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The Lytro camera is an amazing way to add perspective to photos, but at $399, it’s beyond the financial grasp of many amateur shutterbugs. Thankfully, a new iPhone app promises to deliver refocusable, ready-to-share images for a whole lot less. FocusTwist takes a page from the Lytro playbook, creating images where the key focus can be changed to another object with just a tap.
The app is fairly specific about how to create a so-called twist: Foreground images should be no more than four inches from the lens, while background objects need to be further than five feet away. Tap the screen, and FocusTwist begins recording a series of images capturing objects from the entire focal range. During this time, you’ll need to hold the iPhone as still as possible – any motion could effectively ruin the shot. That pretty much eliminates FocusTwist for shots of kids or most pets, although we did manage to get decent twists of a Labrador retriever, albeit one who is quite used to posing for photos by now.
FocusTwist does indeed produce effective images, but you’ll need to use the app or its companion website to actually view them. Refocusable images are shot at a mere 512 x 512 pixels, and there’s no way to export them aside from sharing via Twitter, MMS, or email, although flattened versions are automatically saved to the Camera Roll (this can be disabled via Settings). The developers also maintain an in-app feed of user-supplied images to foster a community atmosphere. Add the #focustwist hashtag when posting to Twitter – a one-tap button is included for this very purpose – and the image will be considered for inclusion on the feed. We were notified via Twitter within 20 minutes of posting that our first attempt was selected, which appeared in the feed 10 minutes later.
The bottom line. There’s not a whole lot to FocusTwist, but the app does produce nice results with only a little extra effort for those with a steady hand. For unique shots of inanimate objects, it sure beats dropping 400 bucks on another device.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 5.1 or later
Creates unique images with minimal effort. Easy-to-understand, settings-free UI. In-app feed of company-selected twists inspires creativity.
Small 512 x 512 pixel image size. Twists only saved to Camera Roll as flattened JPEG files. Requires strict adherence to guidelines for best results.