MacPhun Focus 2 Pro does the same job as a number of other digital ‘bokeh’ filters. It lets you selectively defocus parts of the image to create a shallow depth of field effect. This can work well with portraits, where it can blur cluttered backgrounds, and you can use it with high-angle shots that look down on your subject to create a ‘miniature’ effect.
It’s all done using an on-screen gadget which is either circular or horizontal. You adjust this to produce your area or zone of sharp focus. Away from this the focus drops away so that the details in the picture become progressively more blurred.
This annotated screenshot shows how it works:
01 Focus effects
You click the button that corresponds most closely to the type of picture you’re working on, such as portrait, landscape and so on. This decides the shape of the defocus gadget, though in reality this is either a strip or a circle whatever you pick. The final button Custom button, however, lets you paint on the focus effect manually using an adjustable brush tool.
02 Focus gadget
This is what I’ll call a ‘planar’ focus gadget – it lets you create a strip of sharp focus so that only objects at a certain distance are sharp and anything nearer or further way is out of focus. It simulates a large lens aperture being used on a larger format camera.
You drag the centre handle to move it around, and the outer green handles to rotate it. There are two sets of lines further out: you drag the inner set in and out to define the area that stays completely sharp, and you drag the outer lines to adjust the distance over which the image is gradually defocused. The areas outside these outer lines are completely defocused.
If you choose the Portrait effect, you’ll get a circular defocus gadget rather than a horizontal one. The same principles apply, though – you have inner and outer lines you drag to control the size of the defocus effect and the distance it works over.
03 Blur panel
This panel controls what happens in the outer, blurred areas. You can control the amount of blur, add a vignette effect and change the contrast, saturation and highlight rendition of the blurred areas. This is more control than you usually get with defocus filters, and you can use it to create a more retro, lo-fi look.
04 Motion panel
This is another setting you don’t usually get with focus filters. It’s like the Motion Blur filter in Photoshop adding a linear ‘streaked’ effect that looks like the kind of blur you get from a moving subject or a panning shot.
In practice, it’s actually a little more difficult to make this look convincing than you might think, because if the subject is moving towards the camera, the panning lines would tend to converge, whereas with this filter they’re parallel – it’s going to work best with subjects moving across the frame and perpendicular to the camera.
05 In Focus panel
This controls what the in-focus areas of the picture look like. You can increase the saturation and clarity, for example, which works really well with ‘miniature’ effects but can also help separate your subject from its surroundings.
Where do you get it?
The first thing to know is that Focus 2 Pro is Mac-only. At the moment its developer, MacPhun, doesn’t produce Windows software (hence the name).
The second thing is that there are Standard and Pro versions costing $9.99 and $39.99. You can get the standard version on the Mac App Store and upgrade to the Pro version later for $19.99, which is a cheaper option. If you’re in the UK you can buy direct from www.macphun.com in UK £.
Both versions work as standalone apps, but the Pro version comes with plug-ins for Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop and Elements. It also has a couple of fancy tools, such as a ‘twirl’ option, and the ability to work with RAW and PSD (Photoshop) files.
Is it worth it?
Focus 2 Pro available as a fully-functioning 15-day trial, so why not try it out? The secret with these defocus filters is not to take them too seriously. They really can’t exactly match the optical effect of defocusing because they’re working on two-dimensional images when the original scene was in three. But as long as you’re not expecting optical accuracy, Focus 2 Pro can still produce attractive defocus effects which are close enough to the real thing to satisfy most photographers.