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Multi Target AF mode explained

Multi Target AF mode explained - An overview of the focus stacking feature Multi Target AF

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Digital Cameras

While some camera have all the obvious picture modes, such as landscape, flower, snow, sports, etc there are a few modes that appear that start out as exclusive to a few cameras - usually from the brand that introduced the feature. One such mode is Multi Target AF. It's found on Ricoh's CX2 and takes advantage of a new format that has appeared - the .mpo file. This is a format that takes two or more jpegs and holds them together in an mpo file. The file cannot be read by Photoshop...yet, but the cameras come with software to extract the photos. Which can then be viewed and edited individually.

Multi Target AF takes seven photographs of a scene, focusing at different points through the scene so the whole scene is captured sharp from front to back. The photos then need to be merged to "stack" the focus. This currently cannot be done internally, by the camera, but we're sure that will come.
You could take several pictures manually using focus lock at different points, but this is much easier and potentially more precise than focus lock on a compact.

To use the mode it's best to mount the camera on a tripod. Then you compose the photo and take the shot...the seven photos are taken in quick succession, and then processed in less than two seconds into the mpo file.  You can then view each of the photos in the mpo file using the camera's playback  on the LCD screen.

Play the movie below to see where the camera focuses when it creates the seven images in the rapid sequence shot.

If you don't have access to the manufacturer's software you can download Imagic 5, which has the necessary options to view and extract the jpg files from the mpo file.
To extract the files open the mpo file in the Imagic 5 software, right click on the thumbnail and select Split MPO file. Your seven individual jpgs will be saved in the same folder.
You can then bring them together using a Focus Stacking software. Several are available. Picolay is free so it's worth a try (that's what we used here) although we've had the best results from Helicon Focus which costs about  £20.

Just select the seven created jpgs and the program stacks the photos automatically.

Focus Stacked Multi Focus AF photo
In this example the free program hasn't done a great job of the background but a tweak in the options, or using a better program, would have rendered it much sharper. For those with Photoshop skills you could take each layer and use layer masks to show the sharpest elements.

What is Multi Target AF good for
The benefit of using Multi Target AF is to ensure full sharpness in the subject from the nearest to furthest points. It's ideal for close up subjects, especially when taking advantage of the camera's great macro capability. In such cases either the foreground, middle distance or background would be totally out of focus shooting in normal mode on a compact like this. So it's good for flower photography, still lifes and product photography.

Good points
Achieve maximum front to back sharpness (depth-of-field)
Can be used as a focus bracket where just one shot is required with shallow depth-of -field ,but you can't decide at the shooting stage where to focus.

Bad Points
The camera doesn't currently process the files and stack them
Image stacking software can sometime not get the correct points merged so you may get a fuzzy effect in some parts.
Currently mpo files are not supported by many image editing programs.

Compact cameras with Multi Target AF

Ricoh CX1
Ricoh CX2

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