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Nokia Refocus turns your Lumia into a Lytro-like camera

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Gallery Photo: Nokia Refocus hands-on photos
Gallery Photo: Nokia Refocus hands-on photos

Nokia may have had a bunch of hardware on display at its Abu Dhabi event today, but some of the company's most impressive work is linked with its camera improvements. While the Lumia 1020 introduced a 41-megapixel camera and a new Pro Cam app, Nokia is detailing a new addition to its app line-up today: Nokia Refocus. It's a separate app that works with all of Nokia's PureView Windows Phones to allow owners to refocus parts of an image.

The most obvious comparison is to Lytro’s camera hardware that lets you focus your pictures after you’ve taken them. Nokia isn’t using any unique hardware to achieve that, instead its using a software app that can create similar results. It’s probably not going to be as good as a real Lytro camera, but it might just be second best. I got a chance to take a look at an early version of the software in action at Nokia World today.

As Nokia Refocus is a separate app, you’ll need to launch it from the Windows Phone Start Screen. It starts up into a camera mode that simply directs you to tap and take a picture. What it actually does is it analyses the scene and then takes between two and eight photos to allow you to refocus afterwards. It’s actually rather impressive. I took a few photos using some toy cars available at the demo unit, and I was able to focus on ones in the distance, foreground, and even the leaves at the back of the shot. Refocus also has a trick up its sleeve, letting you focus with color points that make the rest of the picture black and white.

The real beauty of the apps is that Nokia allows you to upload the images and share them to Facebook and other social networks. Friends can then interact with the photos and refocus freely. If the whole software refocusing and sharing sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Focus Twist for iOS is pretty much identical to this, allowing iPhone users to refocus after a shot and share their results. Obviously the backing from Nokia on its Lumia Windows Phone handsets means the usage could be more widespread, but not until Nokia builds it into its new Camera app. A Nokia spokesperson wouldn’t confirm when the company plans to do that, but that’s the ultimate goal. Nokia is planning to release it for all PureView equipped Lumia Windows Phones in mid-November, and all you’ll need is the Lumia Amber update.