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Focus shifting explained and how to add it to your shots

Smartphone cameras can pull off some pretty impressive tricks and focus shifting is the hottest new feature to play with. Here’s how to get the best results on your phone.

Photographers rely on expensive equipment to create some unique visual effects in their work, happy to spend thousands on camera bodies, lenses and filters to achieve that ‘professional look’, but phone-makers have been pouring a lot of time into their smartphone camera experiences which can go a long way to emulating some of that same pro finish.

Depth of field or Bokeh are always popular effects which some of the latest smartphones have tried to recreate as accurately as possible, despite their tiny lenses and sensors. Here are a few great examples of phones that produce the best results.

Samsung Galaxy S5 – Selective Focus mode

Samsung’s new top dog sports a 13-megapixel snapper that comes with a Selective Focus mode built in. Set the camera into this mode, hold the phone steady and snap a shot where you have a subject in the foreground and another in the background.

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The S5 actually takes multiple shots and lets you choose to save pictures with near-focus, far focus or pan focus, which is where the whole image is sharp. You can go in and tweak the focal point of your shots after the fact too.

Nokia Lumia 1020 – Nokia Refocus app

Nokia’s Refocus app works across all its Windows Phone 8 handsets, but for best results, there’s no other choice than the Lumia 1020. With its superior lens and 41-megapixel sensor, it produces the best looking shots of the bunch.

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Simply move the phone until your foreground subject is in focus and then press the shutter. Like the Samsung, the Refocus app compiles several shots letting you tap to focus anywhere in the frame and even add a little colour pop.

Nokia Refocus app – Windows Phone Store [DOWNLOAD LINK]

HTC One (M8) – UFocus mode

The One (M8)’s unique Duo Camera means that this is the only phone in the lineup that can offer background defocus in a single snap. Essentially it’s the fastest of the five.

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Take a photo, head into the gallery, choose ‘edit’ and then tap UFocus. You can then tap anywhere to add a little lens blur to highlight a subject.

Sony Xperia Z2 – Background Defocus mode

There’s a massive 20.7-megapixel camera on the back of Sony’s Xperia Z2 and it’s pretty awesome. One of the many modes it boasts is called Background Defocus and, as you expect, it lets you tweak the background blur on your images.

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You have to choose the mode before you take the snap and you can only add the blur once you’ve taken it, it then saves the blurred image to your gallery, so make sure you’re happy before you hit save.

Whilst it’s a little hit and miss. Background Defocus on the Z2 lets you vary the amount and type of blur, from lens blur to horizontal or vertical motion blur.

Google Nexus 5 – Google Camera app

Google recently updated the standard camera app for Android and on the majority of devices, you should be able to access the Lens Blur feature, by selecting it from the swipe out menu on the left side of the camera UI.

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When taking a snap, press the shutter and then slowly raise the phone up keeping the foreground subject centred, you’ll then get a progress bar as your phone processes the image. Then you can browse your gallery and change the amount of blur and focus point should you want to.

Google Camera app – Play Store [DOWNLOAD LINK]

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