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Michael Erlewine

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Michael Erlewine last won the day on 23 December 2018

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About Michael Erlewine

  • Rank
    Michael Erlewine
  • Birthday 18/07/1941

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Big Rapids, MI USA
  • Interests
    Lenses, Focus Stacking, APO, Medium Format
  • Edit my pics?
    Ask Me
  • Fav. Camera
    Nikon D810, Hasselblad X1D
  • Fav. Lens
    Zeiss Otus Series
  • Fav. Editor
    Adobe Photoshop
  1. Pushing the envelope with the Nikkor "O" CRT lens on the Nikon Z& using Leica/M39 extension tubes offers some pretty nice options.
  2. A dream of mine for many years has been to give the Nikon “O” CRT lens just a little more focusing-range room. On the Nikon D850, on a focus rail, it is very limited, but wonderful for what it can do. No doubt this is one of my favorite lenses. I have been angling for extension rings and other mounts for the Z7 and thanks to the extensive knowledge of Erik Lund who turned me on to the Novoflex Adapter Set for Visoflex II/III to Leica M mount plus the Kipon M39-to-Z7 mounts for the Z7, I had everything I needed to find out if my dream can come true. And absolutely, it can and did. It not only gives me more focus-room, but since the Novoflex has various extensions, I can get close (but farther back than with the F-Mount or with two extension rings back far enough to take in an entire flower. This is perfect, and while I am just checking it out, here are a couple initial photos showing the new results of the new extensions. The Kipon works perfectly and the Novoflex flawlessly, with the results that this opens the door to a much wider range of photography for the Nikon “O CRT.” I am using a single extension ring (farther back) and two extension rings (closer). This speaks volumes to me about the future of this new mount on the Nikon Z cameras. The problem for me with the Nikon “O” CRT lens is it was too limited in focus range. No more, and there are many other classic lenses that will benefit from the same treatment.
  3. I get philosophical about photography and taking photos. It is deeply wedded to my meditation practices and has very much become a practice in itself. Quite a bit of the photography I do involves what is called “Focus stacking,” which consists of taking many layers of a flower or a subject, each with a sharp focus at a slightly different distance and combing them into a single image. The result is an image that appears to have more depth of field (everything is in focus) than traditional photography. Focus stacking is often said to appear to give us more depth-of-field (DOF), which can be true if we always move from front to back of the image when we are stacking. That’s something beginners latch on to. However, it is so much more than just putting everything more in focus. By stacking focus, we can also have areas of the image in sharp focus, even if they are in the front, back, or middle of the image. And what I find most useful is that by stacking focus I can use very fast lenses (well-corrected) that are also sharp wide open to paint blocks or whole areas of an image in focus. In general and traditionally, fast-focus lenses are used when we want a razor-thin depth of field with one slice in sharp focus and the rest in bokeh of one sort or another. However, by using fast, well-corrected, and sharp lenses we can (as mentioned) paint focus where we want and leave the rest to go to bokeh, which fast lenses are famous for. By breaking away (taking a break) from the traditional one-point/one-plane of focus, the eye of the beholder is not automatically prompted or drawn to a pinpoint or plane in the image. Instead, the eye is free to roam around and assume whatever view pleases. It is kind of a new experience! This is what I find so liberating about stacking focus, the freedom of the eye to direct itself. It is also, IMO, why stacked images have been said to be a little psychedelic. We are used to having our eye being led by the focus plane and its points in the image and not used to having our eyes point things out for themselves. It can be an adventure. And there are lots of ways to stack. There are long 25-30 and very long (160) and “scientific” (hundreds) of layers, but there are also what I call short stacks. A short stack might be from 3 to 7 or so layers and photos are not taken in serial sequence from front to back. Instead, you can just make a stack out of points of interest. For example, you have a subject with five flowers. You might take a shot of each flower focusing at the very center of each and stack those. You end up with a photo with five very sharp flowers and the rest just blends in. It is very easy to do. Or, you might take a shot of the whole scene with the lens wide open and get a field of bokeh. Then take a few shots of individual flowers at an aperture with more depth of field and stack the bunch. This type of collage-stack may require more retouching to bring the different layers together. Stacking, like DVDs and CDS, is a digital sampling technique, where by definition some data is lost while the data you want to keep is highlighted. There are many methods, but each has a specific result. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, I don’t like most HDR photos, but I do like a well punctuated stack. So, if we think of focus stacking as just having everything in focus, I (jokingly say) “Why not just take a picture.” I look at stacking more as if each photo is an impression of what I see or the world as I would like to see it (or sometimes do). Ming Thein is my favorite photographer, but my work is nothing like his (not that I could do what he does!). I kind of paint with light and like images where parts of the image are stacked and in sharp focus or micro-contrast, while other parts are bokeh or extreme dreamy bokeh. Examples of what I like can be found here that speak louder than words. https://MichaelErlewine.smugmug.com At one time or another I have bought all the major software that stacks focus and tried the free-ware too. For my purposes, Zerene Stacker is my software of choice. It offers two major approaches to stacking, that if combined can produce images that I like. They are called PMax and DMap. Briefly, DMap protects color and PMax protects detail. I always use Dmap first because to me “Color is King,” and then I fill-in by retouching with PMax. I find the retouching features of Zerene Stacker to be more profoundly useful than other brands, IMO. Retouching is an art as I see it. So, I don’t avoid retouching, but work to become skilled in it. I also have tried focus-rail auto-stacking, but don’t use it often, not to mention every of kind of focus rail. A lot depends on how you stack. The very best way to stack images for modern stacking software to handle (and avoid artifacts) is on the view camera by moving the rear standard. The second best method is by turning a helicoid on the lens or a lens barrel, and the worst (relatively speaking) way is to use a focus rail. I pay attention to that. I also experiment constantly. In fact, I consider all my photography as experiments, rather than finished pieces. I have shot many hundreds of thousands of images and have yet to print out a single one. And never have I put a printed image on the walls of my home. To me, photography is not a vocation, but a passion. Although I am getting decent results these days, the process of photography has always been more important to me than the results. Perfecting the process perfects the results, IMO. In other words, the place we are going is how we travel. That idea. [Photo taken by me.] Main Browsing Site: http://SpiritGrooves.net Organized Article Archive: http://MichaelErlewine.com/ YouTube Videos https://wwwyoutubecom/user/merlewine My Nature Photos https://MichaelErlewine.smugmug.com
  4. I was asking around various forums for suggestions about image-hosting sites that were worth considering. Well, I answered my own question by going out and seeing what photo sites are there. The perfect one for me, so far, is something called Smugmug.com. Perhaps they are smug because they just bought Flickr. It’s not a free site, but it is very reasonable for what it offers. For one, you get unlimited uploads. As a software engineer who had built and overseen many enterprise-level websites built, I am impressed at how functional and well-built this site is – very well thought out. It deals mostly with JPG or GIF, but also include lossless .PNG, which not too distant from the TIF in which I store my finished photos. There are limits on the size, but they are good enough (150 megabytes in size and 210 megapixels). I am busy putting up some of my photo collection (or at least the start of it). They have a number of finished templates that you can just adapt to your material and I choose one. Functionally, this is a very well-made system, with great tools for putting things online. I have never seen any better, IMO. My site took about a day to put together, not including preparing files to upload. But with hundreds of thousands of images, it took me a week or two just to massage out some 40,000 images that I am considering. From these, I will pick a few thousand to post on the site as I find time. They offer four plans and monthly subscriptions for $3, $5, $14, and $29 if billed annually. The two more expensive plans include a shopping cart complete with about every way to monetize images I could imagine. They offer fulfillment automatically through several major print-shops, a cradle-to-the-grave experience. Having built many shopping cart systems over the years, this one is really well made. I am just starting to populate my site, but I have some 500 or so images up. Those of you interest in this sort of thing can check out what I’ve done here: https://MichaelErlewine.smugmug.com
  5. My Nikon Z7 arrived and a hefty little thing it is. No, it is not as large as my D850, but it is heavy enough with a lens on it. Of course, the first thing I discovered is that there are no L-Plates that fit the Z7 yet available. There are many for preorder, but when I called Really Right Stuff and ordered one, it seemed from talking with them that they have not yet even figured out how they are going to approach the FTZ adapter in relation to L-plates. So, for now I have to use a large and heavy (giant) L-Plate adapter from Novoflex for portrait mode. Either that or swing my Arca-Swiss Cube geared-head 90 degrees, which is a real pain and hardly worth doing.. In fact, it dawned on me that if the only reason I am getting a mirrorless Nikon is to save space and weight, the savings are not that great. As mentioned, the Z7 is still a weighty thing. So, what’s left? For me, there is the new mount and the promise of faster lenses wide open, which I would like a lot. But that is down the road. As for the FTZ adapter, it seems great. In fact, once attached, the camera feels like any DSLR all over again, so tightly does it fit in. I also look forward to mounting the Z7 on my view camera with a Z7 bayonet and gaining a little added focus range there. I have mounts for that on order. As for the EVF, yes! It does feel like an OVF or at least I am not conscious of it being electronic as I have been with other mirrorless cameras I have owned (Sony, Hasselblad, GFX, etc.). It is really nice AND YOU CAN MAGNIFY IT! As for the rear LCD? It’s about what I am used to with the D850, so no problem there. My pocketbook groaned when I played with the 24-70 f/4 lens because it is obvious that it fits the camera like a glove and if the new mount ups the APO-quotient for native lenses to come, I can see myself wanting a few more of these natural Z7 lenses IF they are ever produced. Perhaps it’s time for me to off-load some of my many legacy F-mount lenses! We will see how many APO-quality native lenses for the Z7 appear. As for menus and buttons, well, what’s new? Every camera-iteration has some of that and while the Z7 is a lot like my D850, it’s different too. The little OLED (or whatever it is) on the top of the camera is very handy and easy to READ. I can see that I will probably do a lot more point-and-shoot with the Z7, since it is so “handy.” As many have said, this is not simply a replacement for the D850, but something in itself. I imagine a smaller kit to travel with that contains the native 24-70 Z7 lens, the FTZ adapter and one or two legacy F-mount lenses. And since the video in the Z7 is a step-up, I can see using it (with an XLR-add-on) and ported to my Atomos Shogun Inferno as 10-bit 4K 4:2:2 FF video (and log gamma modes too!) to do interviews or whatever. I won’t have to carry a larger dedicated video camera, etc. like my Sony FS-5, etc. I have yet to see for myself (or hear from others) if anything else about the Z7 is problematical, especially if the image quality is as good as the D850 and if the banding-issue that some document affects my work. My guess is that it won’t. [LATER: Having shot a bunch, for my work, I don’t see any problems with shadows and blacks. Perhaps for astronomy work, there are considerations, but for my work, not that I can tell so far.] So, I am just getting familiar with the Z7. Next for me, is to try a lot of non-native lenses via the adapter and see if everything is equal. UPDATE: on the Nikon Z7 for my particular use. I like the Nikon Z7, but like all things, using it for a while brings with it some realizations, which I want to comment on here. I have the Nikon Z7, the FTZ adapter, and the 24-70 f/4 native lens. Please note that the kind of work that I do (close-up, focus stacking) requires a lot of precision and great lenses. Using the Nikon Z7 with its own 24-70 f/4 lens is fine for general snapshots and perhaps even for some more semi-serious work. However, I find, while the 24-70 is sharp-ish, it is not sharp like the lenses I am used to (Otus, APO, etc.). I am sure it was not intended to be that sharp. It seems well-enough corrected IMO, but the sharpness is not quite what I require. It is a little weak in that area, IMO. This, of course, is disappointing, but I pretty-much knew this coming in. Of course, I hoped for a miracle. LOL. On the other hand, using the FTZ adapter I have access to many APO lenses that I have collected over the years, including the set of Otus lenses plus the Otus-like 135 Zeiss that presaged the series. They work great on the Z7 as they always did! I am hurting for lack of a proper L-Bracket and have had to use the Arca C1 Cube for vertical/profile shots, which means leaning it 90-degrees from horizontal, which works but is not what I like to use. So, I might as well use my D850 for which I have a great RSS L-Bracket. [Note: I have since found an L-Bracket that works that is available now.] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011JKE28U/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 This L-Bracket will work with the FTZ adapter. If you want the vertical element to fit closely to the left side of the camera, you may want to cut off the very far end of one of the stainless steel rods, which is easy to do and then it fits snug. The tip of this rod stops the 1/4-20 screw from going to the far edge so that we can cope with the FTZ adapter. Inexpensive too, relatively ($89). Things I especially like about the Z7 are the EVF, which I find myself using more and more. With the D810 and D850, I never used the OVF (not ever), preferring to work on the back-LCD in LiveView. But the Z7 EVF is really amazing and you can magnify it, which of course the older OVF cameras could not do. I am using it much of the time, especially outdoors and with landscape shots. To me this is a HUGE feature. So, I am keeping the Nikon Z7. However, and this is a big “however,” unless Nikon releases APO/Otus level lenses for the Nikon Z7, I will be using the Z7 with the FTZ adapter for most of my work, which makes it essentially a mirrorless DSLR, which is OK too. For family photos, casual walk-around work, and perhaps for semi-serious work, I could use the Z7 with the native 24-70 f/4 lens. But, when I ask myself, I might just as well use the better lenses I have any time I do serious photography. They are just so much better. You get the idea. The Z7 for not-so-sharp work with native lenses, but I do use the Z7 + FTZ adapter for my regular work. And, to repeat, if I am mounting the huge Zeiss Otus lenses, I might just as well use the Nikon D850 for the added support. And so it goes. However, I find that I will definitely be using the Z7 on my view camera, the Cambo Actus-Mini. It is perfect there and when I get a Z7-Bayonet for the Actus (on order), I will be able to get even more focus range from my exotic lenses, which I very much need. In summary, I love the Z7, but without the FTZ adapter I am limited in what I can do with it. As Otus-level lenses come along native to the Z7, this should be much different. I would love an APO lens for this mirrorless camera, especially a macro! FTZ and the APO El Nikkor f/5.6 lens
  6. As a focus stacker, I especially like the tilt in tilt/shift lenses and the reason is that by using tilt I can compress the area that needs to be stacked enormously and thus get more in focus using less layers. I had all three of the main Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) early on, but lost interest in them because the quality of the lens was not corrected enough for my taste and they were physically too limiting at times. I liked the 45mm PC the best. I even have one of those small macro-tilt adapters for nikon that provides 8-degrees of tilt only, but rotates 360-degrees. It actually works and is the least expensive way to get tilt on a Nikon that I know of. But mostly my interest in tilt has been in view cameras. I have had a number of view cameras, ranging from big 14 pounders to little miniature view cameras that still had all the movements, but were too frail for real work with a DSLR. And I still have the Novoflex BALPRO system, which is poorly designed IMO, but offers some movements. And of course there is the view camera system I use the most, the Cambo Actus Mini, of which I have a streamlined version. What a great system for my work! And I have taken a number of these view cameras into the field, but have found them pretty awkward, yet have done it just the same. However, I have not done it THAT often because they can be a pain. What if I told you there was a robust, small, view camera that I would not hesitate to take outside and into the field. You might ask: why do that when the wind (in the flat-state I live in -- Michigan) is almost always present and this would prevent any large focus stacks. I hear you, but that’s not the point here. With a small view camera, if it was really small and compact, I could us the tilt feature to compress what needs to be stacked in a single shot. Or, I could create what I call “short stacks,” taking a few close-focus images at key points in the image and stacking just those, perhaps three or four layers. But there is something more useful than that, which is the reason I am writing this piece. When the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS came along, I could see that at heart this lens is a tiny view camera all wrapped in a lens and one with a very small vertical component (no more than just mounting a lens), making it relatively easy to carry around and still have some of the main movements that I like in view cameras plus some unique features of its own. Perhaps the Hartblei Macro 120mm is not purposely designed for stacking in the field, but why not? I don’t find that this discourages me. What it does offer is the ability (through Tilt and Shift) to add depth-of-field to a shot, if need be, in a one-off photo. I may not have time (or the wind prevents) to make large stacks, but I can independently rotate to tilt and/or shift the lens to maximize the depth-of-field in a single shot or a short-stack in just a few seconds. The result is I get more depth-of-field by the tilt and shift than I otherwise would. In my work, every little angle counts. And it is this capability that makes this rather complex lens system worthwhile in the field as well as the studio. It shines in the studio! It is a heavy lens, but not as heavy and cumbersome as any of the view-camera systems I have otherwise used with equal features. The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator uses a sturdy collar that mounts directly to the tripod via an Arca-Swiss plate so that the Nikon D850 hangs off the back of the collar mount and the heavy lens hangs from the collar and does not hang on the camera flange. This is very important for a 2 lb. lens. The lens kit also comes with a side-focus wheel which provides 2:1 fine-focusing, much like the focus-pullers I am familiar with in video work. And the lens is called a “superrotator” has three rotations: (1) Rotation Collar (horizontal/vertical) (2) 360-degree Rotation Shift Movements (3) 360-degree Rotation Tilt Movements These rotations are each 360-degrees by increments (all the way around) and the shift and tilt rings can be used independently of one another in any combination. This feature, which is very desirable, is unlike any lens I have ever gotten my hands on and it is no kludge, but very well made and it works smoothly. As for the lens itself, this is the same 120mm Zeiss macro lens that Hasselblad has successfully used for many years, the “Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFI/CFE” of the Hasselblad last build. It has been thoroughly vetted and reviewed, so it is a known entity. And the lens itself has two separate focusing helicoids, a ring to get from infinity to 1.2m (170-degrees focus throw) and a second ring for close focus 1.2m to 75cm (160-degrees focus throw). In addition, there is a side focus which allows 2:1 fine-focusing. As a focus stacker, this is right up my alley. And I am told that this Zeiss lens has the best coating on the market; the blue channel is about 15-20% denser than other lenses. However, it’s true that the Zeiss lens used in the Hartblei implementation is not as well corrected as some of my exotic APO lenses, but most of those APO lenses have no infinity, are VERY restricted in their range, have very old coatings, odd-ball mounts, and so on. The Hartblei 120mm looks to be an all-around general purpose lens and not just a specialized lens, although it is special indeed. This particular Zeiss 120mm Macro Lens is well known and has been a feature of the Hasselblad system for many years, so we know what it is and isn’t. And while the optics may be slightly old fashioned, it is certainly fine enough, especially as Hartblei has configured it. Given its very low vertical profile, the sturdy tripod collar, and the refinement of the side-focus wheel, what you have here is a miniature view camera built into a lens, ready and able to work well in the field where I find it can be difficult to cart a larger view-camera system. This lens may have to be used stopped down more than I would like, but it’s portable and for stacking some photos, I can also take a shot wide open to get whatever bokeh I can and feather that in with the main stacked image shot at higher f-stops, if needs be. What is at least a psycho-social barrier is the price of the lens, which is over $5k. Ouch! For me, I am kind of used to high prices and I just have to sell a few more of the lenses I don’t use much. LOL. The Zeiss Otus lenses cost a lot and many of the lenses I most use do also, I guess that’s the price of admission. With the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm, what you do get is a lens of known quality (the famous Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFi/CFe), a strong tripod color, a very helpful side focus system, plus the (and let’s use their word) three “Superrotators.” As mentioned earlier, I have had all three Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) and their physical restrictions and too much chromatic aberration make them pretty-much unusable for my work. There is a learning curve with the Superrotator 120mm lens. There is a lot of functionality packed into a small package, in particular getting used to the three rotations. It’s a lot like the old test of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. And the little release buttons for the rotations are not totally easy to hold down and do the rotation at the same time. For my work, I probably will use the same (or a similar) setup each time, so this may not be a big problem. Also, I have to learn to recognize where the tilt is, since unlike most PC lenses, where the lens tilts, in the 120mm Superrotator it is the camera body that tilts. After all, the lens packs almost a complete view camera, with all of the main movements that I need, into a tiny (albeit a somewhat heavy) package. And while I may not use this lens all that much in the studio because I have so many temperamental exotic APO lenses on hand, I will take the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm f/4 lens into the field where it is just a single lens, albeit a heavy one, and get many of the movements I like and find in the standard view camera. I would like to hear from other owners of this particular lens. Here are a couple of photos, one with the camera setup and a first image with the Nikon D850 with the Hartblei Superrotator. This shot focuses on the leaves and the flower is not stacked.
  7. Not really, IMO. The point of it is to compress the image along the plane of focus so that VERY much fewer shots need to be taken to get the subject in focus.
  8. As a focus stacker, I especially like the tilt in tilt/shift lenses and the reason is that by using tilt I can compress the area that needs to be stacked enormously and thus get more in focus using less layers. I had all three of the main Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) early on, but lost interest in them because the quality of the lens was not corrected enough for my taste and they were physically too limiting at times. I liked the 45mm PC the best. I even have one of those small macro-tilt adapters for nikon that provides 8-degrees of tilt only, but rotates 360-degrees. It actually works and is the least expensive way to get tilt on a Nikon that I know of. But mostly my interest in tilt has been in view cameras. I have had a number of view cameras, ranging from big 14 pounders to little miniature view cameras that still had all the movements, but were too frail for real work with a DSLR. And I still have the Novoflex BALPRO system, which is poorly designed IMO, but offers some movements. And of course there is the view camera system I use the most, the Cambo Actus Mini, of which I have a streamlined version. What a great system for my work! And I have taken a number of these view cameras into the field, but have found them pretty awkward, yet have done it just the same. However, I have not done it THAT often because they can be a pain. What if I told you there was a robust, small, view camera that I would not hesitate to take outside and into the field. You might ask: why do that when the wind (in the flat-state I live in -- Michigan) is almost always present and this would prevent any large focus stacks. I hear you, but that’s not the point here. With a small view camera, if it was really small and compact, I could us the tilt feature to compress what needs to be stacked in a single shot. Or, I could create what I call “short stacks,” taking a few close-focus images at key points in the image and stacking just those, perhaps three or four layers. But there is something more useful than that, which is the reason I am writing this piece. When the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS came along, I could see that at heart this lens is a tiny view camera all wrapped in a lens and one with a very small vertical component (no more than just mounting a lens), making it relatively easy to carry around and still have some of the main movements that I like in view cameras plus some unique features of its own. Perhaps the Hartblei Macro 120mm is not purposely designed for stacking in the field, but why not? I don’t find that this discourages me. What it does offer is the ability (through Tilt and Shift) to add depth-of-field to a shot, if need be, in a one-off photo. I may not have time (or the wind prevents) to make large stacks, but I can independently rotate to tilt and/or shift the lens to maximize the depth-of-field in a single shot or a short-stack in just a few seconds. The result is I get more depth-of-field by the tilt and shift than I otherwise would. In my work, every little angle counts. And it is this capability that makes this rather complex lens system worthwhile in the field as well as the studio. It shines in the studio! It is a heavy lens, but not as heavy and cumbersome as any of the view-camera systems I have otherwise used with equal features. The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator uses a sturdy collar that mounts directly to the tripod via an Arca-Swiss plate so that the Nikon D850 hangs off the back of the collar mount and the heavy lens hangs from the collar and does not hang on the camera flange. This is very important for a 2 lb. lens. The lens kit also comes with a side-focus wheel which provides 2:1 fine-focusing, much like the focus-pullers I am familiar with in video work. And the lens is called a “superrotator” has three rotations: (1) Rotation Collar (horizontal/vertical) (2) 360-degree Rotation Shift Movements (3) 360-degree Rotation Tilt Movements These rotations are each 360-degrees by increments (all the way around) and the shift and tilt rings can be used independently of one another in any combination. This feature, which is very desirable, is unlike any lens I have ever gotten my hands on and it is no kludge, but very well made and it works smoothly. As for the lens itself, this is the same 120mm Zeiss macro lens that Hasselblad has successfully used for many years, the “Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFI/CFE” of the Hasselblad last build. It has been thoroughly vetted and reviewed, so it is a known entity. And the lens itself has two separate focusing helicoids, a ring to get from infinity to 1.2m (170-degrees focus throw) and a second ring for close focus 1.2m to 75cm (160-degrees focus throw). In addition, there is a side focus which allows 2:1 fine-focusing. As a focus stacker, this is right up my alley. And I am told that this Zeiss lens has the best coating on the market; the blue channel is about 15-20% denser than other lenses. However, it’s true that the Zeiss lens used in the Hartblei implementation is not as well corrected as some of my exotic APO lenses, but most of those APO lenses have no infinity, are VERY restricted in their range, have very old coatings, odd-ball mounts, and so on. The Hartblei 120mm looks to be an all-around general purpose lens and not just a specialized lens, although it is special indeed. This particular Zeiss 120mm Macro Lens is well known and has been a feature of the Hasselblad system for many years, so we know what it is and isn’t. And while the optics may be slightly old fashioned, it is certainly fine enough, especially as Hartblei has configured it. Given its very low vertical profile, the sturdy tripod collar, and the refinement of the side-focus wheel, what you have here is a miniature view camera built into a lens, ready and able to work well in the field where I find it can be difficult to cart a larger view-camera system. This lens may have to be used stopped down more than I would like, but it’s portable and for stacking some photos, I can also take a shot wide open to get whatever bokeh I can and feather that in with the main stacked image shot at higher f-stops, if needs be. What is at least a psycho-social barrier is the price of the lens, which is over $5k. Ouch! For me, I am kind of used to high prices and I just have to sell a few more of the lenses I don’t use much. LOL. The Zeiss Otus lenses cost a lot and many of the lenses I most use do also, I guess that’s the price of admission. With the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm, what you do get is a lens of known quality (the famous Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFi/CFe), a strong tripod color, a very helpful side focus system, plus the (and let’s use their word) three “Superrotators.” As mentioned earlier, I have had all three Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) and their physical restrictions and too much chromatic aberration make them pretty-much unusable for my work. There is a learning curve with the Superrotator 120mm lens. There is a lot of functionality packed into a small package, in particular getting used to the three rotations. It’s a lot like the old test of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. And the little release buttons for the rotations are not totally easy to hold down and do the rotation at the same time. For my work, I probably will use the same (or a similar) setup each time, so this may not be a big problem. Also, I have to learn to recognize where the tilt is, since unlike most PC lenses, where the lens tilts, in the 120mm Superrotator it is the camera body that tilts. After all, the lens packs almost a complete view camera, with all of the main movements that I need, into a tiny (albeit a somewhat heavy) package. And while I may not use this lens all that much in the studio because I have so many temperamental exotic APO lenses on hand, I will take the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm f/4 lens into the field where it is just a single lens, albeit a heavy one, and get many of the movements I like and find in the standard view camera. I would like to hear from other owners of this particular lens. Here are a couple of photos, one with the camera setup and a first image with the Nikon D850 with the Hartblei Superrotator. This shot focuses on the leaves and the flower is not stacked. View full article
  9. Nikon D850, Zeiss 135mm f/2 Sonnar
  10. Since I’m always on the lookout for sharp and well-corrected lenses, APO if possible, over time I have kind of run out of lenses for the Nikon mount to find. I am sure there are some out there, but I don’t know where they are or can’t (or won’t) afford them. LOL. Another approach is to find ways to enhance the APO lenses that I already have. Let’s take my old standby the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO Lanthar, still the best all-around macro lens that I know of. Other lenses best it in this or that feature, but when you add up all the features, the CV-125 still comes out on top every time. One of the areas where the CV-125 didn’t quite match up to some of the best APO lenses is sharpness, whether you consider sharpness as acuity and resolution or, as I do, add to that how well corrected is the lens is for the various aberrations, etc. Yet, lately I did find another way to better compensate for some areas that the CV-125 fell ever so slightly short. And that is by using the lens on an automatic focus rail. I use StackShot, but there are also others out there. If I mount the CV-125 on the Nikon D850 on the StackShot auto-rail and set the step increment on the finer (shorter increment) side, the CV-125 very much benefits from regular short increment steps and focus stacking. The net result is to bring out or compensate for the very slight lack of sharpness I see when I stack the CV-125 by hand by turning the focus ring of the lens directly. My point is that using precise auto stacking brings out the sense of sharpness with this lens and I would imagine with any other lens. Here is a photo taken with the Nikon D850 with the CV-125 lens mounted on the StackShot auto-rail. To my eyes, the degree of refined sharpness is a little better than what I can do by hand. This image is reasonably sharp. So, for we focus stackers out there, using auto-rails may be a way to get better “sharpness” without having to spend a fortune for better lenses. Of course, how would I know because I have spent way too much on buying really well-corrected lenses. LOL.
  11. The Nikkor “O,” commonly referred to as the “CRT Nikkor” is a bit of an orphan. The “O” stands for the Greek number “octo” (8), due to their being eight optical elements in its construction. It is also reference to as an oscilloscope lens, because it was designed to monitor computer CRTs. It was not designed for daylight use and if use there produces all kinds of interesting effects. It is not an APO lens either, just the opposite. Yet, in its own way, it’s one of the sharpest lenses out there. Because of its anomalies, this is a limited-use lens. It does not reach infinity. It has no focus ring. It has an unusual mount and it is only really sharp wide open. And wide-open is stated as f/1.2 and that is fast in my book. In other words, wide-open the CRT Nikkor is so fast that its depth-of-field is razor thin, good for very little to most photographers. It has, by design, strong curvature to adapt to the curved screens of early computer monitors. Oh yes, and before I forget it, at about $1000 a pop, the lens can be expensive. And yet, it is one of my most used lenses and has produced what some folks tell me are the most lovely photos I have taken. I have to agree. So, what gives? Why does this oddball lens command so much of my attention? Aside from the results of this lens having a bit of a random factor, a throw of the dice, so to speak, most users that I have talked with like the quality of the bokeh. A lens that fast has some powerful bokeh, which photographers love. I know that I do. It has 12 aperture blades. Other problems are its rather narrow reproduction range and the fact that if it is to be used for something more than an atmospheric one-off shot, it has to be mounted on a focus rail and stacked. While many users of the Nikkor CRT use if for, as mentioned, single-shot somewhat blurry one-shot photos, there is another group of us who use the lens to stack focus because like a painter with a brush, we can paint in focus anywhere on the image, leaving everything else as a very lovely bokeh. As for me, I combine very nice bokeh with very sharp areas in high focus. I find the combination the focus and blurry background to be attractive. The only problem I personally have run into is that the very fine focusing required to paint focus well (using a focus rail) often takes a great many layers, which is tiresome, even for someone like myself who was brought up on tedium. As an archivist of popular culture, I created (along with a team) the largest collection of recorded music on the planet. And we did the same for one of the two largest movie and film databases. This included many millions of pieces of information, so I am very familiar with tedious procedures. To repeat, my one complaint about the Nikkor CRT lens is how almost painfully long it took to stack enough focus fine enough to produce the effect that I liked about the lens. Recently, with the acquisition of an automated focus rail (StackShot), I found that it could easily stack focus with the CRT Nikkor at the fineness I require and quite effortlessly. Although the Nikkor CRT lens has an aperture ring, what is most unique about this lens can be found mostly by using it wide open. As the aperture is increased, the lens accordingly becomes more and more normal and the bokeh effect, of course, is lost. I always use it wide open. So, my love of the lens came from taking that very, very fast lens (f/1.2) with its razor-thin depth of field and carefully painting it as you would a color, only here we are painting focus. The result is that we have a sea of bokeh with more than one point or area of the image in focus. In other words, one area might be right up front in the image, and others could be here or there in the distance. This is unlike a traditional photo, where there is a single plane and only the points (usually a single point) on the plane are in focus. Our eyes are directed to that point in the plane most in focus. However, in focus stacking the eye is free to roam and find its own point of focus. If there are many points of focus in stacked photo, we can decide which ones interest us. That is one of the features of focus stacking, this freedom to focus, whether we realize it or not. In my experience, the CRT Nikkor is not the easiest lens to use, but well worth learning to get what you want out of it, if you like the effects it produces. It took me a while to find how I want to use it. I first learned about the CRT Nikkor from the great lensman Bjørn Rørslett, who pointed it out to me and then I saw it exampled for me in an atmospheric shot by Akira, a member of NikonGear. I liked what I saw and could see the possibilities for my kind of work. I soon found myself stacking with it and liking it more and more. There are basically two versions of the Nikkor “O” and I have them both. One has some red lettering on the barrel. I can’t see any real difference between the two. So, if you can put up with a specialty lens and the time it takes to learn to use it, I very much recommend the CRT Nikkor. And I repeat, what did seem like a very limited lens to me, when used with the StackShot, is IMO a very much more flexible lens. Some examples are shown here.
  12. I have been stacking focus for many years now, so I’m no stranger to this technique. And the track of my learning curve (more like a spiral) has been fueled by my using better and better corrected lenses (APO) to enhance the stacking. In other words, the more finely corrected the lenses, the more careful I have to be in stacking, and on around. It’s like a Catch-22. I get lots of emails and messages about my photos. And not infrequently (at least from photographers) is the question as to whether I have tried one of the automated focus rails. In the past, I have taken a certain amount of pride in pointing out to these folks that I can stack quite well manually, thank you very much. I had no intention of varying my technique. Yet, as I pointed out above, the circular spiral of finer lenses and precise stacking led to more and better apochromatic lenses, like the Zeiss Otus series, the APO-El Nikkor 105, the Leica Elmarit-R APO 100mm macro, and so on. I pretty-much took these fine lenses in stride, hopefully learning to use them more and more skillfully. Then comes the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm industrial lens. I had kind of heard about this lens on and off for some time, but never had seen one come up used on Ebay and even trying to get availability and a firm price from the manufacturer and distributors was difficult. It was almost as if they did not want to sell to me because I was not a company that required industrial lens for line-scanning. I wrote them. I called them on the phone. A more detailed story about the Macro Varon would require a separate article. Suffice it to say that a good friend of mine, another photographer, sent me a FB message telling me that a Macro Varon just came up of Ebay and at an attractive price at that. It took all of perhaps one minute and I had bought it. It was not an impulse buy, because I had decided to get one quite a while ago, just not pay the retail price of about $4500. Ouch! The Makro Varon is a very highly corrected lens, certainly worthy of the name APO. However, perhaps most remarkable was that this was a lens built for a wide range of magnifications, which is unusual for industrial lenses, which usually have a very limited magnification range at which they are at optimum sharpness. The Macro Varon even has a separate ring to compensate for whichever reproduction-ratio is used, actually moving the inner lens elements around to accommodate that reproduction range. And, interestingly enough, its specs showed me that it could easily outperform the sensor of my fairly new Nikon D850. “Hmmmm, I mused. I’d like to see that.” And see it I did and pretty quickly too. But such a revelation soon led me to rethinking my bias against automated focus rails. It was not that I could not stack well, but I continue to get older and I am old enough as it is, and the little bumps, jars, and vibrations caused by me began to be more visible; they got in the way. Anyway, back to this blog. So, there I was, reading about the StackShot, when before I knew it my finger was hitting the return-key to order a copy. And to my surprise, the company (Cognisys) was right here in Michigan, only just up the road from where I live, in Traverse City. So, it was only a day or so before the automated-rail turned up at my door. However, learning to use StackShot was a bit of puzzle. It actually is very simple, but the manual is SO complete that finding the simple in it is hard. At least that’s how it struck me. I just wanted to get going right away and stack something, but although eventually that was easy, at first it was not so. And also, this device is meant for many kinds (or ways) of stacking. It took me a while to figure out what the name for what I wanted to do was. I finally did (Automatic Distance) and, as mentioned, it could not be simpler. Well, it could be explained more simply. LOL. As a software developer myself since the early 1970s, I recognized the kind of manual that indeed was precise, but is no beginner’s guide. I told them so. The problem was, IMO, how do I find what increment or step makes sense for the kind of close-up focus-stacking that I do. I don’t need the kind of detail one needs for stacking a bee’s knees, but I do need enough overlap of images to make the rendering of the stack smooth with no banding. Of course, I called the support line at Cognisys and spoke with a very nice person, only too willing to help. The problem was that at each question, each point where I was stuck, he pointed out that this or that particular choice was variable, very variable. So after fifteen minutes or so, I was right back where I started from, having to figure it out for myself. What’s new? Story of my life! LOL. And it took a while for me to run many stacks at different step-sizes to find a step-size that gave me what I was looking for and not one that took all day by over-stacking what probably couldn’t be seen. I wasn’t stacking a microscope image, but just a flower or two. I messaged Rik Littlefield, creator of Zerene Stacker, the stacking software I use, and asked him about over sampling. His response was that it won’t harm anything to make too many images, but it might add a wee bit of extra noise. After a few happy days with StackShot, here is where I am at. So far, it looks like the more detail you can get with the smaller increments with Stackshot, the better the result, within reason. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions thereof, your choice. I found myself working with MLS, thousandths of an inch, a setting of 20 Mls seems pretty good. 10 MLS is slightly better, but perhaps not worth the extra time, etc. A lot depends on keeping natural light even, which is hard with variable cloudiness. My thoughts on using the StackShot automatic-rail are positive. I have stacked for many years, always barely touching the focus barrel or whatever mechanism as required. I got pretty good at it, but also made little accidental bumps and knocks, which have never helped at all. And, as I drill down on these ultra-sharp industrial lenses that can challenge the sensor of even the Nikon D850, there is less room for user-caused error and a greater demand for regular precise increments. After many years of focus stacking, my most valuable learned skills are in setting up and composing the shot, although I have always done my best to move carefully through all the steps that focus-stacking requires. However, having tried out StackShot, I am convinced it has a lot to offer me in stability and consistency, leaving me more time to consider what shot I want to take. I am enjoying that. I have a fair amount of testing the Stackshot yet to do, but I am already getting a handle on it. By testing various step-sizes, I am already converging on what seems to work for me. I’m not doing photo-micography, but rather just simple close-up and macro photography. Of the many options that StackShot offers, the one I seem to be gravitating to is Automatic-Distance, which allows me to choose the granularity, the step-size, that works best for my work. In other words, I have one main step size that will be applied no matter what scope or distance I want to cover. Should that not be fine enough, I can easily make if finer, etc. The only caveat might be with spherical objects, where following the curve demands finer steps, IMO. So, the step sizes I have settled on should work. Physically, the StackShot is very well made, meaning it is robust, as strong or stronger than any other focus rail I have and I have ten or so. Its vertical profile for my camera is low, about as low as it could be and I have fitted it with my favorite RRS Arca quick-release clamp, the one with a larger knob. I can see no way that this is not better than what I have been doing myself by hand. And the program allows me to introduce all kinds of latency time, which I have done, so that at each movement of the auto rail, I take a second or so to let any vibrations created by the mechanism movement subside. The only problem, which has nothing to do with StackShot, is that since I use natural light, on a variably-cloudy day the lighting changes from moment to moment and affects the stack. To counter this, I would have to be standing there, slightly modifying the shutter moment-by-moment to keep the light stable. That kind of takes the auto out of automatic, but that’s the price we pay for natural light. It varies. So, my initial impression of the StackShot is not only good, but very good, almost something like “where-have-you-been-all-my-life?” good. I like it. As for taking the time I am used to spending stacking focus at the camera away from me, which I traditionally associate with meditative absorption on my part, it does not seem a problem. My hard-won skills are seeing the shot and setting up for it. With StackShot, I do the creative work and let an expert step through the mechanics while I do other stuff. Makes sense and seems fine. StackShot is easily rough enough to take into the field, provided you realize that it is heavy and if you don’t have any wind. Here in Michigan, I wait to see each day if there is no wind at first light. Rare, but it happens. A Hidden Surprise Surprise, surprise! There is almost always a surprise with new equipment. Using stackshot made one thing very clear. By standardizing the process of focus stacking (the mechanical part) all lenses were treated equally. It’s true that I always did my best to incrementally stack focus as carefully as I could. But, I cannot pretend that on any given day, I may have stacked looser or tighter, even or less even. I can only guess at the variation. But one thing is clear so far from using the StackShot and that is that the regularity of increments (the step size) reveals more clearly than I have ever seen the true or actual difference between any of these highly corrected lenses. It is clear that some of these lens differences were veiled by the more organic (sloppy) process of stacking by hand and not by auto-stacking. However, by regulating the stacking process, it creates a much more level playing field. And I found it very easy to see the differences between lenses, many of which I could never before be certain about. And so, whatever else auto-rail stacking provides (and there is a lot) a wonderful bonus in allowing me to see more clearly than ever how lenses differ, something I have always strained to see (regardless of all the graphs) for myself. By stacking in a more regulated manner removes (at least for me) a veil that has been obscuring these difference all of this time. Below are a couple of tables that might be useful. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions there of. 1 Millimeter = 39.3701 Thousandth of an Inch 1 thousandth of an inch in is equal to 25.40 μm Thousandths-inch TO MILLIMETER 10-mils = 0.254 Millimeters 15-mils = 0.381 Millimeters 20-mils = 0.508 Millimeters 25-mils = 0.635 Millimeters 30-mils = 0.762 Millimeters 35-mils = 0.889 Millimeters 39-mils = 0.9906 Millimeters 39.37 mils = 1 Millimeter MILLIMETER to Thousandths-inch .25 MM = 9.84 Mils .333 MM = 13.11 Mils .5 MM = 19.685 Mils .666 MM = 26.22 .75 MM =29.5276 Mils 1 MM = 39.37 Mils 1.25 MM = 49.2126 Mils 1.5 MM = 59.055 Mils 2 MM = 78.7 Mils 2.5 MM = 98.42 Mils 3 MM = 118.11 Mils 3.5 = 137.8 Mils 4 = 157.5 Mils 4.5 = 177.2 Mils 5 = 197 Mils Here are three example images, both done with StackShot, one with the Schneider Macro Varon f/4.5 and another with the APO-El Nikkor 105mm f/5.6. A third one is with the Nikkor “O” CRT lens. Also, a poor-quality shot (shot at night in bad lighting) of the StackShot controller (Vecro-ed to a post) and the basic StackShot setup. Not the RRS Quick-Releas Clamp with the large knob.
  13. I have been stacking focus for many years now, so I’m no stranger to this technique. And the track of my learning curve (more like a spiral) has been fueled by my using better and better corrected lenses (APO) to enhance the stacking. In other words, the more finely corrected the lenses, the more careful I have to be in stacking, and on around. It’s like a Catch-22. I get lots of emails and messages about my photos. And not infrequently (at least from photographers) is the question as to whether I have tried one of the automated focus rails. In the past, I have taken a certain amount of pride in pointing out to these folks that I can stack quite well manually, thank you very much. I had no intention of varying my technique. Yet, as I pointed out above, the circular spiral of finer lenses and precise stacking led to more and better apochromatic lenses, like the Zeiss Otus series, the APO-El Nikkor 105, the Leica Elmarit-R APO 100mm macro, and so on. I pretty-much took these fine lenses in stride, hopefully learning to use them more and more skillfully. Then comes the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm industrial lens. I had kind of heard about this lens on and off for some time, but never had seen one come up used on Ebay and even trying to get availability and a firm price from the manufacturer and distributors was difficult. It was almost as if they did not want to sell to me because I was not a company that required industrial lens for line-scanning. I wrote them. I called them on the phone. A more detailed story about the Macro Varon would require a separate article. Suffice it to say that a good friend of mine, another photographer, sent me a FB message telling me that a Macro Varon just came up of Ebay and at an attractive price at that. It took all of perhaps one minute and I had bought it. It was not an impulse buy, because I had decided to get one quite a while ago, just not pay the retail price of about $4500. Ouch! The Makro Varon is a very highly corrected lens, certainly worthy of the name APO. However, perhaps most remarkable was that this was a lens built for a wide range of magnifications, which is unusual for industrial lenses, which usually have a very limited magnification range at which they are at optimum sharpness. The Macro Varon even has a separate ring to compensate for whichever reproduction-ratio is used, actually moving the inner lens elements around to accommodate that reproduction range. And, interestingly enough, its specs showed me that it could easily outperform the sensor of my fairly new Nikon D850. “Hmmmm, I mused. I’d like to see that.” And see it I did and pretty quickly too. But such a revelation soon led me to rethinking my bias against automated focus rails. It was not that I could not stack well, but I continue to get older and I am old enough as it is, and the little bumps, jars, and vibrations caused by me began to be more visible; they got in the way. Anyway, back to this blog. So, there I was, reading about the StackShot, when before I knew it my finger was hitting the return-key to order a copy. And to my surprise, the company (Cognisys) was right here in Michigan, only just up the road from where I live, in Traverse City. So, it was only a day or so before the automated-rail turned up at my door. However, learning to use StackShot was a bit of puzzle. It actually is very simple, but the manual is SO complete that finding the simple in it is hard. At least that’s how it struck me. I just wanted to get going right away and stack something, but although eventually that was easy, at first it was not so. And also, this device is meant for many kinds (or ways) of stacking. It took me a while to figure out what the name for what I wanted to do was. I finally did (Automatic Distance) and, as mentioned, it could not be simpler. Well, it could be explained more simply. LOL. As a software developer myself since the early 1970s, I recognized the kind of manual that indeed was precise, but is no beginner’s guide. I told them so. The problem was, IMO, how do I find what increment or step makes sense for the kind of close-up focus-stacking that I do. I don’t need the kind of detail one needs for stacking a bee’s knees, but I do need enough overlap of images to make the rendering of the stack smooth with no banding. Of course, I called the support line at Cognisys and spoke with a very nice person, only too willing to help. The problem was that at each question, each point where I was stuck, he pointed out that this or that particular choice was variable, very variable. So after fifteen minutes or so, I was right back where I started from, having to figure it out for myself. What’s new? Story of my life! LOL. And it took a while for me to run many stacks at different step-sizes to find a step-size that gave me what I was looking for and not one that took all day by over-stacking what probably couldn’t be seen. I wasn’t stacking a microscope image, but just a flower or two. I messaged Rik Littlefield, creator of Zerene Stacker, the stacking software I use, and asked him about over sampling. His response was that it won’t harm anything to make too many images, but it might add a wee bit of extra noise. After a few happy days with StackShot, here is where I am at. So far, it looks like the more detail you can get with the smaller increments with Stackshot, the better the result, within reason. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions thereof, your choice. I found myself working with MLS, thousandths of an inch, a setting of 20 Mls seems pretty good. 10 MLS is slightly better, but perhaps not worth the extra time, etc. A lot depends on keeping natural light even, which is hard with variable cloudiness. My thoughts on using the StackShot automatic-rail are positive. I have stacked for many years, always barely touching the focus barrel or whatever mechanism as required. I got pretty good at it, but also made little accidental bumps and knocks, which have never helped at all. And, as I drill down on these ultra-sharp industrial lenses that can challenge the sensor of even the Nikon D850, there is less room for user-caused error and a greater demand for regular precise increments. After many years of focus stacking, my most valuable learned skills are in setting up and composing the shot, although I have always done my best to move carefully through all the steps that focus-stacking requires. However, having tried out StackShot, I am convinced it has a lot to offer me in stability and consistency, leaving me more time to consider what shot I want to take. I am enjoying that. I have a fair amount of testing the Stackshot yet to do, but I am already getting a handle on it. By testing various step-sizes, I am already converging on what seems to work for me. I’m not doing photo-micography, but rather just simple close-up and macro photography. Of the many options that StackShot offers, the one I seem to be gravitating to is Automatic-Distance, which allows me to choose the granularity, the step-size, that works best for my work. In other words, I have one main step size that will be applied no matter what scope or distance I want to cover. Should that not be fine enough, I can easily make if finer, etc. The only caveat might be with spherical objects, where following the curve demands finer steps, IMO. So, the step sizes I have settled on should work. Physically, the StackShot is very well made, meaning it is robust, as strong or stronger than any other focus rail I have and I have ten or so. Its vertical profile for my camera is low, about as low as it could be and I have fitted it with my favorite RRS Arca quick-release clamp, the one with a larger knob. I can see no way that this is not better than what I have been doing myself by hand. And the program allows me to introduce all kinds of latency time, which I have done, so that at each movement of the auto rail, I take a second or so to let any vibrations created by the mechanism movement subside. The only problem, which has nothing to do with StackShot, is that since I use natural light, on a variably-cloudy day the lighting changes from moment to moment and affects the stack. To counter this, I would have to be standing there, slightly modifying the shutter moment-by-moment to keep the light stable. That kind of takes the auto out of automatic, but that’s the price we pay for natural light. It varies. So, my initial impression of the StackShot is not only good, but very good, almost something like “where-have-you-been-all-my-life?” good. I like it. As for taking the time I am used to spending stacking focus at the camera away from me, which I traditionally associate with meditative absorption on my part, it does not seem a problem. My hard-won skills are seeing the shot and setting up for it. With StackShot, I do the creative work and let an expert step through the mechanics while I do other stuff. Makes sense and seems fine. StackShot is easily rough enough to take into the field, provided you realize that it is heavy and if you don’t have any wind. Here in Michigan, I wait to see each day if there is no wind at first light. Rare, but it happens. A Hidden Surprise Surprise, surprise! There is almost always a surprise with new equipment. Using stackshot made one thing very clear. By standardizing the process of focus stacking (the mechanical part) all lenses were treated equally. It’s true that I always did my best to incrementally stack focus as carefully as I could. But, I cannot pretend that on any given day, I may have stacked looser or tighter, even or less even. I can only guess at the variation. But one thing is clear so far from using the StackShot and that is that the regularity of increments (the step size) reveals more clearly than I have ever seen the true or actual difference between any of these highly corrected lenses. It is clear that some of these lens differences were veiled by the more organic (sloppy) process of stacking by hand and not by auto-stacking. However, by regulating the stacking process, it creates a much more level playing field. And I found it very easy to see the differences between lenses, many of which I could never before be certain about. And so, whatever else auto-rail stacking provides (and there is a lot) a wonderful bonus in allowing me to see more clearly than ever how lenses differ, something I have always strained to see (regardless of all the graphs) for myself. By stacking in a more regulated manner removes (at least for me) a veil that has been obscuring these difference all of this time. Below are a couple of tables that might be useful. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions there of. 1 Millimeter = 39.3701 Thousandth of an Inch 1 thousandth of an inch in is equal to 25.40 μm Thousandths-inch TO MILLIMETER 10-mils = 0.254 Millimeters 15-mils = 0.381 Millimeters 20-mils = 0.508 Millimeters 25-mils = 0.635 Millimeters 30-mils = 0.762 Millimeters 35-mils = 0.889 Millimeters 39-mils = 0.9906 Millimeters 39.37 mils = 1 Millimeter MILLIMETER to Thousandths-inch .25 MM = 9.84 Mils .333 MM = 13.11 Mils .5 MM = 19.685 Mils .666 MM = 26.22 .75 MM =29.5276 Mils 1 MM = 39.37 Mils 1.25 MM = 49.2126 Mils 1.5 MM = 59.055 Mils 2 MM = 78.7 Mils 2.5 MM = 98.42 Mils 3 MM = 118.11 Mils 3.5 = 137.8 Mils 4 = 157.5 Mils 4.5 = 177.2 Mils 5 = 197 Mils Here are three example images, both done with StackShot, one with the Schneider Macro Varon f/4.5 and another with the APO-El Nikkor 105mm f/5.6. A third one is with the Nikkor “O” CRT lens. Also, a poor-quality shot (shot at night in bad lighting) of the StackShot controller (Vecro-ed to a post) and the basic StackShot setup. Note the RRS Quick-Release Clamp with the large knob.
  14. Dallas: Maybe I will do a post on the poster photography
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