Sunday, July 8, 2012

Velbon Super Mag Macro Tripod Slider and Focus Stacking

I have been wanting to do some focus stacking images for some time. Particularly for the flowers I like to photograph. I cannot get the whole flower (petals, stamen, and pistol) in focus with one shot. By using focus stacking you can create an image which will have the entire flower in focus. Find out more about focus stacking here and here. To make this process easier, I purchased the Velbon Macro Tripod slider like the one shown below:

Here is Velbon's description: 

The Velbon Super Mag Macro Focusing Rail Slider, essential for precision macro photography, is made of a lightweight, corrosion-resistant magnesium alloy. Even with a steady hand, macro photography can be tricky and temperamental. The fine tuning of the Super Mag Slider helps you find the right depth of field to take precise close-up photos.
The smooth action macro-rails consist of X and Y movable tables for precisely adjusting focus. The X axis moves right and left, the Y axis moves towards and away from the operator on threaded rods. By using the included allen wrench you can separate the top and bottom tables for additional modification. Underneath the top table (Y), there are both 1/4 and 3/8-inch threaded holes for mounting the top table to a tripod. The adjustment knobs are smooth and fluid, and have just the right amount of resistance.

  • 4-way adjustment - forward / backward / left / right
  • Detachable lower base - changeable to 2-way slider
  • Made from light weight & durable magnesium alloy
  • Lateral adjustment rang: 1.2" (30 mm) / Fore/aft adjustment range: 2.4" (60 mm)
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.7 x 2.8 in. (210 x 120 x 70mm) / Weight: 1.04 lb. (470g)
I completed my first attempt at focus stacking using a cone flower. I took 17 images turning the rail advance screw about 1 turn each time. Here are the 17 images and the result.

 I used a program called  Combine ZP to align, scale, and stack the images. It is a free program that works remarkably well.

The Velbon unit worked well. I only wish that the X and Y movement knobs were on opposite sides. They can be made that way, and I will make the effort. More than once I had to start over because I moved the X position instead of the Y position. Here are my camera settings:

White Balance - Manual
Shutter Speed - Manual - 160
Aperture - Manual - 2.0
Mirror up delay - 5 secs

I started where the center (Highest point) of the flower was in focus and moved in in 17 increments. I mounted the slider on my ballhead.

This exercise was just that - an exercise to see how to do the setup and use the software. The Velbon slider is a vital part of the setup and it performed very well. I can also recommend the Combine ZP software.