Handheld Focus Stacked Flower

This article shares some handheld focus stacked flower images captured in my front yard yesterday morning. With COVID restrictions and safety precautions it has been difficult to get out to photograph this subject matter in public settings for a number of months. While the selection of spring flowers in our front yard is limited… it was still an enjoyable photographic experience.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, efov 140 mm, f/2.8, 1/100, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 870 mm

When I first considered Olympus gear back in May 2019 two of the capabilities that intrigued me were the IBIS performance as well as computational photography features like in-camera focus stacking.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 135 mm, efov 270 mm, f/2.8, 1/320, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 845 mm

I found that some of the lenses like the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 were quite innovative in terms of the flexibility and functionality that they provided. It’s relatively short minimum focusing distance was also of significant benefit.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 905 mm

As my use of the system has increased over time, so too has my appreciation for the photographic potential that Olympus/OM System equipment unlocks. As noted in a previous article, the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom has become my favourite lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/500, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 905 mm

When I decided to capture some handheld focus stacked flower images two lenses immediately jumped into my mind. The M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and the M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro. These two lenses give me the overall flexibility I need to create a range of flower and foliage photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, efov 120 mm, f/2.8, 1/125, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 305 mm

As regular readers will know, I hate using tripods and only do so when I have no other option. Since I bought my Olympus gear back in June 2019 I have not used any of my tripods with this equipment. At this point I haven’t experimented with Live Composite, which will require tripod use.  Perhaps that’s why I haven’t gotten around to experimenting with that technology yet. 🙂

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 142 mm, efov 284 mm, f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 700 mm

Like all things photographic, using in-camera focus stacking does come with some trade-offs. The in-camera processing output is a jpeg which somewhat limits what can be done in post. And, it does take some practice with camera settings and handheld technique.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, efov 120 mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 470 mm

There are some significant benefits using in-camera focus stacking, especially when shooting in lower light conditions. You’ll notice that all of the handheld focus stacked flower images in this article were captured using an aperture of f/2.8 and either ISO-200 or ISO-400.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/100, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 915 mm

Obviously shooting at lower ISO values helps to utilize the available dynamic range and colour depth of a camera’s sensor. This is especially important when using smaller sensor cameras.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 120 mm, efov 280 mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 925 mm

In-camera focus stacking allows a photographer to create the subject depth-of-field they need and still shoot wide open, and without putting a lot of the background in focus. This creates very good subject separation. Unfortunately misinformation continues to be spread online that shallow depth-of-field cannot be created with a M4/3 camera.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 740 mm

When using in-camera focus stacking it is important that the subject is as motionless as possible. I captured most of the handheld focus stacked flower images in this article fairly early in the morning when there was very little breeze. I only had three attempts using in-camera focus stacking where my E-M1X was unable to successfully combine ten images into a single focus stacked photograph. My technique could have been as much to blame as atmospheric conditions.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, efov 120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 265 mm

I used a Focus Differential setting of 5 for all of the photographs in this article. The articulated rear screen on my E-M1X was used to compose all of the images featured in this article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, efov 120 mm, f/2.8, 1/125, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 300 mm

I noticed some tulip buds and spent some time photographing them at different angles. The monochromatic nature of the images appealed to me as it helped to highlight subtle colour variations on the bud.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, efov 120 mm, f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 290 mm

If you have an Olympus/OM System camera and have not yet experimented with the in-camera focusing stacking technology I’d recommend giving it a try. Shooting handheld using the rear screen rather than with a tripod further expands the potential of this technology.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs with some adjustments done in post. All images are full frame captures. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,161 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, efov 120 mm, f/2.8, 1/125, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 280 mm

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4 thoughts on “Handheld Focus Stacked Flower”

  1. This feature seems to have been adopted much more quickly by the technical/scientific crowd than the more artistic types, but I think they will eventually appreciate how much more control this gives over depth of field than aperture alone.

    I also use the 60 mm macro for most of my stacking but I think that my favourite lens is actually the 12-100. At 12 mm and F 8 it can focus really close and one can use this technique to stack small things like butterflies or flowers into the landscape. The 300 mm can also give very clean defocused backgrounds used wide open with this technique.

    At the moment I mostly use six shots at step 4. If it’s windy I would use even fewer. I think that my results are generally better with the dual image stabilization lenses although I’m not aware of others feeling the same.

    Thanks for another nice article – It’s quite hard to get good information on using this feature.

  2. Excellent examples of one of my favorite features found in Olympus cameras. I came to Olympus from Canon because of the ibis feature. I couldn’t believe that I could capture sharp photos at such slow shutter speeds! I stayed with Olympus because of the additional features such as, focus bracketing and focus stacking in camera, pro-capture, high-res mode (I do have to use a tripod for high res on my e-m1 markII) and live composite. I will stay with the older generation models of Olympus cameras until others camera brands catch up. I appreciate your excellent posts and look forward to future inspirational articles.

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for sharing some of your background with Olympus cameras as well as the features that drew you to the equipment. It’s been almost three years since I bought my first grouping of Olympus camera gear. The technology in my E-M1X bodies, as well as my wife’s E-M1 Mark III continue to impress me. I simply cannot imagine using another brand of camera for the work that I do.

      Tom

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