This article features some handheld focus stacked landscape test images captured with M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 f/2.8 and PRO 12-40 f/2.8 zoom lenses. Many photographers prefer to use tripods for their landscape photography, while others (like me) would rather shoot everything handheld if possible.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Our initial two handheld focus stacked landscape sample images are of the same scene. The first was captured using a horizontal orientation.
As you can see in the EXIF data, a focal length of 14 mm was used in conjunction with an aperture of f/4. I used my standard in-camera focus stacking approach with 10 frames stacked with a focus differential of 4 for all of the images featured in this article. As you can see, this produced deep depth-of-field from the rocks in the foreground… to all the way across the Niagara River.
The composition achieved its objective in terms of demonstrating how handheld focus stacking can be used to achieve deep depth-of-field for landscape photographs from the foreground out towards infinity… while using a fairly open aperture.
As photographers we sometimes get in the habit of using a predominately horizontal orientation with our landscape compositions. Some scenes… like the one above… can also make quite pleasing vertical compositions.
Each of us has our own preferences when it comes to composition. To my eye, the vertical version of the composition for this scene makes for a more interesting photograph. It also has better eye flow and balance.
Our next sample image was captured at f/2.8 using the M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
If you check the EXIF data in the above image, you’ll see that I had enough light that I could have stopped my lens down to f/4 or f/5.6. I still would have had an acceptable shutter speed… and could have also utilized base ISO-200.
I captured this image at f/2.8 to help demonstrate that there are occasions when we can find ourselves in lower light situations where using a wide open aperture of f/2.8 is the best choice given the amount of available light.
Using handheld in-camera focus stacking can be a great solution to work around lower light challenges. We can get the deep depth-of-field required for our landscape composition while still shooting wide open. This can allow us to use base ISO-200 to help maximize the available dynamic range of our Olympus/OM System camera.
As we know… the size of the sensor in our camera does not directly impact depth-of-field. Rather it is the focal length of our lens. The aperture we use. The focusing distance to the subject. As well as the distance from the subject to the background.
We often think about depth-of-field in terms of achieving good subject separation with shallow depth-of-field. When it comes to landscape photography the opposite is often true… achieving deep depth-of-field is usually our objective. This is where a M4/3 system can really shine.
I captured the test image above to help demonstrate how using handheld in-camera focus stacking can be a fantastic technology to utilize when very deep depth-of-field is desired.
As you can see in the photograph above, the leaves on the left hand side of the composition are in sharp focus. This continues all the way out to the blue house on the extreme right hand side. We can also see the trees on the opposite side of the Niagara River appear sharp enough so they don’t detract from the overall image.
This was easily achieved by using a focal length of 12 mm, an aperture of f/5.6, and handheld in-camera focus stacking. It is critical that those of us who use smaller sensor cameras do not think about efov (equivalent field-of-view) when compositing our images. The M4/3 lenses we use perform optically based on their native focal lengths… not based on efov.
I captured the image above using a native focal length of 12 mm… not 24 mm. As we know… the shorter the focal length used, the more depth-of-field will be created at the same aperture when compared to a longer focal length. This is true regardless of the size of the sensor in our camera.
Let’s look at another example…
This handheld in-camera focus stacked landscape image also illustrates how deep depth-of-field can easily be achieved using an aperture of f/5.6 when used with a shorter focal length (i.e. 13 mm).
For the images featured in this article, I made some minor adjustments to the out-of-camera jpegs created by my E-M1X. This is the blended output when in-camera focus stacking is used. This technology also provides all of the corresponding RAW files so a photographer can do focus stacking in post if desired.
Many of us would not contemplate creating an image like the one above using an aperture of f/2.8. Being able to use a focal length of 12 mm in conjunction with in-camera focus stacking, makes this composition approach a practical reality. Being able to do so handheld is ideal for my style of shooting.
During COVID-19 lockdowns during the past few years, I didn’t have many opportunities to use my M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 zoom lens. I absolutely love this lens for landscape photography, and plan to use it on a much more frequent basis in the future. Like the M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 it is well suited for use with handheld in-camera focus stacking.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs that had some minor adjustments done in post. I used my standard In-Camera Focus Stacking settings for the images featured in this article… 10 stacked frames with a focus differential of 4. This is the 1,322 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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