( going back to the same setting every time) are using blue ring lenses ?
    I'm asking as I was not able to use the feature at all with my 110LS but it worked perfectly with my 150LS BR. It went back to the same spot every time even when doing a panoramic when stacking.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher View Post
    Just to throw it in there. Could it be that the people for whom it is working ( going back to the same setting every time) are using blue ring lenses ?
    I'm asking as I was not able to use the feature at all with my 110LS but it worked perfectly with my 150LS BR. It went back to the same spot every time even when doing a panoramic when stacking.
    I don't think so. The only lens I've used the focus stacking feature on is the 110LS and once I'd worked out how to set it up it worked perfectly. It does take a bit of getting used to but Graham's comments are correct. It is essentially a manual focus solution using the front and rear dials for near and far focus points and then setting the number of frames to be shot. The bit that does seem to be missing is the ability to use AF to set these points. It works rather the same way as the hyperfocal tool to set near and far points.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Great to hear. I will have to try it again with my 110.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    I've been testing with the 35LS (Blue Ring) and 150LS (not BR). I will shoot stacks with both, but does not hit the target focus distances with either one.

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    Re: XF Focus Stacking Issues

    Just retested the 110. Works as well as the 150.

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