About Helicon Remote
Workflow and settings
Shooting a stack using Helicon Remote
Setting exposure parameters
Setting focus bracketing parameters
Setting exposure bracketing parameters
Using Helicon Remote for time-lapse shooting
Shooting in mirror lock-up (MLU) mode
Using auto focus
Shooting with flash
Using the "Take a picture" function
Connecting to network cameras
Interface and customization
Reading a histogram
Customizing the Live View
"Preview" and "Fast preview"
How to find the images
How to save the images on camera memory card
Reporting a bug
Using Helicon Remote to drive a StackShot macro rail
Using Helicon Remote to control a Trinamic motor
Using Stackshot and Trinamic on Mac OS X 10.9 and later
Compatibility and licensing
Installation and upgrade
Hardware and software requirements
Helicon Remote is a software program for tethered shooting. Its main purpose is automating the process of shooting stacks of partially focused images, which can later be blended into one completely focused image using Helicon Focus. Helicon Remote automates much of the process of shooting such stacks: once you set the parameters, the program does the shooting. It also helps you set the correct parameters, i.e., it helps you calculate the necessary number of shots and the number of focusing steps between them.
Helicon Remote allows combined focus and exposure bracketing. For exposure bracketing you can specify the necessary number of shots and the size of exposure compensation steps between shots (2 Ev, 1 Ev, 1/2 Ev, or 1/3 Ev). This means you are not limited to the -2Ev - +2Ev range offered by most cameras.
Helicon Remote also automates time-lapse shooting in combination with focus and exposure bracketing. You can set up your camera to shoot either stacks or just one shot at regular time intervals (which you can specify).
Helicon Remote can control Trinamic stepper motors and move StackShot macro rails. Both of these are external devices that can adjust the camera's position with tiny steps of up to 0.01 mm, allowing you to take pictures of tiny objects.
Helicon Remote is available for Windows, Mac OS and Android.
Helicon Remote is a solution for home, studio, and also the outdoors. It can be installed on any recent-model tablet PC, netbook, Android tablet or smartphone and thus easily taken into the field.
If this doesn't happen, try reading our FAQs for a possible solution.
Set the nearest and farthest focusing points. Focus on the front of the object and click button to save the nearest point; next focus on the back of the object and click button to save the farthest point. The program calculates the number of shots and the interval between them automatically.
After you have had the software remember one focusing point, don't rotate the focusing ring and don't use AF. Instead, use Helicon Remote's arrow keys to move to the other focusing point. Otherwise the remembered point will be reset.Read more about setting A and B points, about the DOF calculator, and other focus bracketing parameters here.
*On Windows XP first switch the camera on, close the AutoPlay menu and then run Helicon Remote. For all other operating systems, the order of these two steps doesn't matter.
Helicon Remote allows you to change the following parameters (see Camera Setting controls at the top of the right panel):
Note: some cameras allow changing this parameter from Helicon Remote, with others you can only change it using the camera body controls.
Before shooting a stack, check that the exposure parameters are correct. To do this, take a trial shot using the preview or fast preview function. Or just take a look at the histogram. The Highlighting of overexposed areas feature can also help to set the correct exposure.
Helicon Remote can also control other camera settings (see the Advanced Settings controls at the bottom of the right panel): Flash compensation, Flash mode, White balance, Color temperature, etc. The list of advanced settings may vary for different camera models.
Manual setting of color temperature is not supported by some cameras, in which case you will NOT see "Color temperature" among the available white balance values.
The most important parameters for focus stacking are and points, i.e., the nearest and farthest focusing points. As soon as the program "knows" these two endpoints, the current aperture and focal length of the lens, it can calculate the number of shots needed. If the Auto checkbox is selected, the program will calculate this automatically (but don't forget to set the right correction factor first, or the results will be off).
The simplest workflow is as follows:
You can also do the reverse, saving the farthest point first and then moving to the nearest point. It makes no difference.
It is also possible to specify a starting point (either A or B - it doesn't matter), the number of steps, and the interval. This will be enough to start shooting, as the program will also calculate the endpoint. For this situation, deselect the Auto checkbox.
Don't rotate the focusing ring and don't use the Auto focus function after you have saved focusing points, as the focusing points will be reset, because the lens cannot "report" the number of focusing steps between the two endpoints to Helicon Remote if you rotate the ring or use the lens' auto focusing mechanism. Helicon Remote can only calculate the number of focusing steps between two endpoints if you move from one focusing point to another with Helicon Remote's arrow keys.
The Shots parameter shows how many shots will be taken. If you change this parameter and both endpoints are defined, the program will recalculate the interval between shots.
The Direction parameter determines whether the focus plane will move towards the camera or infinity. If both endpoints are set, this option is not important, but you should check it if you have only set one of the focusing points.
The Interval parameter defines the movement of the lens between two adjacent shots. The distance is measured in steps of the lens' motor (focusing steps) and is roughly equivalent to the rotation of the focusing ring by a specific angle. Please note that both this parameter and the depth of field (measured in millimeters) are nonlinear functions. As a result, the distance between shots is roughly the same for all of the lens' focus distances.
We advise you to use an interval smaller than the depth of field (DOF). Our DOF calculator will help you calculate the depth of field based on the selected aperture. If the interval is smaller than the DOF, then the images in your stack will overlap each other slightly, which, when combined, will produce a completely sharp image.
Use the keys to move the lens a single focusing step, thekeys to move the lens by 5 focusing steps and the keys to move by 25 focusing steps. These are the default values, you can adjust them in Preferences. You can also choose different sizes of focusing steps in Preferences for Canon and Nikon cameras, StackShot rails and Trinamic motors.
The keys allow quick navigation between the nearest and the farthest points. You can use them to make sure that the focusing points have been saved correctly before shooting a stack.
The DOF preview and the Highlight focused areas functions are described below in the Customizing Live View section.
The DOF Calculator helps set the correct interval between shots, which should not exceed the depth of field estimated by the calculator. Both the interval between shots and the DOF values provided by the calculator are measured in focusing steps (lens motor steps, lens rotation). This DOF is different from the optical DOF as measured in mm. DOF in lens steps rarely depends on focusing distance.
The DOF calculation is based on the current aperture, focal length and lens correction factor.
The program fills in the aperture and focal length if this information is available. You can adjust these parameters if you prefer or if you plan to use different camera settings.
The correction factor varies for different types of lenses. You can try and work with the default value of "1," but there is a chance you will take too many or too few shots. Ideally, you should find the right correction factor for each type of lens. You can read how to do this in the next section.
Different types of lenses have different internal mechanics, so we recommend that you find the correction factor for each of your lenses.
If the correction factor is too big, then the estimated interval between steps will be larger than the real DOF. When you merge the stack, the resulting image will not be completely in focus. If the correction factor is too small, then the resulting image will be completely in focus but the program will take more shots than necessary.
To check if default correction factor is optimal for your lens, follow these steps:
This test proves that increasing the correction factor — and therefore the interval between shots — results in a partially soft image, which happens because the DOF is smaller than the interval between shots. Thus the focused areas do not overlap when all the shots are stacked together.
As a general rule, the correct value should produce a completely focused image and double that value should give a regular pattern of focused and unfocused areas.
To find the right correction factor:
1) Create and process a stack. If you see a regular pattern of focused and unfocused areas, you need to lower the value of the correction factor. Decrease its value until you get a completely focused resulting image.
2) Double the correction factor. Then create and process a stack. If you do not see a regular pattern of focused and unfocused areas, you need to increase the value of the correction factor. Do so until you see this pattern. After completing this procedure, divide the value by two.
You can use automatic or manual exposure bracketing modes with Helicon Remote.
To increase/ decrease the values of one column by the same value, use the "plus" and "minus" buttons. To change one value, click on the cell and select a value from the drop-down list.
We recommend that you not change the aperture, as the backgrounds will blur differently (because of the different apertures) and this may spoil the results of the focus stacking.
Time-lapse shooting is when you leave your camera to take shots automatically every few seconds, minutes, or hours.
Why would you do this? If your object is changing over time you may want to capture its different stages and then combine the shots into a movie. For example, you could capture a flower bud opening, a piece of fruit as it ripens, traffic on a busy street during the period of a day, or whatever suits your fancy.
With Helicon Remote, you can combine time-lapse shooting with focus stacking and exposure bracketing.
The main limitation with time-lapse shooting is the life of the camera battery. In order to increase this, switch off Live View during shooting: File → Preferences → Shooting → Activate live view when taking a shot: No. For Nikon cameras you also have to set your lens to manual focusing mode (MF). If a Canon camera still switches the LiveView on despite of the setting, also set the lens to manual focusing mode (MF).
Helicon Remote detects MLU mode for Canon cameras (see status bar) and behaves accordingly. Nikon cameras have two different settings: Mirror Lock Up (Mup) shooting mode and Exposure delay. Exposure delay is not indicated by Helicon Remote but it functions properly. Mup mode has no effect on Helicon Remote, it will function as if the regular Single shooting mode is set.
In order to use MLU with a Canon camera, simply find and activate the MLU mode (or mirror pre-fire) in your camera settings. In Helicon Remote's preferences you can set the delay for MLU mode:This delay allows the camera to become still after raising the mirror. The less the camera vibrates, the sharper the image will be.
Helicon Remote should detect when you activate MLU in your camera settings. You can check for MLU activation on the left side of the status bar, which is along the bottom of the program window. (It will read "MLU: on" or "MLU: off.")
You can use this function to focus on the nearest or farthest part of an object. Click on the area on which you wish to focus and the camera lens will focus automatically.
The typical workflow is:
Note: after using the Auto focus function, all previously saved focusing points will be reset, because the lens cannot "report" the number of focusing steps between the two endpoints to Helicon Remote if you use auto focusing. Helicon Remote can only get the number of focusing steps between two endpoints if you move from one focusing point to another with the arrow keys.
Helicon Remote waits for a specific number of seconds for the lens to focus; the default is five seconds. For Canon cameras, you can change this in preferences in the main menu:.
If you are using a Canon camera with a non-Canon flash you have to switch Live View off during shooting in order for the flash to fire. You can set this in preferences by going to the main menu and choosing:
This function allows you to shoot stacks manually: focus on one spot, take a shot, focus again, take another shot, etc. Please note that bracketing parameters are also taken into account. If focus and exposure bracketing is active, the camera will take several shots.
Helicon Remote is able to connect to cameras via network/Wi-Fi. The setup procedure is quite complicated. You will find step by step instructions with menu screenshots here.
A histogram can help determine whether or not the exposure settings are correct.
The horizontal axis represents the range over which the brightness of pixels can vary (from 0 to 255). This is the dynamic range of a digital image. The vertical axis represents the number of pixels with a given brightness. Dark pixels are on the left side of the histogram and bright pixels are on the right.
Therefore, if there are "hills" on the left side and nothing on the right, this can mean that your image is underexposed, and vice versa.
Please note that a histogram is based on the Live View image, but often the Live View image does not use the same exposure settings that are used to take shots. We recommend that you take some trial shots by using the Fast preview or Preview function, in order to check the exposure settings.
The DOF preview checkbox controls the aperture. If it is not enabled, the camera will produce the Live View image using the widest aperture regardless of the aperture value in the camera settings. Enabling DOF preview sets the actual aperture for Live View mode. The DOF preview only works for Canon cameras and only if Live View is NOT in Exposure Simulation mode.
The Highlight focused areas tool helps you see which areas are in focus at the moment. You can change the sensitivity of focus highlighting in Preferences.
You can turn on and off the gridlines for the Live View in Preferences. The gridlines can help to frame your image and to keep your horizons level and the vertical elements in your photo straight.
To remove noise from the Live View you can activate the Noise averaging feature in Preferences. This can result in clearer image and allows to focus more precisely.
To see the overexposed areas, you can activate the Highlighting of overexposed areas by clicking on the warning triangle button in the top left corner of the histogram. If your camera is in the Exposed simulation mode, then you will see the exposure warnings for the current exposure settings on the Live View image. If the Exposure simulation is disabled (for Canon cameras) or is not available (for Nikon cameras) you can use the Fast preview function to see the exposure warnings for the current exposure settings.
The Exposure simulation function attempts to display the expected outcome of your chosen exposure settings; this function exists in most Canon cameras.
Use these functions to evaluate the exposure settings before shooting a stack.
The difference between Preview and Fast preview is in the way image is displayed.
Fast preview shoots a JPEG (either small, normal quality, or large, fine quality according to the Preview quality setting) and opens it in Helicon Remote for several seconds. You can set the preview time in preferences: . Fast preview allows you to zoom in for examining fine details of the image.
Preview shoots an image at the same quality level as are in the camera settings and opens it in the default image viewer.
There is a group of settings in the Preferences dialogue (or CTRL + ALT + P) called Image Saving that defines where the images will be saved after shooting. You can choose separately for RAW, JPEG images, and video files whether they should be moved to computer and deleted from camera, or copied to the computer or leaved in camera.
You can also choose the folder where the images should be saved (Folder for images). In main program you can see the name of the current image folder in the bottom left corner. If you click on it, the folder will open in the default system file manager (Explorer / Finder).
For most cameras you just need to open the Preferences dialogue (or CTRL + ALT + P), find the group of settings called Image Saving and set the values for Download JPEG images after shooting, Download RAW images after shooting, and Download movies after recording to "Leave in camera" or "Copy to computer" (the images will be saved both on camera memory card and on computer hard drive).
For Nikon D90/D300/D700 you also need to set the lens to manual focusing mode (MF) and to disable the Live View during shooting ().
|Language||Changes the interface language.|
|Fast preview time||Determines how many seconds the fast preview picture will stay on the screen.|
|Image review||Determines how many seconds the new image will stay on the screen after you've shot it.|
|Live view rotation||Rotates or mirrors the Live View image for your convenience.|
|Background color||Determines the color of the background behind the Live View image.|
|Live View noise averaging||Turns on / off the noise averaging for the Live View. Noise averaging can result in clearer image and allows to focus more precisely.|
Affects the "Highlight focused areas" feature. If set to "Low sensitivity," it only highlights the few most contrasting areas; if set to "Medium sensitivity," it also highlights less contrast areas. "High sensitivity" can detect even finer image fetures but is highly subject to noise.
|Show grid||Turns on / off the gridlines for the Live View.|
|Activate Live View upon connecting to camera||Set it to "No" if you don't want the Live View to appear upon connecting to camera; activating the Live View takes several seconds and may slow down your work.|
Click the Show all hidden dialogues button to renew showing all prompts; this is especially useful for certain prompts, such as "Are you sure you want to delete this image?" where you may have selected the checkbox "Don't show this window again" in the past. With this button, you can see all such prompts again.
|Pause for flash recharge||The pause occurs after a shot to allow enough time for the flash to recharge before the next shot.|
|Activate live view when taking a shot||You can set it to "No" to disable Live View during shooting in order to increase the life of the camera battery. Note that live view is required to be active for moving focus position (unless you're using a stepper device), so having this option set to "No" will imply additional mirror flips when shooting a focus bracketing sequence.|
|Disable Live View after finishing stack||You can choose to disable Live View after finishing shooting, in order to increase the life of the camera battery.|
|Huge step, Big step, Medium step||Determines the number of focusing steps the lens will take when you press the and keys. The size of one focusing step (or lens motor step) can also be defined in preferences and is defined separately for Canon, Nikon, StackShot and Trinamic.|
You can choose between the "low"and the "high" quality of the image that is made when you use the Fast preview feature. Using the high quality preview can slow down the application if your device possesses scarce resources, as a phone, for example. If you are not short of resources, we recommend to use the high quality preview.
|BULB exposure||Here you can specify your custom exposure and it will appear in the list - the Time combobox in the Camera settings group.|
|Folder for images||Chooses the folder where the images will be saved. Helicon Remote will create subfolders for new stacks inside this folder.|
|File naming||Determines automatic file naming; typically it will include date, time, and counter.|
|Folder naming||Determines automatic naming for the folders that Helicon Remote creates for new stacks.|
|Download RAW images after shooting||You can choose what you will do with RAW images after shooting: move to computer (delete from camera), copy to computer, or leave in camera.|
|Download JPEG images after shooting||You can choose what you will do with JPEG images after shooting: move to computer (delete from camera), copy to computer, or leave in camera.|
|Download movies after recording||You can choose what you will do with movies after shooting: move to computer (delete from camera), copy to computer, or leave in camera.|
|Create new folder for the new stacks||If set to "yes," a new folder will be created for every new stack. If set to "no," a new folder is created after the program starts and all the stacks are created.|
|Size of focusing steps||You can set the size of focusing steps in abstract units. Set the number of focusing steps made when choosing the and keys here.|
|Limit maximum amount of continuous focus movement||
When a lens moves from A focusing point to B focusing point it performs the continuous focus movement. This happens when you use the quick navigation keys or when the camera finishes shooting a stack and the lens returns to the starting position.Some lenses can loose track of the focus position during such continuous focus movement; this problem can be solved by limiting the maximum amount of focusing steps in the continous focus movement, then the lens will perform the movement with several stops.
|Max amount of continuous focus movement||The maximum amount of focusing steps in the continous focus movement. If the lens has to be moved over a longer distance, Helicon Remote will perform several seuential movements, each no longer than limited by this setting.|
|Size of focusing steps||You can choose between "big" and "small" focusing steps. Set the number of focusing steps made when choosing the and keys here.|
|Pause between focusing steps||If the pause between focusing steps is too short, certain lenses may skip some steps.|
|Auto focus time||This setting affects the Auto focus function. It defines how long Helicon Remote waits for a lens to auto focus. If the amount of time is too short, the camera may not have enough time to auto focus.|
|Delay for MLU mode||
You can set the length of the delay between the moment the mirror goes up and the time the shot is taken. This delay enables the camera to grow still before taking a shot, increasing sharpness.
|Size of focusing steps||You can set the size of the focusing steps in micro steps, millimeters or inches. Set the number of focusing steps made with the and keys here.|
|Pause after movement||A pause may be required after the StackShot moves, so that the camera becomes still before taking a shot.|
|Invert direction||This may be useful for correlating the physical and logical movements of the StackShot. For example, if you click (move to the right) in Helicon Remote and the camera actually moves to the left, you will probably need to invert the direction.|
|Allow use without camera||In some cases you may need to control the StackShot only without connecting a camera to Helicon Remote. Select this checkbox in this situation so that Helicon Remote will function properly.|
|Size of focusing steps||You can set the size of focusing steps in micro steps and degrees and then you can set how many focusing steps are made when choosing the and keys here.|
|Pause after movement||A pause may be necessary after the motor moves to allow the camera to become still before the next shot.|
|Maximum acceleration||You can limit the maximum acceleration for more smooth movements.|
|Maximum torque||You can limit the maximum torque to avoid damaging the motor.|
|Invert direction||This can be useful for correlating the physical and logical movements of the motor. For example, if you click (move to the right) in Helicon Remote and the camera actually moves to the left, you probably need to invert the direction.|
|Enable limit switches||Trinamic has two pairs of pins for connecting two limit switches (left and right). If this option is enabled, hitting any of the switches will stop Trinamic from moving. Only enable it once you have switches connected, otherwise the motor will not move at all.|
If you have any trouble using Helicon Remote or notice any strange behavior in the program, please let us know the details so that we can help you ASAP. You can give us the details we need by using the Report a bug function, which you can find in the main menu: .
If Helicon Remote behaves strangely, but doesn't crash, just go to the main menu and select:.
If Helicon Remote crashes, restart the program. When it reopens, select:.
In the Report a bug dialogue, you can enter your email address and type in comments. If you give us your email address, we can send you a link to a new version of the program with the bug corrected.
You can select the checkbox Show the data to be sent to see that no private data is being sent. If for any reason the report cannot be sent (a computer that runs Remote is not connected to Internet, for example), you can copy the data from the Report a bug dialogue, and send it manually to email@example.com along with a description of the problem.
StackShot is an electronically controlled macro rail. (See a complete description at: http://www.cognisys-inc.com.) The USB version of StackShot costs $525.00 (price as of Nov. 7, 2011). This includes the StackShot controller with USB cable, stepper motor-enabled macro rail, AC adapter (US, EU, AUS, or UK), and a 2m motor cable.
We developed and tested Helicon Remote with a Trinamic PANDrive PD3-110-42-232. This is a compact and strong stepper motor with a maximum torque of 0.49N-m and stall protection. See the technical data sheet for more details.
In all likelihood, other Trinamic motors are also compatible with the program, as they have the same programming interface.
The Trinamic PANDrive PD3-110-42-232 currently costs $200-250 and can be purchased from the following online stores.
|www.conrad.de||PANDRIVE 42MM, RS232, 0.50 NM|
You will also need a USB-RS232 converter ($30-40) to connect the motor to a computer.
|www.farnell.com||FTDI - USB-RS232-WE-1800-BT|
You may find similar converters in computer shops. Make sure the converter uses an FTDI chip so that the program can find it.
You will also need a power supply with 12-28V DC voltage and a maximum current of at least 1.5 amps. Almost any laptop power supply will conform to these specifications.
The image below shows how to wire the USB converter and Trinamic motor.
The procedure for connecting Remote to Trinamic motor is the same as for StackShot (see the previous section of this document).
There is a known problem on Mac since OS X 10.9, because of which Stackshot and Trinamic don't work out of the box. Solution:
sudo mv AppleUSBFTDI.kext AppleUSBFTDI.disabled
sudo touch /System/Library/Extensions
Helicon Remote works with Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras that support Live View mode.
The following is a list of compatible cameras:
Canon - 70D, 700D, 6D, 5D Mk III, 1D X, 7D, 5D Mk II, 1D Mk IV, 1D Mk III, 1Ds Mk III, 60D, 50D, 40D, 650D/Rebel T4i/Kiss X6, 600D/Rebel T3i/Kiss X5, 1100D/Rebel T3, 1000D/Rebel XS, 550D/Rebel T2i/Kiss X4, 500D/Rebel T1i/Kiss X3, 450D/Rebel XSi/Kiss X2 and later models; Nikon - D600, D7100, D5200, D800/D800e, D4, D3, D3s, D3x, D7000, D5000, D5100, D700, D300/D300s, D90 and later models. Nikon D3000, D3100 and D3200 are not supported.
The up-to-date list for most recent version please see on our site.
Helicon Remote can be purchased as as a standalone program. It is included into Pro or Premium Helicon Focus licenses (see details here).
If used for evaluation purposes, the program is limited to shooting low resolution JPEGs.
Helicon Remote for Android can be purchased from Helicon Soft home page or on Google Play.
Helicon Remote is available for Mac OS and Windows. It is installed/upgraded as standalone program. Installation can be downloaded from the Helicon Focus download page.
Android version can be downloaded and installed from Google Play.
The minimum recommended monitor resolution is 1280x800, although the program will probably still work at a lower resolution.
Helicon Remote requires Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8; or Mac OS X 10.6 or later; or Android 3.1+ and devices with USB host support.
Your camera is probably not supported. See the list of supported cameras here. If your camera is on the list of supported cameras but you still can't see Live View, please report a bug; in your report please specify your camera and describe the problem. We will try to help you ASAP.
Helicon Remote only supports Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras.
Helicon Remote can only work with cameras that support remote Live View and remote focus control. Canon cameras prior to 40D and Nikon cameras prior to D90 do not support these features. Helicon Remote also doesn't support the Nikon D3000 line of cameras because they lack remote control capabilities.
Make sure that you are using a USB OTG adapter and that there is a pop-up message when you plug the camera in and turn int on. If there's no pop-up, it means that Android itself doesn't detect the camera for one reason or another.
Common reasons: no USB host hardware in your Android device, not an OTG adapter or adapter / cable defect, or Android build that your device is running has limited USB support. It means that it will detect some types of USB devices but not others. You can test this case by connecting a USB mouse instead of the camera and checking that a cursor appears on the screen .A mouse will always be recognized if the cables, adapter and USB host hardware are OK. If the test confirms that mouse is detected and the camera isn't, the only solution we know is to install a custom Android ROM with no limitations (like CyanogenMOD).