StackShot - Automated Macro Rail for Focus Stacking
Macro-photography is a fascinating sub-set of the photographic world. It brings to life detail that the human eye all too often misses. Unfortunately macro photographs often suffer from a narrow depth of field. How do photographers capture that stunning shot at high magnification and still have great depth of field? Enter focus stacking. Focus stacking is the art of digitally combining a series of images with a narrow depth of field into a single image with an extended depth. The images are usually collected with a macro rail and combined using a software program such as Zerene Stacker or Helicon Focus. Ideally each of these images is taken at a fixed distance interval.
Most macro photographers are familiar with using a macro rail to adjust the camera’s position relative to the subject of interest. These macro rails allow the distance to be adjusted and provide a crude manual method for taking the series of shots required for focus stacking. Unfortunately there are several drawbacks. There is a lack of accuracy, reproducibility, speed, and precision. Additionally, sub-millimeter steps are difficult at best. This is where StackShot comes in, it is an automated focusing rail for repeatably collecting images for focus stacking. Also, if you want to take your focus stacking to the next level by adding additional axis of automated motion (subject rotation for example) you may be interested in our StackShot 3X controller, or see a comparison of the two controllers.
The solution? StackShot
StackShot is an electronically controlled macro rail system that coordinates the movement of the macro rail and the triggering of the camera. StackShot’s simple user-interface makes the automation of the entire image collecting process for focus stacking very easy.
What are the advantages of StackShot?
- Accuracy: Rail adjustment from full length of 100 mm to 2 um.
- Repeatability: An “automatic return” feature allows adjustments to the exposure settings between stacks captured with the same position and step size as the previous run.
- Speed: No more manually adjusting the rail position, pressing the shutter button, and hoping you didn’t bump the camera. Everything is automated and fast. This enables focus-stacking for critters that may not be willing to stay in the same position for very long. See our customer gallery for some excellent captures of live spiders.
- Completely Configurable: Just as with StopShot, virtually everything can be adjusted by the user. Timing (both on, off and settle), number of pictures per step (useful for HDR – imagine an HDR focus-stack!), maximum speed, ramp time, camera settle time, etc. It’s everything you would expect from Cognisys.
- Can be battery powered for use in the field. Check out our Li-Ion Battery Kit.
Modes of operation:
Use the FWD and BACK buttons to adjust the rail's start/stop position. Enter the distance of each step. Then go!
Select the total distance you want the rail to travel along with the number of steps desired in that distance.
A button press is required to move the rail the specified distance. Only one step occurs for each button press. Useful for cameras with no electronic shutter release.
Similar to Total Distance, except that you enter the distance desired for each step, and then the number of steps.
Move the camera the specified distance without stopping in steps.
Macro Rail Highlights
- Fully automated - Controller handles the coordination of the rail and the camera
- Standard macro rail has 100 mm of travel from end to end, see the Extended Rail for the 200 mm version.
- Very precise control - to 2um in high precsion mode.
- Guide rails and ACME threaded rod made from stainless steel
- Constructed from lightweight 6061 aluminum
- Durable matte black anodized finish
- Stainless steel fasteners throughout
- No lubrication required - helps keep dust and dirt off guides and shafts
- Capable of moving virtually any camera and flash setup - the rail will lift a 10lb (4.5kg) load vertically
- Light weight 2.4lb (1.1kg)
- Base includes 3 different tripod mounting options. 1/4-20 threads, 3/8-16 threads, or ARCA style dovetail mount
- USB equipped for computer control or updating firmware
- Durable extruded aluminum housing
- 4 line LCD display with adjustable backlighting
- Adjustable motor torque - turn down the torque to save on battery life
- Adjustable macro rail speed
- Configurable auto return - the rail will return to the start after the captures are complete
- Configurable settle time in between captures
- Capture multiple photos at each step (exposure bracketing or mirror lockup)
- Includes a time lapse mode for capturing time lapse stacks
- Shutter output disable to facilitate easier camera setup
- Optional battery power for field shooting, operates at 12VDC
- Ten presets - Save up to ten different setups and recall them as needed
- Shutter disable feature allows a preview of Stack without actually taking pictures
- Includes 6ft cable from motor to controller - can be extended if required
- Controller is easily held and operated with one hand
- Change the lighting or exposure and run your last stack with a single button press
- Compatible with StopShot shutter cables
This image stack of the Green Darner was captured by Steve Gettle.