Panasonic Lumix cameras & Post Focus

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TheDocAUS
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Panasonic Lumix cameras & Post Focus

Post by TheDocAUS »

I recently purchased a Panasonic Lumix G9 for one feature only, Post Focus. Only the high end Lumix’s have 6K Post Focus, other models use 4K. A 4K video gives you an 8 meg jpg out of the camera while the 6K video gives a 18 meg jpg. Stacking the 6K in Helicon gives you a 53 meg image. The file size in Helicon can vary by about 10%. Generally I find it about 2.5 times the original file size, however the large number of video frames may explain why the file size is closer to three times using 6K.

The Post Focus feature that can be used for focus stacking. Post Focus is a two-stage process. After placing the camera in Post Focus mode and pressing the shutter release the camera finds all the focus points in the image and then takes a 6K video of all those focus points. The process takes about 2 seconds after pressing the shutter release. The lens must be in autofocus mode.

You can stack images in-camera using the G9’s touch screen or use a program like Helicon Focus. I was going to publish some information and results after I concluded my tests, but now I will document the journey.

My Equipment
• Panasonic G9 (a Micro 4/3s camera);
• Olympus 60mm macro lens. That gives you 120mm, in 35mm speak;
• Raynox DCR150 and DCR250. Both Raynoxes can be attached to the Olympus using a Step-Down Ring 46-43mm; and
• Sokani X21 Compact LED Video Light mounted on the flash shoe for light. You cannot use flash with Post Focus, only continuous light.

Learn the camera & lens
I learnt how to focus stack in the wild manually, not with a rail, Helicon tube or the like. Your inclination is to use Post Focus straight away but you must take time to learn the camera and the new lens.

The G9 is highly configurable and can be challenging. I focused on the key aspects like AF modes, camera modes, etc and obviously the Post Focus mode on the camera, which is automated to the most part. PF only works if the lens is in autofocus mode.

Initial tests
I started indoors in low light. I figured if it works in low light, good light will not be an issue. I mounted a small flower on a specimen stand and the camera on a mini tripod. My observations were:
• getting your technique and process correct is important, using the camera is harder than watching a video! Practice, practice, practice…
• there is a learning curve when using a new macro lens, especially in autofocus mode (I mostly use MF for macro work);
• Post Focus takes about 2 seconds for each video clip, it has impressive speed compared to manual stacking. Multiple videos can be made in under a minute in the field;
• there was minor movement in the video, I am tracking down the source of this but I must buy a remote trigger to test one theory. Minor movement is having minimal effect on the image, just a few artefacts in Helicon Focus;
• I could not compare an in-camera stack to a Helicon Focus stack from the same video. I’ve not been able to save the stack damage in-camera, I can view it but not save it. Pretty sure it’s a user error;
• Post Focus works with the DCR150 and the DCR250 attached, even in low light. The whole process seems to take slightly longer by about ½ second, and there is softness the images around the edges. A lot more testing must be done before I can express a definitive view;
• To process the 6K video from the Panasonic G9 in Helicon Focus, you need version 6.8;
• In Helicon Focus Mode B creates artefacts visible at full resolution. No such problem exists with Mode C, except along the bottom of the frame. The artefacts were different between the two modes;
• I was able to do achieve a handheld Post Focus image outside, but this is not recommended. Use a tripod or a stick to support the camera.

Using the G9 and processing the 6K video in Helicon Focus gives you extraordinary speed and also great images, once you get the process and technique sorted. It is set to change in-field focus stacking once other camera makers follow Panasonic.

The G9 has a high resolution mode and I am thinking of using that feature to do a manual stack, in due course, that may give me Helicon Focus stack of over 200 meg. The camera also has a focus stacking mode using raw files, which I’m yet to explore.

I still have much to learn and refine, but the future looks promising. Here is an early test image with minimal post-processing, including the artefact along the bottom of the image.

Image

Cactusdave
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Post by Cactusdave »

I encouraged Michael to start this thread in a PM as I too am getting to grips with a combination of the Panasonic Lumix G9 and the Olympus 60mm F2.8 macro lens.

I bought this combination for a variety of reasons. I have been finding my existing Canon gear increasingly heavy and awkward to carry in the field. The G9 offered not only a reduction in weight, especially when paired with comparable lenses; the Oly. 60mm for field macro and the Panasonic 100-400mm telephoto for birds and wildlife, but also some interesting new features like focus bracketing, in camera stacking and post focus using the very fast 6K burst acquisition described in the previous post.

Like Michael, I'm finding the G9 learning curve quite steep, with something of the same menu and function overload for which the comparable Olympus cameras, the OM-D E-M5 Mk II and the E-M1 MkII have been criticised. I am grateful for Michael having gone ahead with 6K post focus where I hope to follow at some point. I would be interested to know how the results compare with results from focus bracketing, something the camera is also capable of. Very nice results have been reported using focus bracketing http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/v ... 575#186575 including of static subjects in the field http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/v ... 860#230860 It is important to emphasise again that focus bracketing and in camera focus stacking are NOT the same thing. All forms of focus bracketing require out of camera software stacking of the acquired images by a stacking program. The G9 however will perform a stacking operation in camera on images acquired using the 6K Post Focus/Focus Stacking function with a function called 'Merging Multiple Pictures (Focus Stacking)'.

I thought, with Michael's permission, I would post some very simple field macro shots from the mint flowers in the garden. These flower for a long time and are a magnet for all nectar lovers. All these images are taken hand held, available light, no reflectors or diffusers. Panasonic G9 with the Oly. 60mm F2.8. Both in camera body and in lens image stabilisation set on. ISO 200. All images are crops from the original 20 Mpixel JPEGs. Hopefully they give some idea of how well this combination of lens and camera work together.

Image

Details: F5.0, 1/160th second exposure.

Image

Details F9.0 1/200th exposure


Image


Details: F5.0, 1/160th exposure

Image

Details: This is a hard crop showing off the proboscis, ~ 80%. F5.0, 1/320th exposure

Image

Details: Holly blue butterfly, F5.0, 1/125 exposure.

Image

Details: Small moth, F5.0 1/320th exposure. Showing off its proboscis very nicely.

I'm very pleased with this combination of camera and lens for field use with available light. It's fast focusing, light and the 60mm lens is first class. I'm sure the sphisticated image stabilisation is helping a lot with getting a reasonable number of keepers at these relatively slow shutter speeds. The higher pixel count compared with earlier micro 4/3 cameras makes harder crops practicable, and the camera has a much better high ISO performance, again compared with earlier micro 4/3 cameras I have experienced. ISO 1600 is perfectly useable with a light touch of denoise.

Edited 31-08-18 to remove an error.
Last edited by Cactusdave on Fri Aug 31, 2018 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
Leitz Ortholux 1, Zeiss standard, Nikon Diaphot inverted, Canon photographic gear

Cactusdave
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Post by Cactusdave »

My bad. Didn't read either the manual or Michael's post properly. You CAN stack 6K post focus images in camera with the G9 with a function called merging. I will edit my original post to avoid propagating the error.
Leitz Ortholux 1, Zeiss standard, Nikon Diaphot inverted, Canon photographic gear

Cactusdave
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Post by Cactusdave »

You mention using Helicon Focus version 6.8 to process the image as an alternative to in camera processing. I presume the camera saves the 6K focus stack video burst as an MP4 file which can be imported into Helicon with the video import function? Is there another way to extract selected frames from this file to allow stacking with different software like Zerene? In my experience Zerene handles misalignments better than Helicon and there is more flexibility to customise stacking.
Leitz Ortholux 1, Zeiss standard, Nikon Diaphot inverted, Canon photographic gear

TheDocAUS
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Post by TheDocAUS »

The Post Focus Mode creates the 6K video (some camera models can only do 4K). The camera can then use that video and make a focus stack and save it as a 18 meg jpg (8 meg for 4K video).

So the video and the jpg stack can be done in camera. Great for checking a stack in the field. You can stack all images in the video or select a range only using the G9's touch screen. See here (GH5, but very similar to G9): https://youtu.be/4v7b7QZ0ttA

The same 6K video is used by Helicon Focus using the Open Video feature.

Later versions of PS can also export individual video frames and stack them, so I have read and watched on one video: https://youtu.be/6wFRy8VQKuQ

The free, FFmpeg utility, can extract frames also: https://ffmpeg.org/

Helicon Focus uses the FFmpeg utility in the background during import.

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Cactusdave wrote:Is there another way to extract selected frames from this file to allow stacking with different software like Zerene?
See http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/v ... 378#206378 for some hints about how to use ffmpeg.

TheDocAUS
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Post by TheDocAUS »

Some more observations:

• Pictures are taken from the front to the back focus points.

• The number of frames taken varies depending on the scene. Around 100 frames is common (range 90-120 frames). I am finding I use around 70 frames in Helicon Focus, as I do not want the background in focus. Very close in with the 30mm macro can give you over 200 frames, due to the shallow DOF.

• I am still messing up saving the jpg in camera. I can see the stacked image in camera, but not on the card once I remove the card from the camera. I must be missing a step.

• The whole process is marginally faster using the Olympus 30mm macro lens, which can go up to 2.5x.

I am getting images had held in bad light, not fantastic images, but usable. I am amazed I am getting anything in such poor light.
Last edited by TheDocAUS on Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Cactusdave
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Post by Cactusdave »

Thanks for the tip about extracting frames Rik. Shame about ffmpeg being command line and not having a GUI. I know its 'enthusiastware', but I do regard the invention of the GUI, along with deodorant and the credit card as one of the great boons of modern life. :lol:
• I am still messing up saving the jpg in camera. I can see the stacked image in camera, but not on the card once I remove the card from the camera. I must be missing a step.
Have you managed to solve this? If not maybe a question on a G9 users' forum, or direct to Panasonic support?
David
Leitz Ortholux 1, Zeiss standard, Nikon Diaphot inverted, Canon photographic gear

TheDocAUS
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Post by TheDocAUS »

Not yet, the new version of Helicon has a bug when importing 6K video, so I have been distracted with that as Helicon try and fix the bug.


Plus I need to travel for work the next 2 weeks.

TheDocAUS
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Post by TheDocAUS »

The 6K bug in Helcion has been fixed.

I went on a field trip recently to use the new technique. The day was windy, so I focused on tree barks, as the leaves and flowers were moving all over the place.

The Post Focus feature is very fast (around 2-3 seconds) compared to manual stacking (hardly surprising). Creating images from 6K videos using Helicon Focus is also very fast, around 20 seconds to import and stack using Method C. Final tif file around 50meg, depending on subject matter (around 20meg jpg).

The only issue I have now is the resulting images are so sharp they look oversharpened. Never had that problem before.

My long term objective is to get in field stacks fast, with good detail and nice colour. The images are being used for the Atlar of Living Australia, not a photo competition: https://www.ala.org.au/

The new methodology is almost there and I am very happy with the images. I even asked Helicon to allow batch processing of 6K files, which will speed up PP even more.
Last edited by TheDocAUS on Sun Oct 14, 2018 3:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

Smokedaddy
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Post by Smokedaddy »

I wonder if RegiStax will work with macro stacking 6k video. I've used it for imaging Planets as far back as 2004. It's free.

https://www.astrobin.com/335918/B/?nc=all

https://www.astronomie.be/registax/

-JW:

TheDocAUS
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Post by TheDocAUS »

No is the short answer.

The original 6K file format is MP4, which you cannot import into registax. I have not tried converting the file yet.

Edit: I converted the file to avi and it opens, but then the program takes forever to do very little. MPG does not process any better.

Experiment finished, Helicon it is.

Smokedaddy
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Post by Smokedaddy »

Just thought I'd ask. <g> I've processed several hundred videos over the years with Registax with excellent results.

Image

Regards.
-JW:

TheDocAUS
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Post by TheDocAUS »

I suspect 6K has something to do with it. I should try 4K when I have time to make one.

Smokedaddy
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Post by Smokedaddy »

TheDocAUS wrote:I suspect 6K has something to do with it. I should try 4K when I have time to make one.
You're probably correct. Sorry to interfere with the message thread. :oops:

-JW:

Edit: There is another program called AutoStakkert that some use. I know someone did a 6K video of Jupiter with the program.

Image

... and the video data.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=653HK7f ... e=youtu.be

... I'm out of here ...

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