Macphun has given us a number of great tools for iOS and OS X, and their Focus product is certainly no exception. Light field cameras hold some promise of providing simple after-the-shot adjustments for your photos, but complex focus situations like tilt-shift, macro, and portrait photography still require one of two things: an expensive lens combined with perfect technique, or stellar software. Focus 2 Pro is, luckily, the latter, and it’s drastically cheaper than all those camera lenses and other software packages designed to simulate focus effects.
Plug It In
Focus 2 Pro shares one trait with its Macphun brethren: it does one thing, and it does it really well. All of the Macphun desktop apps and most of the iOS apps share a common interface paradigm, with a large, central image viewing pane and a slider-based adjustment pane on the right. You can launch the app as a standalone and then open files manually, but the Pro version is really designed for integration with Aperture, Lightroom, or Photoshop via plug-in.
Focus 2 Pro is capable of handling RAW or TIFF images up to 16-bit, so your original image quality is saved throughout the roundtrip from your library to editing and back. The software is also lightning fast as it takes advantage of hardware-based graphics acceleration for many effects. There was a time when computer hardware was benchmarked by the time it took Photoshop to render a Gaussian blur, but Focus 2 handled most blur tasks I threw at it in a matter of seconds. JPEGs were near real-time, while RAW files up to 25MB never took more than a couple seconds to render, regardless of settings.
Macphun makes two versions of Focus 2: a standard and a Pro version, both of which are based around a presets-driven interface. You can choose from one of five presets: Portrait, Nature, Architecture, Macro, or Tilt-Shift. I found these five covered about 90% of what I wanted to do with my photos; the only intervention required was dragging the focus lines to set what’s in focus vs. what’s out of focus. For the other 10% I could easily make adjustments to the three components of Focus 2: Blur, Motion, and what Macphun calls In Focus.
The first two, Blur and Motion, are pretty self explanatory; using simple sliders, you can control the amount of blur, vignette, and directionality for the out-of-focus portion of your shot. In Focus is also dead simple;: it lets you adjust brightness, sharpness, clarity, and vividness of the in-focus portion of your shot.
Underlying the presets available in Focus 2 are basically two different blur models. The first is a round/radial blur, which is used in the Portrait and Macro presets. You get one inner ring that’s the in focus section of the image, and then an outer ring where the focus gets blurred. Underlying the Nature, Architecture, and Tilt-Shift presets are linear blurs, which give you a strip of picture that’s in focus and and adjustable strips out of focus. The presets vary in the intensity of the associated settings; e.g. the portrait preset has very light blur, low contrast, and does very little to the in-focus portion, while the Macro preset ups the sharpness and vividness of the in focus portion to really make macro shots pop.
Focus 2′s forte is its ability to take photos from documentary to dramatic. A shot may be well composed yet still lack deep visual interest, but by pulling your viewer’s focus with subtle blurs you can transform a ho-hum snapshot into a dramatic photo.
As with all Macphun’s software you can grab a free trial if you’re unsure, then make the upgrade decision after you try it out. If you’re at all interested in tilt-shift, portrait, or landscape photography, Focus 2 Pro’s $40 price tag is amazing compared to the thousands you’d need to invest in lenses to get the same effects.
Focus 2 Pro is available from the Macphun store (not the Mac App Store, as plug-ins are banned by the App Store rules). You can also upgrade from the regular Focus product (which is available on the App Store), if you want plug-in functionality forAperture,Lightroom or Photoshop.
Buy Focus 2 Pro
Provides: Software-based photo blur effects
Minimum System Requirements: OS X v10.7, Intel Core 2 Duo or later,
Minimum Plug-in Requirements: Aperture 3.2, Lightroom 4, Photoshop CS5, Photoshop Elements 10-12