Panasonic Cameras Get a Shoot Now and Focus Later Feature
Owners of Panasonic’s Lumix GX7, G8, and FZ300 cameras will get a little gift in the form of a free firmware update this morning. The update gives the cameras a new mode called “Post Focus,” which kinda-sorta replicates the main draw of an older Lytro camera—albeit with a significantly different implementation.
According to Panasonic, Post Focus mode can capture up to 49 points of focus in a single burst, and the mode works with any lens that offers autofocus capabilities. In Post Focus mode, the camera actually records 4K video, racking focus from frame to frame. After that sequence of differently focused images is captured, the shooter can then review the sequence in camera and pick the one(s) they want to use.
For the photographer, the process of choosing the focus point is similar to Lytro’s “living pictures” player. By tapping and swiping each camera’s touchscreen, they can toggle through different focus points in a sequence and even employ assist modes like focus-peaking overlays.
While each of the Lumix cameras compatible with the mode has a higher megapixel count, Post Focus is limited in terms of output resolution. Because each frame of a 4K video has a resolution of 8 megapixels, that’s the resolution of each frame-grab saved.
Although it’s less automated, Post Focus also lets you create an picture that’s completely in focus via focus stacking, combining the light-gathering and fast-shutter benefits of a wide aperture with the deep depth of field of a narrow aperture. Panasonic touts the everything-in-focus option for macro photography, although that use-case requires some post-processing work; you’ll need to stack all the images in a sequence using third-party editing software.
It’s not the first Lytro-like feature of its kind in a full-fledged camera. Earlier this year, Olympus introduced a “Focus Stacking” mode in its flagship OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera, as well as a “Focus Bracketing” mode in the OM-D E-M1 and its midrange OM-D EM-5. But according to Olympus technical product manager Matthew Kandel, his company’s modes concentrate primarily on focus stacking rather than refocusing.
“Panasonic’s Post Focus feature is actually significantly different than Olympus’ Focus Stacking,” Kandel explains. “The similarity is only at the beginning of the process, where the user takes one exposure that results in [several] images shot at different focus points throughout the range. After that, Focus Stacking and Post Focus yield two completely different results. Focus Stacking composites the eight images into one image that is sharp from front to back.”
Panasonic’s focus-after-the-fact feature is similar to Lytro’s big original pitch, before the company recently refocused to create an end-to-end VR platform. That said, there are big-time differences with this Post Focus mode. First and foremost, Panasonic’s sensors and image processors don’t capture data about the light field, as Lytro’s specialized low-resolution imagers do. And although the experience for the shooter is similar, Panasonic’s Post Focus mode doesn’t have the embeddable, interactive tools that Lytro has for viewers of their “living photos.”
Instead, this is a mode purely for photographers to retroactively pick their point of focus using the camera’s touchscreen. And one major advantage that it has over light-field technology is that a selective focus mode like this can be added to normal, more-versatile cameras with larger sensors and better overall image quality. After all, Lytro’s refocusing tricks may be more appealing as a mode within a dedicated camera rather than the main reason to buy a new piece of hardware altogether.