Biggest: Correcting Digital Fisheye Distortion

What do you do as a photographer when confronted with the biggest tree on earth, stretching up so high that it can’t possibly fit in a normal frame? I say one way to go is to use an extreme wide-angle lens, like the Nikon 10.5mm digital fisheye I used here. This lens is specially formulated for digital, and cannot be mounted on a film camera. It has no aperture ring, so f/stops must be set in camera. It projects a smaller image against the sensor to overcome Nikon’s 1.5X focal lens magnification factor—and still be truly wide angle.

If one is lucky, the fisheye lens will even pick up a starburst effect from the sun, like I did here in front of the General Grant tree in Sequoia. By the way, I know Sherman was a great general, and succeeded in raising Atlanta and marching to the sea, but I’d have rather they named these wonderful trees after less warlike folk. Maybe the Martin Luther King tree?

The problem with a fisheye photo, of course, is that for better or worse it will show the curvature distortion that is typical of extreme wide angles. Nikon attempts to combat this with a filter in their Nikon Capture software that is specifically designed to uncurve the curvature caused by this 10.5mm fisheye lens.

As another aside, even if you own a multi-thousand dollar Nikon dSLR, you still have to go out and buy Nikon Capture with a street price of about $100.00. I think this really stinks, since Capture has a few capabilites such as this 10.5mm digital fisheye distortion correction, and the ability to automate camera functions from the computer, that really should be considered integral to Nikon’s product line. There’s also a filter in Capture that automatically removes the dust that accumulated on the sensor protection (you need to take a reference photo and send it to the software.)

Capture is really part of Nikon’s digital camera solution, and should be provided with higher-end Nikon digital cameras—and Nikon should give up trying to think that anyone will use it instead of Photoshop.

Here’s another version of the photo of General Sherman run through the the Nikon Capture filter to correct the extreme fisheye distortion. I don’t think it makes as much difference as one might expect. However, I didn’t choose the option that said to correct areas where there was no image available. This would have had the effect of uncurving the image more (also, making the elements within it seem smaller), and I could have cloned in trees into the missing areas.

Biggest Un-Fisheyed

View this photograph larger.

This entry was posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Photoshop Techniques.

One Comment

  1. mingm May 29, 2006 at 8:48 pm #

    A free alternative is to use Photofiltre and the Fisheye correction tool plug-in. It seems to work pretty well.

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