Review: Autofocus for 2G/3G Camera
Autofocus for 2G/3GCamera
Bottom Line: Nice faux-DOF but hampered by less than full-res output
Autofocus for 2G/3G Camera by JFDP Labs brings sharp focus and gradual depth of field (DOF) to the iPhone 2G and 3G cameras. The app is optimized for the older generation iPhones which have no built-in focus features at all. It doesn’t modify the hardware on these devices. It does not add hardware autofocus to the devices. It achieves the focus effect by either automatically or allowing you to manually select and define a focus area and then reproducing a gradual depth of field focus blur from that point.
The focus effect is adjustable, subtle and nice, but the app has a few problems in this initial release.
The focus effect that the app adds is nicely done and different than other focus apps, such as FocalLab. The focus effect starts as a gradual blur and blends into a ghosting effect further into the focus falloff area, reproducing lens artifacts. Because it’s not a true hardware focus, this effect doesn’t work with all images, but with an image that’s composed with a strong separation between foreground and background, Autofocus reproduces a very nice, natural-looking depth of field — much like the DOF created with a DSLR and a fast shutter speed.
The app has an adjustable focus area. The focus box can be adjusted to any size or proportion using simple finger swipes. Once your image has been taken, there is a slider which can adjust the focus falloff and allows you to reduce or tweak the blurred area. I think that without adjustment the focus effects are subtle enough and natural looking and I found myself not using this feature much during my tests.
The focus feature is very straightforward and easy to use. There are three focus modes: Auto, Manual and Disabled. The Auto mode analyzes the preview to try and determine the area of focus. I found Auto mode to be slow and inaccurate in this first release. Auto mode would often have a hard time finding my subject in the viewfinder. The focus box often landed on a part of the image that wasn’t my main area of focus, even though I had it centered in the viewfinder.
I found it much less frustrating to use the app in Manual mode. For me, manual mode was much more quick, easy and responsive. One tap on the screen instantly moved the focus box to that spot, just like in the iPhone 3GS camera. Manual mode is also where you can pinch and zoom to adjust the size of the focus box to match the your subject. I quickly got the hang of using the manual focus and it is my preferred mode when using the app.
There is an adjustable countdown timer which delays shutter release from 0-10 seconds. When the auto-focus mode works, I can see that this would be very handy for self-portraits. The app resets to a defaults to a three second countdown each time you open the app. I found this to be a little annoying and would like to see the app either retain my previous settings between launches or have some means to disable the timer.
For me, the biggest flaw of Autofocus for 2G/3G is the app’s low output resolution. The app saves images at 768×1024 pixels — not even 1 megapixel. This greatly reduces image quality and severely limits print sizes for images shot with this app. The largest image size I’d print from this app would be 4″ x 5″ prints (at about 200 dpi); I think you’d start to notice pixelization and a reduction in image quality on any larger prints. FocalLab, while not having as nice a DOF effect, at least saves in full resolution on my 2G.
In the release notes, the developer says that they are making improvements to the auto-focus algorithm. This will be welcome and should make the app even easier and better to use. However, the low output resolution makes this app unusable for creating anything but the smallest of prints for a serious iPhoneographer. I hope high resolution images are supported soon in a future release. For now, this is a good app for creating nice DOF effects for photos that will be viewed on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or email. It’s a good, simple app that does a nice job of reproducing a DOF effect, but for me the low resolution output really limits its use.
Autofocus for 2G/3G Camera is currently $1.99. [ App Store link ]