Helicon Focus is a software package which is designed to assist photographers in creating focus stacked images. These images consist of many images where only one component of the image is actually ‘in-focus' due to a very small depth of field which is usually associated with a macro lens or a microscope lens.
Due to the physical properties of light, it is not possible to increase the depth of field of these lenses (e.g. increase aperture) so as a result it requires some computational ‘trickery' in order to combine a number of individual images (each with a different point of focus) into one image which has the required areas fully in focus.
This can be done within Photoshop, or Affinity Photo however, the algorithms are fairly simplistic and as such the results that you obtain may not be sufficient, this is where dedicated software like Helicon Focus, or Zerene Stacker can be used to obtain more desirable results.
Within the Helicon ecosphere there are two main peices of software, the main peice of software is Helicon Remote which does the heavy lifting with respect to stitching the images into a focus stacked output. The second peice of software is called Helicon Remote; this software essentially controls a connected device (e.g. a camera, or focus stacking rail or stepper motor) to change the point of focus (change the camera lens focus, move the rail, or move the stepper motor) and take an image. This This essentially automates the process, so if you are taking hundreds of photos you are not stuck and can offload that task to Helicon Remote.
I have Helicon Focus Premium, and used it fairly often (until we packed up stuff for a move coming up), however, in reality I used the tablet version of the Helicon Remote fairly infrequently (but the PC version more often) so could have gotten by with the Helicon Focus Pro package. I found the software a little bit confusing to use at the start but extreamly powerful. If you are looking to conducting focus stacking on a regular basis then this is the software I would recommend.
Costs (as at 2016)
|Helicon Focus Lite1||Helicon Focus Pro2||Helicon Focus Premium3|
|1 Year Licence = $30 USD||1 Year Licence = $55 USD||1 Year Licence = $65 USD|
|Unlimited Licence = $115 USD||Unlimited Licence = $200 USD||Unlimited Licence = $240 USD|
1; Does not include Helicon Remote for Desktop, specialised retouching tools, batch functionality, RAW-in-RAW-out mode, 3D model generation and 2D micro-panorama, and Helicon Remote.
2; Does not include Helicon Remote (Mobile).
3; Includes all features.