HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Announcement of new releases, bugs, support, suggestions
Post Reply
ktgivens
Posts: 5
Joined: 07.05.2017 19:33

HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by ktgivens » 13.06.2019 14:56

Generally I rely on HF for 100% of my stacking needs. And FYI, I leave HF in Pyramid mode. Recently I had a small stack (about 6 images as I recall) that HF simply could not get right. The picture was a closeup of two odd-looking flies coupling. Like most flies, they had numerous protruding hairs and HF just couldn't get them aligned. Out of boredom I tried stacking them in Photoshop CC and the results were vastly better--- the stacked image was at least usable. I went back to HF and loosened the image alignment settings and that didn't help. Yesterday I updated HF from version 6 to the new 7.0 update and tried again. Unfortunately, same outcome.

It seems to me that if Photoshop can pull this off, then a dedicated stacking program like HF should not have so much trouble. Am I doing something wrong? I've attached the final stacked image from PSCC and from HF. Both are downsized from their 6000x4000 pixel size so you're not seeing full detail, but the alignment artifacts and general lack of detail in the HF image are still pretty obvious.
Attachments
copulating thick-headed flies 3 Myopa species on wild geranium shenks ferry lancaster county 2019 HF stack small.jpg
Helicon focus
(1.24 MiB) Not downloaded yet
copulating thick-headed flies 2 Myopa species on wild geranium shenks ferry lancaster county 2019 PS stack small.jpg
Photoshop
(1.09 MiB) Not downloaded yet

User avatar
Catherine
Posts: 207
Joined: 29.04.2019 22:38

Re: HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by Catherine » 16.06.2019 09:42

Could you please upload your stack to our server (as described at https://www.heliconsoft.com/ftp-server/) and we will see what is happening.
If you are user of GoogleDrive, DropBox, OneDrive or other cloud service, you can upload your files there and send us a link.

Also, did you try method B in Helicon Focus 7.5.4? in many cases it may cope better than C.

ktgivens
Posts: 5
Joined: 07.05.2017 19:33

Re: HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by ktgivens » 19.06.2019 06:23

I could not get your ftp address to open in either Windows Explorer or Chrome--- not sure what I'm doing wrong. So instead, you will find the images at this Dropbox link:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/az6tl8ngg3948n4/AABFTTP1K6MgHZZVu2WbFcGOa?dl=0

It's a challenging stack since the image is not completely stationary--- a constant wind kept moving the plant on which the flies sat.

I tried your suggestion and re-ran the stack using Helicon Focus on method "B"--- the result is better than the pyramid technique, but still not nearly as clean as the Photoshop CC result.

I'll be interested to see if you can come up with some adjustment in HF that equals Photoshop.

User avatar
Catherine
Posts: 207
Joined: 29.04.2019 22:38

Re: HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by Catherine » 26.06.2019 23:07

Thank you for sending over the stack. Please try experimenting with rotation compensation in Preferences\Autoadjustments (https://www.heliconsoft.com/focus/help/english/HeliconFocus.html#HF_ADJ)
Increasing Rotate value does help achieving a better result in this case.

ktgivens
Posts: 5
Joined: 07.05.2017 19:33

Re: HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by ktgivens » 27.06.2019 00:18

Thanks Catherine for your suggestion. I tried increasing the rotation compensation by an extra 20 degrees. This should have been more than enough. I agree that this made a slight improvement, but the result is still a very distant second to Photoshop CC.

I will continue to rely on Helicon Focus for the bulk of my photostacking needs, but it looks like there are occasional situations where HF loses its crown to Photoshop. I suspect their Auto-align algorithm is simply a little more sophisticated than HF's. Just my guess.

Thanks again for your help,

Kerry

turtlegurl
Posts: 2
Joined: 19.07.2019 22:13

Re: HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by turtlegurl » 31.07.2019 23:15

Kerry, I have been researching stacking software in recent months. In that brief time, I did find that Photoshop CC was able to handle stacking an object that was blown by the wind better than Helicon Focus. In HF, I could see the multiple outlines of the different locations of the moving object. Yes, I know it's better to avoid any motion, but sometimes in the field you have no choice.

I also suspect that Photoshop must have done a better job with auto alignment. Having said that, I found other shortcomings of Photoshop that led me to evaluate Helicon Focus which overall does a better job stacking stationary objects. I also like the way you can pan over the stacked image to see the source for that spot vs. looking at the layer masks in PS.

I have not yet tested the rotation setting to see if that improves stacking in HF, but will try it later on when I have time and report back.

ktgivens
Posts: 5
Joined: 07.05.2017 19:33

Re: HF fails but Photoshop CC succeeds: alignment issue?

Post by ktgivens » 18.12.2019 02:10

Hi turtlegurl. Since my original posting, I have seen the same situation repeatedly now, namely, when dealing with a stack that is less than perfect due to wind or certain other issues, Photoshop CC consistently produces a cleaner, more usable image then Helicon Focus. Fiddling with rotation settings made no difference for me.

With PSCC, I'm seeing less haloing on hairy subjects (like the fuzzy stems of certain plants). But there is no arguing that the stacking workflow in PSCC is far less efficient than what Helicon's stacking engine provides. With PSCC, the multistep process up front and the painfully slow, final image combining step is just not practical.

Hopefully the geniuses at Helicon can emulate whatever it is that makes PSCC work better and incorporate it into the next major update of their product.

In the meantime, I've decided the best way to improve the quality of my image stacks is to get a camera that has focus stacking as a baked-in feature---specifically, I got a Nikon D850.

This was a big jump---until now all of my digital SLRs have been Sony/Minolta. Due to a tragic engineering design, it is apparently impossible for current Sony cameras to make the sort of sequential, fine adjustments to lens focus that are necessary for automated, programmable focus stacking. To capture a stack with any Sony digital camera, the entire camera must be moved manually, in tiny increments, on a geared rail, taking a picture after each camera move. Building a stack this way can take me 2-5 minutes sometimes, depending on how many pictures I think the stack requires. (yes, you can automate the process with a device like Stack Shot, and I own one--- but I find it to be highly inconvenient to use in the field. Too many cords, too much additional weight in my camera bag).

In comparison, competing camera brands with built-in, automated focus stacking are very quick---they can fire off a full stack of images in a couple seconds, no camera movement (or touching of the camera) at all. If you can capture a stack in seconds instead of minutes, there is much less opportunity for an intermittent wind to ruin your stack.

Post Reply