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Will The Availability Of Quality Adobe Lens Correction Profiles Be a Problem?

Published: 24/05/2010

For real estate photographers straightening verticals and removing lens distortion (mostly barrel distortion) is a big deal. For those that use Aperture and Lightroom traditionally, this step in the workflow has required a "round-trip" to PTlens, Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for every image you need to correct manually. The advent of  the lens correction technology that will be included in Lightroom 3 and the Camera Raw 6 plug-in will be a game changer for Lightroom users (when Lightroom 3 is released) because the need for round trips to other applications will go away. Lightroom workflow will be much faster.

As you can see in Tom Hogarty's preview of lens correction technology there are two parts that real estate photographers are likely to use heavily:

  1. The manual correction of perspective (fixing converging verticals) that works much like PTlens has worked for years. This is always going to be manual.
  2. The lens distortion part, which can be done automatically, if there is a profile for the particular lens that was used to shoot the photo being corrected. This automatic profile based lens correction works like PTlens too.

It turns out that the availability of these lens profiles is key to whether or not you can use the automatic correction feature. Adobe has released a number of lens profiles with ACR 6.0 for Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Sony and Tamron lenses. But since it's not practical for anyone to supply correction profiles for all lenses, Adobe supplies a lens profile creator that allows you to create profiles for your own lenses if profiles for those lenses are not available and there is a user forum for making lens and a process for submitting the profiles you create to Adobe for inclusion in the lens profile database.

Not surprisingly, DxO Labs, who distributes DxO Optics Pro, recently criticized  Adobe's approach of letting users create lens profiles. DxO Labs would have you think that making a lens profile involves rocket science and massive higher mathematics that can only be done by trained professionals in properly equipped DxO optics laboratories. This must be why DxO Optics Pro costs $299 USD. They have to recover the cost of hundreds of optical engineers required to produce lens profiles. Note that DxO doesn't supply profiles for EVERY lens either. If your lens is not supported by DxO you just have to wait and hope it's supported in a future release.

I have not created a Adobe lens profile with Adobe lens profile creator and I've not seen any images that compare corrections done with DxO and ACR 6.0 but I think the correction quality done by PTlens is a good indicator of what kind of lens profiles possible for users to create for the Adobe lens correction database. Thomas Niemann, the developer of PTLens single handedly created all the lens profiles used by PTlens which he sells for $25 USD. I'd like to publicly thank Thomas for all the hard work that he's put into PTLens in the last several years. The Lightroom 3 release with it's PTLens like lens correction technology built-in will undoubtedly have a negative impact on PTLens sales. But for Aperture users or those that don't use Lightroom PTLens will still be a great lens and perspective correction alternative.

I don't want to trivialize the amount of work required to create a good lens profile. Not everyone will have the patience required to create good one but I believe that with in 6 months there will be plenty of Adobe profiles for all the lenses you need. In the mean time manually removing barrel distortion will take a second or two longer for each image. You don't need a profile for that.

For those of you that are super picky about your automatic lens correction as usual you will probably be able to do a trial of DxO and Lightroom to compare the difference between lens correction profiles.

Larry Lohrman

4 comments on “Will The Availability Of Quality Adobe Lens Correction Profiles Be a Problem?”

  1. Kiff, what 17mm lens? LR3 does pretty well correcting the distortion of my Canon 17-40 for work that is not highly critical. It certainly does better than what you show. PTLens has a better profile for this lens than LR3. Also, the LR3 profile corrects for light fall-off, whereas PTLens does not. My camera does this automatically, so I don't want that correction in the profile.

    Supposedly, the new LR 3.3RC release has an improved profile for the Canon 17-40. Still going to use PTLens if I can't turn off the vignetting correction in LR3.

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