Helicon Focus creates sharp focus throughout your images
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Helicon Focus creates sharp focus throughout your images

By Steve Baczewski

Ansel Adams was part of a group of San Francisco realistic landscape photographers who called themselves Group f/64. The name came from their desire to achieve maximum depth of field (DOF).

However, attaining maximum DOF can be challenging, especially in macro photography. Stopping a lens down to its smallest aperture extends DOF but introduces diffraction. Enter Helicon Focus software (US$250) from Helicon Soft (http://www.heliconsoft.com). It produces an edge-to-edge focused image by combining partially focused areas from multiple files of a scene.

The Helicon Focus interface and process is amazingly simple to use considering the task. The hardest work is taking the pictures. A tripod is a must. It’s important to take enough pictures of a scene, incrementally changing the focusing distance with each consecutive shot. Small incremental movements of the focus barrel work best for macro shooting, while broader focusing is fine for most landscapes. It’s very similar to taking a successful panoramic by carefully overlapping shots.

Helicon compensates for change in object size that occurs from refocusing. Files for the image are imported in consecutive order and appear as small thumbnails in a source palette to the right side of the preview window. You can delete files but the thumbnail size and the order they appear in can’t be adjusted, which is frustrating for proper editing. For optimization of your image, the Smooth and Radius sliders adjust the transitional areas of the multiple files.

I loaded 25 RAW files from my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, and in a little more than a minute, I had a stunning image. You can remove artifacts using a retouching brush that allows you to clone from a selected source file to the resulting image.
Images can be saved as JPEGs, TIFFs, PNGs, or PSDs. Maximum DOF has a profound image impact, and Helicon Focus does a wonderful job.

Rating: 8 out of 10

(This review is brought to you courtesy of "Layers Magazine": http://layersmagazine.com/

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