Which of the several available software packages should I use?
The software packages currently available include:
There are others but as far as I know they are not affordable to the general hobbyist, being intended for professional microscope work. If you know of any others I haven't mentioned here please let me know and I'll add them to the list!!
I'm going to treat Tufuse and Tufuse pro as one product, as that is the way I use it - The Tufuse pro GUI does add extra functionality to the command line product. I'm also only going to consider Combine ZP as I understand from Alan Hadley that this supersedes CombineZM including all of it's functionality plus the new pyramid algorithm similar to that used by Tufuse.
Some time ago I was lucky enough to be a private beta tester for Zerene stacker, and since day one I've been very impressed with it. It's output definitely has the edge over Tufuse and CZP, though I cannot comment on comparisons to Helicon as I do not have the full version yet. I also have not yet got round to trying Picolay so I'm not going to comment any further on that here, but it appears to be free so give it a go!
So the four products we're going to consider here are:
I have the paid shareware version of Tufuse pro, the freeware CombineZP and the paid professional version of Zerene. However I have only trialled Helicon for a month, and that was a long time ago.
To be honest the only reason I can think not to recommend you immediately buy Zerene stacker is if you definitely want to sell your focus stacked images and you can't afford the professional license. The output is best in class. The user interface is good, not quite perfect yet but close. The retouching facilities are the best I've come across.
Having said that, I would definitely recommend you download and try CombineZP as it is totally free. It's output is very good and there's probably no reason why you need more than this software offers.
Considering there are free trials of both Helicon and Tufuse pro, I would also suggest you download these and give them a go, your tastes in software may well be different to mine.
Full disclosure note - Zerene stacker is written by Rik Littlefield, who is the editor/administrator of Photomacrography.net, where I am also an administrator. I consider Rik a friend. This does not mean I have recommended Zerene because Rik is my friend, or because I would get any benefit from you purchasing it. I just honestly consider it the best software available currently for this task.
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