Tech News on G4

Focus 2 easily adds focus, blurring and other lens effects

Feb 10, 2014

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gazin’ - G4 Canada

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There are days I’m in such a hurry to take a picture that I’m usually happy if it all comes out in focus. But there are times where adjusting the focal point of an object to make it jump out of the picture or purposely blurring a section for a contrasting effect, among other options, can really add to the overall impact of the image.

Focus 2On many cameras today you can add effects right within the hardware or use a special lens.  You can adjust the aperture or maybe set it to take a shot in macro mode; but even then, it might not always come out the way you want.  Especially if you’re like me – a little depth of field challenged! Of course, there are apps for that. Classic apps like Photoshop can certainly do the job and then some and, although great for some people, it might be a little intimidating or overkill for others.

This is where Focus 2 by MacPhun is just what you need. It’s positioned as an app for Mac OS that “shifts your perspective”. It offers a small number of functions designed to add effects like selective focus, custom blurring, vignettes, tilt-shift (creating a miniature effect) and more, not simply to focus your image but to focus on what matters to you.

Launch the app and it asks you to drop in a photo. It even offers suggestions and quick-tips as to how you can proceed.

Focus 2There are five aperture settings optimized for: Portrait, Nature, Architecture, Macro or Tilt-Shift images plus a custom mode. Each mode offers a slider to adjust the aperture – the area to be in focus, where you want the eye to see and blur the image outside. There’s a Vignette setting, which drops the light or brightness around the periphery of your image to direct the eye even farther. It darkens the area outside the area focus. The Vividness setting will either punch up your colour or remove it altogether. If you’d like to leave it to the app to decide, select auto and it will do it for you.

Focus 2The Portrait and Macro setting allow you select a circular centre of focus and you can make the circumference as large or as small as you want. There’s also a second concentric circle with the same properties to control the drop off. The other three presets use linear tools instead of circles allowing you to adjust the focus/blur area across an image. The rotate control allowing you to select the angle of the area you want to effect. Like the circle, linear adjustments can also be made to alter the width of the focus area.

The Custom feature seems counterintuitive, but it’s actually quite clever. It starts by blurring the entire image. Then with a brush – you can select the size and the hardness of the stroke, and then paint the areas that you want to be in focus. This is ideal because it gives you complete control, allowing you to add effects anywhere, even randomly on the image.

Focus 2For Mac track pad users, many of the functions like resize, rotate, and drag, as well as using the controllers, can be done using multi-touch gestures. A quick reference guide can be found on the bottom right corner of the apps window.

Focus 2 works with most popular file formats, including TIFF and RAW. Once you’ve applied all your effects and are ready to save, the app defaults to its own proprietary format that retains all its settings in case you need to make further changes.

You can also export to formats like JPG, TIFF, PNG, PSD and send your creation to a variety of apps like Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom, Photoshop, FX Photo Studio, Intensify and Snapheal. And if you want to share to the usual places like Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter, you can do that too.

Focus 2I was just amazed with the results that Focus 2 was able to help me produce from otherwise bland photographs and because it’s so easy to use, it’s not intimidating.

I have to admit I had a lot of fun testing out this app, maybe a little too much, as the possibilities are endless. You can see the results of your creativity as the app offers real-time live preview with MacPhun’s LiveBlur Technology.

But I’m sure I still need a lot of practice or maybe the right pic as I wasn’t able to get the same result as the sample church steeple image using the tilt-shift effect.

Focus 2Also, the cropping feature did have me a little perplexed. Unlike apps like Preview or iPhoto that actually crop the image once you select that function, here you only see the crop once you crop then select another function.

Regardless, Focus 2 is ideal for people who need a little more than iPhoto and would like a simple way to add the lens effects at reasonable price. In fact, it pays for itself the first time you use it. In fact by experimenting with different settings, you begin to see your photos in a whole new light.

Focus 2 by MacPhun V1.01 for Mac OS sells for $14.99 (on sale for $11.99 at time of writing) and is available from the App Store.  It requires a Mac running OS X 10.7 with a 64-bit processor.

Rating: 4.75/5


Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy "at" telus "dot" net , , or on Twitter @GadgetGreg

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