Sony FE 28/2: Use distortion to your advantage, yes!

The Sony FE 28/2 is the current hot lens for Sony FE-mount. It’s a fast and affordable wide-angle prime lens. Reviews show that it’s sharp (yes it is … even though clearly less sharp than my Zeiss-branded 35/2.8 under real-world conditions), also it has a really high contrast, and of course its f/2 aperture is great not only under low light conditions. All this for a mere 450 Euros list price. What’s not to like?

The big downside, they say, is the massive geometric distortion of this lens. Some of the usual testers – such as Amateur Photographer – don’t even dare to quote the exact amount of distortion that this lens produces in their FE 28/2 review. Probably it even holds a world record here. :p

But, hey, we all use RAW don’t we? And in Lightroom, distortion is not automatically corrected in such a way that you won’t ever see it. it’s visible. You open your files, taken with a Sony A7 series body and the new FE 28/2, in Lightroom and you’ll immediately see the massive amount of distortion, almost like a weak fisheye lens:

New apartments. (Sony A7R and FE 28/2)

Now the fun thing is that you can actually use that distortion to your advantage when you try to apply perspective correction (a.k.a. digitally “shifting” the lens) to your photo. But how comes that? Let’s first do a simple distortion correction. I find (without having tested it in any pseudo-scientific manner) that applying +25 distortion correction in Photoshop removes all visible distortion very well:

New apartments. (+25 distortion correction in Lightroom)

As you now can see, you’ve got some “extra” image area in the corners. When you try to simply rotate the photo a little bit (as if you were correcting if you failed to hold the camera at level during taking the photo), you’ll immediately notice the advantage that you do not lose any image area at the borders if you do apply that correction!

Same, of course, also goes for more complex corrections such as a digital shift:

New apartments. (distortion correction + tilt and rotation)

At the very bottom left and right edges, clearly more image area is left after the correction as would be the case with an “ideal” lens without any geometric distortion! The net result is this:

New apartments. (Sony A7R and FE 28/2)

Here’s another example. The first file below has only geometric distortion correction applied, so an ideal, distortion-free 28 mm lens, would deliver just that same result:

Nice place to live. (Sony A7R with 28/2)

I decided to apply just a little bit of “shift” to this frame to make the car look a bit less distorted. Notice how there now is a bit more area left in the frame to the left of the wall post in the rear? It would not be there if I’d taken the shot with an ideally corrected 28 mm lens!

Nice place to live. (Sony A7R with 28/2)

Bottom line: I still prefer ideally corrected lenses over this. It’s probably the habit of a photographer who learned his stuff in the old analogue days :) But I think you should at least realise that optical “faults” in lenses can also have their own, unique advantages. So why … not just make use of them!

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