Rhododendron Blooms, Hand Held Focus Stacking
Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear,  Software

Handheld Focus Stacking on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and E-M1 Mark III

Many of the newer Olympus OM-D cameras have the ability to do focus stacking in camera. Focus stacking will take up to 15 images at different focus points and stack them into a single JPEG image in camera.

The Olympus Olympus OM-D E-M1X and OM-D E-M1 Mark III with their 7 stops of image stabilization make handheld focus stacking in camera a reality.

Only certain Olympus lenses will work are compatible with focus stacking. Here is a list of the Olympus Lenses that work with Focus Stacking. If you find that a newer Olympus lens is not working with focus stacking, check that your camera has the latest firmware update.

Black Locust Bloom, Hand Held Focus Stacking
Black Locust Bloom, Hand Held Focus Stacking

What is the Difference Between Focus Bracketing and Focus Stacking in Olympus Cameras

Focus Bracketing

Takes multiple images at different focus distances.  Focus stacking will allow you to take up to 999 images.

Focus Stacking

Combines the multiple images taking during focus bracketing and combines them into a single stacked image in camera.  Focus stacking will allow you to take up to 15 images.

Focus Stacking Set Up

Focus stacking is located in Shooting Menu 2 –>Bracketing –> Focus Bracketing.  You can choose Focus Bracketing or Focus Stacking in the menu item.  If you choose Focus Stacking on, the computer will stack the images.  If you choose Focus Stacking Off, you will get the selections for Focus Bracketing and will have to merge the images yourself using Photoshop or other software.

With focus stacking, you can take up to 15 shots with a focus differential from 1 to 10 with 10 having the biggest difference in the focus distance between shots.

Wine Corks, Hand Held Focus Stacking
Wine Corks, Hand Held Focus Stacking, 15 Images, 3 differential, f/3.2, ISO 500

Focus stacking will output a single stacked jpeg image plus all of the images taken during focus bracketing.  If the camera software cannot successfully stack the images, it will give you an error and still write the source files to the SD card in case you want to stack them manually.

Topaz Labs

In my tests, handheld focus stacking wasn’t success every time, but the camera had a pretty good success rate. The most full proof method for in camera focus stacking is on a tripod. However you may not always have a tripod with you, and would like to stack macro images.  It doesn’t hurt to try, you still get all the individual images written to the SD card.

Christmas Ornament, Hand Held Focus Stacking
Christmas Ornament, 15 Images, 2 differential, f/6.3, ISO 400

Hand Held In Camera Focus Stacking Tips

  • If you can, make sure you are in a brightly lit area.  In a dimly lit area, it difficult to focus stack without a tripod even with the image stabilization of the Olympus OM-D E-M1X.
  • Place your focus point toward the front of the subject. Focus Stacking will take a few images prior to your focus point and then take the remainder of the exposures moving the focus point farther away from the camera.
  • Don’t open up your aperture all the way to f/1.8 or f/2.8.  Try around f/3.2 or f/4 to start.
  • For flatter subjects, start with a differential of around 2.  For subjects with more depth, a 4 or 5 might be a good starting point.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Posts
Taking Amazing Handheld Internal HDR photos with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X
Long Exposure Photography Using the Olympus OM-D E-M1
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is now my Go To Camera for Landscape Photography

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  • Tony Enticknap

    An observation, if I may Martin, but the in-camera focus stacking facility takes the initial shot at the chosen focus point and then takes the remaining shots half in front and half behind. Consequently, it’s best to focus around 40% into your subject for best results (particularly on insects) rather than “on part of the subject that is closest to the lens”.

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