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Stack Shot rail

Posted by Jeff Weissman  
Jeff Weissman November 21, 2010 04:05PM
Does anyone have experience with this product, StackShot for automatically taking a series of stacked images? It seems relatively inexpensive for what it does.
Harald Schillhammer November 21, 2010 05:42PM
There are extensive threads on this over at in the "equipment" subforum. Some of the users helped to improve it. I, too, consider it for my work. From what I have read it seems to work fine but has a certain learning curve concerning the use of its interface. If it really delivers what the rumours promise, then the price is a steal compared to the sophisticated actuators oder linear translation stages.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/2010 05:58PM by Harald Schillhammer.
Mineralogical Research Company November 23, 2010 01:47AM
If you are only using macro lenses, or other objectives, for your work, the StackShot should work well if it has been designed properly. My only concern is how much play there may be in the slide bushings. The z-axis stage that I use has precision instrument bearings in the slides. I much prefer to hold the camera body and optics solidly fixed and move only the specimen. I don't see how this unit could be used in conjunction with a microscope for stacking.

Jeff Weissman November 23, 2010 02:32PM
Its designed with a typical tripod mount for a camera; but you could also use it as a specimen stage to raise/lower the specimen, with a right-angle adapter. I am currently using a manual precision XYZ micrometer also configured with a home-made right angle stage. Would be nice to automate the process rather than having to sit very quietly for 5-10 minutes, trying not to transmit too much motion to the setup, in order to get a suitable stack.
Harald Schillhammer November 23, 2010 02:39PM
Jeff Weissman Wrote:

> to automate the process rather than having to sit
> very quietly for 5-10 minutes, trying not to
> transmit too much motion to the setup, in order to
> get a suitable stack.

Exactly the reason why I want something like that. I would not mind releasing the shutter separately (via Capture Camera Control from the PC), but I want to avoid touching the setup - anything may happen, especially when working with high magnifications. Although Zerenestacker has a very sophisticated alignment function that can deal even with severe rotations, any technical solution that makes life easier is welcome :).


Matteo Chinellato November 23, 2010 04:04PM
I buy a Stack Shot rail just in this weeks

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Attrezzatura e tecnica sono solo l'inizio. È il fotografo che conta più di tutto. (John Hedgecoe)
Mineralogical Research Company November 23, 2010 05:43PM

The process can be easily automated. If you haven't seen my article on "Automated multi-focus imaging", it's at .

Christian Auer January 11, 2011 07:04PM
I bought that stackshot with USB connection. AND, it can be used now with Zerene stacker (although you need the professional edition)
Unfortunately my camera Nikon D200 still needs a trigger cable so I`m waiting for it.

But I`m more than excited about that new system!
Harald Schillhammer January 12, 2011 10:33AM
Christian Auer Wrote:
> I bought that stackshot with USB connection. AND,
> it can be used now with Zerene stacker (although
> you need the professional edition)
> Unfortunately my camera Nikon D200 still needs a
> trigger cable so I`m waiting for it.
> But I`m more than excited about that new system!

So ZS has already provided the upgrade - that's great! However, I am still waiting for my Stackshot as it obviously got stuck somewhere due to Xmas traffic and the adverse weather conditions at the end of the year here in Europe.


Christian Auer January 23, 2011 08:14AM
Here`s my first try:
You see that`s really a milestone in any micro- but also macro photography.

Unfortunately I must clean the sensor of my camera as next step.
Harald Schillhammer January 23, 2011 09:35AM
Looks nice, except for the clipped highlights. I sent you a PM.


Christian Auer January 26, 2011 04:49PM
Learnig by doing ....
Harald Schillhammer January 26, 2011 06:30PM
Congrats, almost there!
Now I would have to see your work flow in person to be able to give any more hints for improvement.

Matteo Chinellato January 26, 2011 08:27PM
I not seen many enhancement with the Stack Shot rail, just for give a idea manual moviment with not over 7 photos of composition

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Attrezzatura e tecnica sono solo l'inizio. È il fotografo che conta più di tutto. (John Hedgecoe)
Christian Auer January 26, 2011 09:27PM
Thanks for the compliment Matteo :-)
Volker Betz January 26, 2011 09:27PM
Hello Matteo,

you are right !. You cannot see a difference. The only difference is that the stacking procedure during photography is done by the stepper motor. For the stacking software this does not make any difference. The is no improvement visible in the picture. Its only a bit more comfortable for the photographer as you have not to adjust manually.

I still do the focus steps manually.

Branko Rieck January 26, 2011 10:12PM

I love the fergusonite you've posted! Some questions about your use of the StackShot rail:

Do you use it to move the specimen up in regards to the M420 optics, or have you devised some means to move the M420's head?

I would guess it is the former, rather than the latter. If you examine the picture of the fergusonite carefully, you will see that the flares that occur from direct reflections into the camera will trend down and left on the right side of the picture. That is expected from the geometry of the M420's setup. But you will see, that these flares trend down and left also on the left side of the picture, but with a slightly different angle (you will have to look at such flares that could develop freely on all sides, and are not clipped by any sharp (i.e.: “in focus”) objects). There are a number of explanations for such behavior, but for me the most likely is that your setup of the StackShot is slightly off the optical axis of the M420. Mind you, we are talking micrometers here! If I am right with my assumption of your setup, a little bit of “tweaking” will bring you closer still to a “perfect” picture! Like Harry said: you are almost there! Congrats!

One other thing: it would be interesting to compare the composed images of your stack as you do them and one where you omit every second image. I believe that you are slightly overdoing it with the number of shots you are taking, which, as I explained on another thread, could hurt the images quality. But of course it is tempting to make more images with the added comfort of the StackShot rail! :)

Good work, Christian! I am envious (especially the Apozoom)!

Christian Auer January 27, 2011 07:01AM
You have an excellent eye Branko, congratz! That`s the most important in the whole subject.
You`re absolutely correct I move the specimen and not the scope. I rebuilt my rail a bit so that I can use it that way.

I know that I must make major improvements in my light technique. Right now I shot already sets for the next 9 minerals but afterwards I will change my light, test others and build such a small studio like Harald suggested.
Another problem right now is the fact that I should clean the sensor of my camera. Unfortunately I can`t find someone next to my home who "dares" to do it. Sending in to the Nikon supplier will last 3-4 weeks and I really don`t want to wait that long.
The fergusonite pic is just a small sequence out of a larger pic (with more xtls), this one was picked out near of the right upper corner.

Stacking was made by Deep stacking(!) by the way, not Pyramid. I prefer this one as it tends to be smoother and its easier to rework with photoshop.
Christian Auer January 28, 2011 07:56AM
Here are 3 stacks as requested, always the same pic but with 20, 30 and 59 stacks.
The time which is needed to make the pics is no problem at all as its automatic. So that`s no criteria at all.
open | download - 20.jpg (619.7 KB)
open | download - 30.jpg (657.5 KB)
open | download - 59.jpg (662.7 KB)
Matteo Chinellato January 28, 2011 01:27PM
I seen not in focus. How many big is the crystal?

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Harald Schillhammer January 28, 2011 01:57PM
Matteo, I think the images are in focus, but there are several issues that play a role here.

1) Shooting through a microscope - my own experience with (stereoscopic) microscopes, especially those that offer higher magnifications (100X or more), is that only the lower half of the magnification range yields good results. My Leica MZ 16 which goes up to 115X I can use with confidence only up to about 50X. Above that I experienced a tremendous loss of resolution. The images then look somewhat like Christian's images - like shooting with a conventional lens which is stopped down too much and diffraction effects start to kick in. Maybe diffraction is also effective here. I do not know the construction of this microscope but I suspect that the higher magnification is achieved by tube extension which caused a smaller effective aperture leading to diffraction effects.
In normal use, these microscopes yield perfect results but, as mentioned in an earlier post, the color correction is done by both the objective and the eye piece. When attaching a camera, the eye piece is usually circumvented and "replaced" by a relay lens. At least in my Leica scope, the relay lens is over-corrected (shift of the blue channel) which not only causes longitudinal CA but also loss of resolution, particularly at higher magnifications.

2) I also think - and Christian may correct me if I'm wrong - that the images are cropped. I do not know what magnification the M420 allows, but the xls are extremely tiny and maybe the original field of view was too large. And, we all know that severly cropped images are never as sharp as uncropped ones.

3) Another thing might be camera shake (mirror, shutter) but that is not clearly obvious from the image.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2011 02:00PM by Harald Schillhammer.
Matteo Chinellato January 28, 2011 02:45PM
ah ok its via microscope, I have think with bellow.

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Attrezzatura e tecnica sono solo l'inizio. È il fotografo che conta più di tutto. (John Hedgecoe)
Jamey Swisher February 09, 2011 04:03AM
Why not just clean the sensor yourself? It is extremely simple. Use the same method many manufacturers use when you send it in to them for a cleaning. I clean mine with this method and have for over a decade now.

Get a SensorPen, or even a good small headed lenspen will work. The SensorKleer seems to be a favored choice by many. You either plug your camera into a constant power or make sure it has a full charged battery! Set to cleaning mode and it will open the shutter up an allow access to the "sensor". Then you just use the SensorPen and swab the "sensor" as you would a lens, only a bit more delicately obviously. Keep in mind that the part you are actually cleaning is NOT actually the cameras sensor but actually a glass filter over top of it called an IR cut filter. I have even used this method in the field shooting an event many a time and have never had any issues with any of my camera bodies which have included Canon 300D, Canon 20D, Canon 5D, Pentax K10D, Sigma SD9 & SD14, and I also cleaned a Nikon D70 as well with this method and a D200 for friends. I always blew out the sensor compartment and entire inside of camera before and after cleaning with a Rocket Blower as well.

Here is a video showing the tools and method and just how simple and easy it is:

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Anthony Gutierrez February 18, 2011 11:37PM
I use the stack shot in a device I developed in my lab for insect photomacrography and have recently trained it on small to tiny crystals with good results. I find the stack shot is very accurate and well within the linear precision needed for Zerene Stacker, the stacking software I use. Here are a few shots of samples and the device itself. The crystal photo is displayed in crosseyed 3D. There were about twenty frames .02mm apart on the Z axis for each image. The rotation for stereo was 5 degrees.
Tony Gutierrez
open | download - First attempt cupr1+2Stereo.jpg (531.5 KB)
open | download - cuproadamite_crystal_on_pin.jpg (665.7 KB)
open | download - Macropod III with tick.jpg (264.4 KB)
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