Digital cameras

Introduction

Aren’t digital cameras marvellous? No more wondering whether you’ve captured that perfect photo – check it immediately, or take a dozen shots and pick the best one later. But there is a downside. Lens distortions happen on even the best cameras, and the ease of using a digital camera means that most of us make mistakes. There are two common problems: barrel distortions, and pincushion distortions. Both result in straight lines appearing curved. Barrel (convex) distortion is caused by a wide-angle lens or the use of minimum zoom. Pincushion (concave) distortion occurs when using a telephoto lens or maximum zoom. While these unwanted characteristics could be fixed using Photoshop’s own filters, Human Software has a simpler solution. PhotoFixLens, a Photoshop plug-in, deals with both distortions. It allows you to choose the curvature of the corrective lens, enlarge and rotate it, and set the level of correction. An overlaid corrective grid shows the warping effect, and guide lines give a working reference. It’s possible to define areas where no correction takes place – the ‘freeze’ area – via an on-screen brush, and to load an image or another layer as a template. Changes take place in real time, and the Before/After button allows for easy comparison. The set of values can be saved as a preset, and used with other images; PhotoFixLens comes with 27 presets. There’s also keystoning, where vertical or horizontal lines slope towards each other and converge. Photos may be skewed and require the angle of vertical or horizontal lines to be altered. There are filters for perspective, skew, spherize, and rotate, but it’s difficult to use these individually on multiple problems. ImageAlign is a nifty Photoshop plug-in that lets you correct all problems mentioned above, along with rescaling, to minimize quality loss. The user-interface is a simple slider type, and real-time changes can be compared with the original via the Show Before/After buttons. There’s a static grid for reference, and the ability to save and load settings; though no presets as such. This is a powerful corrective filter that can sort out the shortcomings of almost any distortion or poor photographic technique – aside from a finger in front of the lens.
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