Focus Stacking Software

Review by Dave Williams

Ukraine-based HeliconSoft is the company behind Helicon Focus, the focus stacking software that makes life easier for photographers who have a pile of images to stack. Creating eye-catching images of macro subjects, such as insects; jewelry; or astro subjects requires stacking to look really good and offer a wide range of focus. Helicon Focus combines these stacks of images with different focal planes quickly and cleverly, outputting a fully-focused image. 

The user interface is simple. It almost feels as if you’re working as a programmer when using it. (I considered a lower rating based on the UI, but the instructions are all in plain sight, so it’s hard to go off-track.) There are three methods available: Weighted Average, Depth Map, and Pyramid. Each lends itself to producing a good result with a different technique, so it’s great to be able to switch between these methods. With the source images selected the software runs with a Render button. The fact that there’s no stack limit is awesome; but bear mind that this will create files of enormous sizes. 

Any image file can be used, including RAW (though some may require an extra download). It’s even possible to tether a Nikon or Canon camera and use Helicon Remote (purchased separately or as part of the Pro and Premium packages) to shoot the focus stacked images within a predetermined range of parameters. Once the image is loaded, the algorithm that creates the final stacked image is fantastic. Essentially, the software works by finding the sharp areas in each image and blending them all together; but it goes a lot deeper than my simple explanation. 

Helicon Focus is available in three packages: Lite, Pro, and Premium. It’s no-frills software that just works! It’s interesting that when a product does what it’s supposed to do, it doesn’t leave a lot to write about it. That’s certainly true in this case. Helicon Focus performs its intended function flawlessly and with remarkable efficiency.