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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    964

    Default CombineZP image stacker

    A few months back a member of our bee association reported on a microscopy class she had taken. One of the tools they learned to use was an image stacker that corrected for the depth of field problem usually seen in microscopes.

    One thing this would be great at is pictures of honeycomb. You could get the face of the comb in focus and also an egg or larvum at the bottom. I'll probably also use it for micrographs of pollen using my high power microscope.

    The shots below were taken of a very dead bee: the subject must not move as several photos are taken. For this particular image stack I used ten frames, 3 of which are shown in cropped and compressed format below. I got shots with the paper the bee is sitting on in focus all the way up to the hair on its back in focus. The program sifts thru these and judges which sections are in focus by several methods. The simple version is to look for maximum contrast between adjacent pixels.

    There are several packages out there but I like CombineZP because it is FREE. Its a little buggy. This particular set of pictures winds up with the program crashing when it is done, but by that time it has run 6 versions of the picture using different methods, and you get to chose the best. The website says it was intended for Windows XP and Vista. I'm running it on Windows 7, using The Mighty Teraquad, my video editing beast. The version is whatever the latest version was today when I downloaded it.

    Software: CombineZP
    Microscope: Edmund 10x/30x trinocular
    Camera: Nikon D5100, Manual mode, remote shutter release
    Mount: Edmund adapter tube with a Nikon T-Mount adapter
    Lighting: Two LED desk lamps

    A sampling of the pictures from which the final was made. These are cropped and compressed from the ones I actually used.

    CombineZPTest 003Compr.jpg CombineZPTest 007Compr.jpg CombineZPTest 011Compr.jpg

    And the stacked final version (I chose the Do Soft composition). I've cropped and compressed it for web use ... you have to zoom in really tight to tell the difference, but the full res version is slightly sharper.

    Do Soft Stack[1,0,1]Compr.jpg
    Last edited by Phoebee; 07-28-2014 at 10:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Newberry, Florida, USA
    Posts
    149

    Default Re: CombineZP image stacker

    I can really see the difference on the last pic. Very cool. My daughter loves taking pictures, too, so maybe I have an additional excuse to look into a new camera and some software!
    1 TBH, started 4/09/14

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    964

    Default Re: CombineZP image stacker

    If she wants to try pictures on a microscope, there are cameras designed specifically to mount on them, which might be cheaper than using a DSLR. In fact, I think you can buy a camera that IS an inspection microscope, fairly cheaply ($50, if I recall correctly, versus about $1200 for my Edmund Trinoc).

    I have two Nikon DSLRs. The older one is a D70, which is an incredibly heavy camera. Microscopes have trouble staying in focus with that beast on their backs, and the camera does not allow real time focusing on its tiny screen.

    The D5100 is lighter and has a better screen for this task. It is also a decent video camera, and the CombineZP software says it can use video as a source for the image stack. You could probably go a step cheaper with one of the D3000 cameras. Canon and a few other brands out there offer excellent products as well.

    With a DSLR camera, the lenses come off and you can put on the relatively cheap ($15) T-mount adapter. Then you buy tubes to fit the eyepieces of the instrument you are adapting to. My microscopes use one size tube, and my telescopes use a larger size. This software supposedly can also stack astronomy photos, something I've tried before with other stackers but with no success.

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