July 7, 2015

PTLens: Affordable Lens Correction Plug-in

Recently I learned about PTLens, a plug-in or stand-alone program that works on both Mac and Windows systems. It can do all the same corrections as Adobe's Lens Correction feature, plus the PTLens database includes lots of compact camera models. A free trial good for 10 images is available and if you decide you want to continue using it, the price is only $25 USD.

After using the Upright option of Lightroom's Lens Correction panel
and then PTLens

PTLens works on JPEG, TIFF and raw files and is compatible with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Aperture. PTLens can produce better lens distortion corrections that Photoshop's original Lens Correction filter that had only one slider. Compared to newer versions of the Photoshop filter, PTLens's results vary, so you may want to test PTLens on your own pictures before investing.

I am particularly interested in this software because I take a lot of photos using a Canon A570 IS compact model. At the wide end of its zoom lens, the A570 suffers from barrel distortion that is uneven around the center of the image. So it's hard to correct by hand. And Adobe's Lens Correction feature does not recognize this camera (circa 2007). So I tried PTLens on several of my images until I figured out the best workflow.

Original image from a Canon A570 IS
The center bulges outward (barrel distortion)
and the image is tilted to the right.

Using PTLens alone to fix the distortion did not fully correct the distortion from my point and shoot camera.

After correction with PTLens alone

Using Photoshop's Lens Correction filter by itself produced slightly better results than the PTLens automatic correction. But I had to adjust the Lens Correction sliders manually to produce this result.

After manual correction with Photoshop's Lens Correction Filter

I got the best results by starting with the upright feature in Lightroom's Lens Correction panel and then sending the picture to PTLens via Lightroom's external editor option. (See the opening image.) You could also accomplish this using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Photoshop. However, ACR in Elements does not include the lens correction panel, so you would need to work directly in PTLens.

If you are looking for an effective, automated way to fix lens distortion issues, and especially if your camera and lens combination is not supported by Adobe products, check out PTLens.