Infitnity Focusstacker (automated Focus stacking)

This is the project I was talking (waaay) earlier in my 'Gigapan' posts:
I was not really satisfied with the level of sharpness I was getting out of my D800 and the Nikkor 14-24mm. Don't get me wrong this is an amazing combo and the sharpness is great until you look at the 36Mpix at 100% and print it 1m x 3m at 300dpi.

So I testes some method to improve the sharpness and used focus stacking on some of my images with stunning results, but using this method by hand introduced a lot of problems:
  • You touch the camera and the lens (of course) and that could move the whole thing 
  • It gets boring really fast
  • Nothing repeatable 
  • The increments to move are really small if you want the maximum depth of field 
This is where this baby comes into play:

Build totally from scratch - which took me longer than expected.
It utilizes a geared ring, intended for follow focus while shooting video, to connect to the lens, which sits on top of a stepper motor which is able to address 2048 single steps for a full rotation - this guarantees enough precision throughout the whole focus range.
Not shown in the picture is the controller, which I also build from scratch using an Arduino as a base for prototyping and then transitioned to a stand alone microcontroller at the final stage.

The controller connects to the shutter release port of the camera as well as the motor and works without supervision down to millisecond precision - it operates the exposure, the movement of the motor and could do much more.

I do know of commercial products which do the same thing but they cost about 1500€, my solution comes in at about 10% of that - just under 150€, which includes the material for a second controller, as I ordered some parts as backup in case I fry some of them, the rods and the quick release plate.

The first test runs were very pleasing and made this build a complete success.
If there is interest, and I find time (which would be the real problem because I am also building a slider and a controller for time-lapse which has to be functional before next month) I could get into detail on the build, the controller and the programming.


Addition, as of December 9th '13:
It is working like I intended, the program runs fine but has a few settings which are too complicated for anyone else but me :).
It had a couple of uses during my month in Dubai but to be honest I used single exposure shots most of the time.
At the moment I am back at university so I do not have the free time to work on it at all but I do have a couple of ideas for a new version which might happen during early next year.