Tom Reichner wrote in post #15526665
I am curious about focus stacking. I love the look that can be achieved when using it, but always assumed that one would need some kind of special photo editing software (like Elements or Lightroom, or worse yet, some type of "plug in") in order to do it. Is this the case, of can I just do it with my basic iPhoto program?
Really you do need special software unless you have a $40k cine lens. This is because the effective FL changes slightly as you focus at different distances, so each image needs to be scaled to match a master image. It is actually also a little-talked about point that does slightly affect the final image quality, but its minor compared to the benefits.
I use Helicon focus, but I hear that zerene stacker (http://zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker) is now a popular solution. The freeware might also be a good way to get started.
I think both non-freeware programs have 30day free trials, so you could have 2 months of trying it out. PS has something, but I don't think it has all the features you'd really want, I could be wrong, but is seems most people who really do a lot of focus stacking use other software (I don't have PS, so maybe it works just fine for landscapes).
And then for Macro, if you are doing anything where you don't want to hook up the camera to a computer, you really want Magic Lantern to drive the stacking. Personally I don't think I've gone to 90 shots, but I've certainly done 40-60 and 90 isn't outrageous, especially if you are using an MP-E 65. I can't see how it would be possible by hand.
So, yes it does really require some extra 'commitment'.
For those using PS, elements or similar, but don't want to focus stack, you might also consider aperture stacking - shoot at various apertures (say f8, f11 and f16) and blend in PP to get the best of each. The blending is usually fairly straightforward and the images line up perfectly, but obviously doesn't have the benefits of focus stacking. The shots could also be blended automatically by focus stacking software.