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Tough Camera – Focus Stacking & Bracketing

You know the Tough cameras are…tough, but did you know they’re also extremely capable? The TG-7 is a compact macro powerhouse. Combined with its waterproofing, dustproofing, freezeproofing, and ability to survive a substantial crush and/or tumble, it’s the perfect camera for the tiniest and harshest shooting scenarios.

But what if you only want to take photos at the park on a nice day? There is that, too.

This article focuses on two of my favorite TG-7 capabilities: Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing

Focus Stacking

The TG-7 can get close. Crazy close. Up to 7x (35mm equivalent), actually. However, when increasing magnification, the depth of field decreases. If you’re looking to increase depth of field without having to combine multiple images on a computer later on, Focus Stacking is right up your alley.

Focus Stacking will vary focus over a selected number of shots (3-10) and then combine the individual shots into a single image in the camera. Let’s say you found a miniature flower to shoot but the depth of field at your desired composition only details the front of the subject. With Focus Stacking on, the camera will capture separate photos down the flower towards infinity and generate a single combined image in a matter of seconds. The result is a fully detailed flower.

 TG-7 • 18 mm • 1/80 s • F4.9 • ISO 800 • Focus Bracketing Example

TG-7 Focus Stacking Tips:

  • Turn on Focus Stacking by moving the dial to the microscope position and selecting the sub mode Focus Stacking option on the screen.
  • Focus Stacking settings can be accessed in Shooting Menu 2.
  • If you’re using flash, the FD-1 Flash Diffuser attachment will help soften the light. I recommend using natural light or off-camera continuous light to give you more shooting flexibility and speedier stacking.
  • Stability is crucial. Using a tripod or resting the camera on a static object (e.g., directly on the ground or a fallen tree) will let you keep the ISO down with a slower shutter speed. You can increase the ISO for faster snaps, but really high ISO can have an impact on final image quality.

 TG-7 • 9.65 mm • 1/40 s • F4.5 • ISO 250 • Focus Stacking Example

  • Set the Start Waiting Time in the Focus Stacking settings. You don’t want the stack process to start right away because pressing the shutter down will cause the camera to move slightly. Setting a small delay will ensure you avoid any movement at the beginning.
  • If the stack doesn’t process to your liking the first time, try increasing or decreasing the set number of shots. If you’re still having issues, try changing the distance to your subject and/or your focus point. Lastly, try changing the angle of approach. You will sometimes get a halo-type effect when there is increased separation between your subject and the background. This can quickly be fixed in processing later and usually is not apparent enough to require removal.
  • Autofocus will help you target an image, but manual focus will give you more control over magnification (if you want it). If you think autofocus isn’t getting the subject close enough, hit OK from your shooting screen and use the arrows to find focus mode options. Select MF, then use the arrows to move focus forward and backwards. If you’re trying to increase magnification, hold the down arrow.

Focus Bracketing

Focus Bracketing has all the feel of Focus Stacking but you can set the number of shots to 10, 20, or 30, and you have to stack the images yourself n a computer later. The main benefit of this is that you have more control over the stacking process. The main disadvantage is the extra legwork.

TG-7 Focus Bracketing Tips:

  • Turn on Focus Bracketing by moving the dial to the microscope position and selecting the sub mode Focus BKT option on the screen.
  • Focus BKT settings can be accessed in Shooting Menu 2.
  • Like Focus Stacking, stability, setting the Start Waiting Time, and using manual focus are all helpful.
  • If manual focus doesn’t appear to isolate your subject very well during the bracketing process, you may get better results using autofocus.
  • In the Focus Bracketing settings, you can also change the focus differential between Narrow/Normal/Wide. I recommend having the narrow differential set for most macro subjects. If you’re not getting enough of your subject in focus with the set number of shots, increasing the differential will help. It all depends on the subject, your distance and the magnification. There is no magic formula and the more you practice, the better you will get.
  • Try shooting in RAW! If you’re going to spend some time in post )processing on a computer) anyway, why not try shooting unprocessed images to get the most out of each shot? You can change the still image quality easily by hitting the OK button while on the shooting screen and scrolling to the image quality options.
  • There are various software options and Adobe Photoshop can be used to stack images together by bringing them into the software as individual layers. From there, it’s as smiple as Edit>Auto-Align Layers, and then Auto-Blend Layers. There is also dedicated stacking software available like Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker, which are recommended if you’re becoming a serious stacker.

 TG-7 • 18 mm • 1/15 s • F4.9 • ISO 400 • Focus Bracketing Example

 TG-7 • 18 mm • 1/8 s • F4.9 • ISO 400 • Focus Bracketing Example

As previously mentioned, the TG-7 is an extremely capable and nearly indestructible compact camera. When I first left my house with it on a trip to the local woods, I didn’t end up leaving my front yard for about 15 minutes because I became immediately obsessed with shooting tiny mushrooms I found. I couldn’t believe it had similar functionality to OM SYSTEM’s interchangeable lens cameras, all while fitting in a pocket. I recommend this camera to anyone that wants all-in-one macro capabilities in a small, sturdy package.

 TG-7 • 9 mm • 1/125 s • F4.5 • ISO 250 • Focus Stacking Example

 TG-7 • 18 mm • 1/8 s • F4.9 • ISO 400 • Focus Bracketing Example

 TG-7 • 5.4 mm • 1/160 s • F3.2 • ISO 400 • Focus Bracketing Example

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