The new HTC One M8 has two cameras, allowing it to do a number of cool tricks, the most notable of which being the ability to blur the background while bringing a subject into focus similar to a DSLR camera. The thing is, many smartphones can also do this with the right combination of software. Some apps have attempted to offer this functionality in the Play Store for a while now with mixed results. Here’s a look at which flagship phones or apps are able to defocus the background and the approach they take to do so.
1. Google Camera
Google recently uploaded the Google Camera app to the Play Store and made it install-able on a large number of devices. This app replaces the default software that comes on Nexus products or any devices running stock Android. It simplifies the interface, making it more intuitive and easy-to-use overall. But, in the midst of the changes, Google added one stand out new feature – Lens Blur. This feature focuses on one object and blurs the background. Users can then edit the photo later, changing where the focus should be and blurring everything else. Since this app comes from Google, it is probably the most high profile way for users to defocus backgrounds regardless of which device they own, as long as it’s running Android 4.4 or higher.
2. Sony Background Defocus
Sony Background Defocus is available exclusively for Sony Xperia devices. It works by taking two photos of an object, then after the user has selected which object should be in focus, blurs the second image, resulting in a background that looks out of focus. The app provides options to adjust the blur level and comes with a pretty clean UI, making it an attractive option for people who own a Sony Android device.
3. Galaxy S5 “Selective Focus”
The new Galaxy S5 also has support for background defocusing out of the box. The feature, “selective focus,” has to be selected before taking a shot. Users select the toggle and then take a picture as they normally would. The phone will then take a number of shots and process them. It will ask whether the image should have near focus, far focus, or everything focused. Afterwards, users can edit these images, changing which object is in focus. This app is not available on Google Play.
AfterFocus is one app that has been in the Play Store for quite a while, and it exemplifies the old-fashioned approach software previously took towards defocusing the background. Rather than doing it automatically, it requires users to draw a line around the part of the image that should remain in focus, along with meticulously highlighting which parts of the background should be blurred. The end result is typically less than convincing without a good deal of work, and there’s no forgetting just how artificial the entire process is when using this app.
These offerings aren’t quite as versatile as the HTC One M8, which is able to defocus any image the phone has taken, not just those that were selected to be blurred beforehand. This is thanks to the depth information that the phone’s second camera saves about each image. Nevertheless, this isn’t too big a deal with a little bit of planning. With the right device or software, you no longer need an expensive DSLR camera to get a convincing end result.
If you have one of these devices or apps, feel free to share your experiences or questions with us in the comments below.