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STACKING SOFTWARE

In my view, there are two challenges in microscopic photography. Honest color reproduction is one. The other is the need to take multiple shots of a single specimen with different areas in focus and then stacking these images together to create one super image that contains the best parts of each of the individual shots. In previous discussions regarding the club digital camera I briefly mentioned two software solutions for the stacking process.  Here for your review please find a wider selection of available programs available for the task at hand. The field of stacking software is much wider once I realized that astronomy photographers have the same issues as us.

Helicon Focus

Website: http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html
Support: support@heliconsoft.com , also, subscribe to their newsletter
Cost: One year license (valid during one year after purchase, reverts to demo mode afterwards)
Lite: $30, Pro $55, Lifetime licenses lite $92 and Pro is $160.

Helicon Focus is a program that creates one completely focused image from several partially focused images by combining the focused areas.

The program is designed for macrophotography, microphotography and hyperfocal landscape photography  to cope with the shallow depth-of-field problem.

 

CombineZ

The purpose of CombineZ is to increase depth of focus by combining pictures that you have taken.   Each picture should be in focus at a different depth into the scene.   It makes life easier if they have been taken at regular intervals, though this condition is not essential.
Website: http://www.hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/
Support: Online documentation, email alan@micropics.org.uk and Yahoo! CombineZ discussion group.
Cost: Free.

Zerene Stacker

·        Highest quality output images, especially in difficult cases

Website http://zerenesystems.com/stacker/
Support: support@zerenesystems.com
Cost: Free for 30 days, Pro Edition $289, Personal $89, Student $39. Professional and Personal licenses never expire, and you never have to contact Zerene Systems when you upgrade or replace your computer – just use the same license and keep on working.  The Student Edition license terms apply for as long as you’re a student, after which you’ll need to upgrade to a Personal or Professional Edition.

Licenses include free updates within the same major version number.  That is, a license for version 1.0 will also work for everything up through version 1.99.  When version 2.0 becomes available, new licenses will be made available at attractive upgrade pricing.

AstroStack3

Initially written for astronomers to stack still photos and video of outer space, AstroStack is a small, easy to use, yet powerful program to enhance pictures made by CCD digital photography or video capturing.  It's main purpose is to combine a number of pictures (like a stack of cards, hence the name) made from the same object around the same time. AstroStack 3 introduces a new concept. It has fixed categories in which so called plugins can be combined. This means that the program can be extended. In fact the functionality of the program is mainly built around plug-ins. There will be a growing list of plug-ins, many of them free of charge.

Website: http://www.astrostack.com/
Support: robert@astrostack.com. Astrostack also has downloadable and online manuals, email support, a newsletter and a users forum.
Cost: $59 includes the newest version, all plugins, 3 months of tech support, and free updates.

Image Stacker by Tawbaware

Image Stacker combines multiple images into a single image. It can be used to overcome one of the last remaining limitations of digital cameras compared to their film counterparts: their inability to take very long exposures. Image Stacker can also be used to reduce the appearance of "digital noise" in images created by digital cameras or scanners, and create "synthesized long-exposures" without overexposure. Original intent of the software was to photograph the paths of astral objects on a clear night sky using images taken with a camera. Tawbaware makes many other good looking image processing applications that may stir your interest.
Website: http://www.tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm
Cost: Shareware $17 (there is a free version which is limited to 10 images and output max is 640x480).

Keith’s Image Stacker

Keith's Image Stacker is an image processing program that is oriented primarily toward astrophotography. See my astrophotography webpage for information about my personal venture into that hobby. What Keith's Image Stacker provides, more than anything else, is a workspace in which to align many similar images (say from a quicktime movie of Jupiter taken through a telescope with a webcam) and then to produce a stack of the images, which consists of a single image that comprises either the sum, or the average, or some value in between of the individually stacked images. Stacking images is a well-established method for increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in a series of similar images. True "information" will shine through the stack, while random noise will drop out.
Website: http://keithwiley.com/software/keithsImageStacker.shtml
Cost: Shareware, $15.

Iris

Website: http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/us/iris/iris.htm
Astronomical imaging software written by somebody in France. Up to version 5.
Cost: Free.
Support: Webpage is loaded with dozens and dozxens of tutorials and help files.

RegiStax

Website: http://www.astronomie.be/registax/
Yet another freeware astronomy stacking software package. This one was voted Sky and Telescope Magazine’s “software package of the year” for 2007.
Support: registax@gmail.com, many online articles.
Cost: Free.