Lytro introduced us to light field technology over a year ago with their innovative perspective shift technology. This technology allows users to interact with "living images" by changing the focal point of an already produced image. By simply touching the screen (or clicking with a traditional PC) at various points in the image, users can decide what part of the image is in focus and what part isn't.
The makers of the Focus Twist app, Arqball, thought this technology was pretty nifty, so they created an app that would produce similar results.
FocusTwist is an iOS app that lets you take refocusable images with your iPhone or iPad. It works by taking several images over a few seconds at different focus settings. It saves your images into one file that is saved to the web and allows you to access them through the app. You can also choose to Tweet your images or email them to your friends.
Interface/How it Works
The user interface is simple to use containing only 3 menu sections: the archived image gallery, the sharing section where you can view other users twitter feeds, and the camera itself. In order to take an image just tap on the camera mode at the top of the app and then tap the screen to start recording. Here's the catch. You need to have very steady hands or use a tripod to get the best results. Hand holding the camera will lead to images that gives away the magic of this app. The app actually works by creating a series or images that are compiled instead of one image like the Lytro camera produces. If you use a tripod you won't see any movement, but as we all know handing holding a camera for three second will inevitably produce movement in your images no matter how steady your hands may be.
The focus/defocus effect works best when you shoot a subject that is about 4 inches in front of your camera. The other object(s) will need to be several feet away to create a more profound depth of field experience. (Click on different areas of image to change focus.)
I have always been enamored with the Lytro camera. I love the ingenuity of the technology. So when I heard about the FocusTwist app I thought, "What the heck? I'll try it!" It only take a few seconds to install and the app is ready to use. I headed outside to see how effortless this app could be.
Actually, it was! As I stated earlier you will need a set of steady hands or, better yet, a tripod. I tried to balance my iPhone 4s as much as possible, but I still experienced movement. After a tap of the screen the app tells you to hold still and then lets you know when the image is finished. My best results came when I used the app as instructed with a subject close in the foreground and another subject several feet or yards back from that. I was able to produce some pleasing results. One thing you will want to note it that the app crops in your iPhone camera's traditional field of view.
After getting some good images I decided to take it one step further. I added the Olloclip to my iPhone to see what would happen. It was actually kind of cool. I started with the macro lens. It is much harder to control that way, but I was able to produce a few super close-up images of little plants that were growing in my landscaping. I also attached the fish-eye. This is where you can really tell how much the app crops the field of view. The fish-eye lens was no longer a fish-eye lens. (Click on different areas of image to change focus.)
The app performed smoothly with no hesitation or problems of any kind. The process of compiling the images into one happened behind the scenes of the app and also was quick and flawless.
The FocusTwist app is a fun and interesting way to manipulate iPhone and iPad images. It is addictive and creative. Overall, we think it has so much potential with only one drawback - inevidable movement due to time lapsed image capture. It can generate an interesting effect, but without a tripod it loses a bit of its "cool factor." If your are like me you don't typically carry around an iPhone tripod. But I'm not going to give up on the app. With a couple of updates I think the creators can figure out a way to compensate for the image movement and make this app even better. No, it won't replace the Lytro camera. But if you never had any intention of spending $400 for a specialized camera then $2 is a easy concession to make for interesting images that will have your Twitter followers saying, "Wow. Cool pic! How did you do that?"
Want to see your images in the #focustwist Twitter feed? Simply attach #focustwist when you post your images. They will pick their favorites to go in their feed.