Helicon Focus is intended to enhance your photographs, particularly those taken to small objects, such as small plants, jewelry pieces, animals and insects. Thus, with a technique called “stacking”, the tool can merge multiple shots, preferably those taken in bursts, to improve focus and make details more visible. It has a nice interface that completely hides rather complex algorithms running under the hood, which makes this program accessible to all kinds of users. However, needless to say, the results will largely depend on the quality of the source images. Fortunately, the product comes with excellent documentation and there are even some online tutorials available.
To enhance focus, you need to start by importing a series of images. It is important that they show the same object, even if they were taken from different perspectives. Moreover, you can import a complete stack by opening its folder. Next, you can pick one of the three available methods, each of them with their own advantages and limitations. For example, the Weighted Average method is ideal for short stacks and preserves the original contrast and color. The Depth Math method, in turn, is the best for rendering textures on smooth surfaces; yet, it only works with consecutive images. Finally, the Pyramid method should be used for complex cases, such as those in which objects intersect or there is a deep stack. Anyway, it is a good idea to try different methods and compare the results.
On top of what the program can do automatically using the methods above, you can also perform some manual adjustment. For instance, it is possible to regulate the smoothing level. Moreover, you can use a brush to retouch specific regions. Likewise, the image can be labeled with a text watermark. Next, you can save the 3D views as a video. Yet, the results may not be so accurate when the source photos were not originally taken with this purpose in mind.
Last but not least, there is another feature that deserves the attention mostly of people who are engaged in scientific research or publication. This is the case of the micro panorama, expressly intended to stitch various images made through a microscope.
To conclude, Helicon Focus stands out as one the best tools of its kind. Its computing algorithms produce the best results in a reasonable amount of time. The program supports exporting various image formats. Besides, it allows publishing images to the developer’s cloud storage service or posting them on Facebook. It is also good to know that you can pass parameters to Helicon Focus from the command line, which allows calling its procedures from a third-party program.
The product is available in three different licenses: Light, Pro and Premium. As it usually happens, the Light license is the least expensive but also the one that has the fewest features. Therefore, it is a good idea to compare their characteristics before you make up your mind.
- Three rendering methods
- Excellent enhancement of details
- Various ways to share the results
- Exports 3D views
- Manual retouching
- Creates micro panoramas
- Depends on the quality of the source pictures