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Review: Live Focus – shoot first, focus later with this smart camera

A camera that can refocus your photos after the event

Price: $1.99/£1.49
Version: 1.2
Size: 21.4 MB
Developer: Tae ho Lee
Platform: iPhone / iPad

When a great photo opportunity arises, there’s not always time to fiddle with the camera settings or perfectly focus the shot. Enter Live Focus, a photography app that – like Clint Eastwood or Han Solo – likes to shoot first and ask questions later.


Line up one photo and the app will capture multiple levels of focus

Behind the scenes, the app is essentially taking a series of photos in quick succession, each with a different focal depth. It’s not unlike the burst shot function of the regular iOS Camera. There’s a nice GIF creation feature which creates a looping animation by playing each of these shots in sequence, creating an unusual, pulsating animation that drops focus before pulling it back again, and if you’re shooting a moving target it ends up making something pretty similar to Apple’s own Live Photos. Unlike Live Photos, though, GIFs are much easier to share and can be captured by those with iPhone older than the 6s and 6s Plus.


Swipe the slider to the left to drop focus to the background

The app offers a few additional functions not seen in the vanilla Camera app: an always-on flash with two levels on intensity; a 10x zoom controlled by swiping; and quick access to exposure settings. Static shots can be saved to Photos, or shared on social media – but there’s also a camera roll within the app itself which can store full, adjustable shots with all focal points in tact.

Swiping across the image cycles through a range of realtime filters, which are a nice addition but nothing we haven’t seen before. Like several of the features here, its never explained that these filters even exist and it’s only through curious investigatory prods and pokes that they reveal themselves. Also useful is a one-touch magic wand tool that generally does a good job of improving a shot by automatically adjusting contrast and brightness.


Photos can be saved with full focus potential intact

Live Focus is a very cool, clever app but it could certainly do with being a bit more friendly. A lack of instructions coupled with some odd interface choices force the user to figure out how it works on their own, and makes it possible to overlook or misunderstand important features. For example, buttons with completely seperate button are presented as barely distinguishable segments of the same gray circle. A 30-second introductory tutorial would at least avoid confusion in learning what everything does.

The main question that remains is – beyond the novelty value – why would you want to adjust the focus at a later time? Why not just get it right when you first shoot? Well, if for some creative purpose you want two different versions of the exact same shot, this app is perfect. Perhaps more importantly, though, if you’re in a situation where screen glare, a lack of time or an awkward angle makes it difficult for you to get the focus right manually, you can shoot with this camera safe in the knowledge that the perfect snap will be in there somewhere, ready to refine later on. It helps you to nail the perfect shot without too much fiddling in the heat of the moment.


One shot, thirteen stories of focus

Overall this is a solid app that justifies its price tag, but it does require a bit of effort from the user to figure out how everything works. If you can recall a situation in which you were frantically tapping your iPhone screen, trying and failing to get it to focus correctly, this could be the perfect app to remove all frustration from the scenario. By handling the focus later, it actually helps to bring other aspects of photography into focus.