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Lightroom has Lens Correction tools such as Distortion, Vignetting, Chromatic Abberation, etc. depending on the brand and model of lens.

Due to this feature, is it less relevant what the distortion quality is of lenses because Lightroom can correct them?

I understand a perfect lens is always better, but since it can save a huge amount of money, maybe the expense is not worth it?

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1  
There's a related question here: Is it technically possible to build a camera body to correct for lens defects? –  mattdm Mar 15 '12 at 19:39

4 Answers 4

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The lens correction software may be able to counter lens distortion and chromatic aberration distortion. Also perhaps it can counter poor contrast to some degree. But a good lens has more to offer:

  • Sharper image. The lens correction cannot restore image detail lost due to an unsharp lens.
  • Aperture. Good quality lenses typically have a larger aperture. You cannot recreate the narrow depth of field from these larger apertures. And in low-light, you can only compensate by raising the iso on the camera, leading to more noise (which may be removed by software, but produces a softer image)
  • Quality of the bokeh. A good quality lens produces a more pleasing bokeh than a cheap lens.
  • Faster focus.
  • Non rotating front element, making it possible to work with petal shaped lens hoods and polarizing filters
  • It is nice to have something in the hand that feels solidly build

So you cannot let good software be a replacement for a good lens. IMHO, you should get the best possible lens within your budget that suits your needs.

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Yes I understand a more expensive lens has (or should have) better properties, but it seems I can give less values to the properties that can be 'fixed' by Lightroom. I don't make pictures that often so I don't want to spend like $1000 on a lens (although I also don't want to spend $300 on a low quality lens). –  Michel Keijzers Mar 15 '12 at 17:02
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I think this is hard to answer in a general sense. For most people it comes down to "how much is your time worth?", e.g. if you can afford a lot of time but not a lot of money, by all means spend less money on a lens and more time editing in Lightroom/Photoshop/etc. For many people, time is extremely valuable and even though it might be possible to fix lens (and other image) issues, it takes time that they'd rather spend shooting or doing other more important edits. –  djangodude Mar 15 '12 at 17:10
    
@djangodude Correcting CA, distortion, and vignetting of a profiled lens in Lightroom doesn't really take any time. It's one click, which you could put in your default preset if you want to use it all the time. –  coneslayer Mar 15 '12 at 18:46
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@MichelKeijzers - Of course, if you have two lenses of mostly comparable quality, and the one is sharp but has horrible chromatic aberration, and the other is soft but has no chromatic aberration, than you might probably get the best end result with the first, as chromatic aberration is easy to correct in software. But it also depends on your personal needs (which I amended to the answer). If you only take holiday shots, never crop, and print in 4x6", then spending $1000 to get the sharpest possible lens is of course also ridiculous. –  Pete Mar 15 '12 at 21:06
    
@Pete yes that is exactly what I mean (about the sharpness). I might pritn in more than 4x6" though occasionaly. –  Michel Keijzers Mar 16 '12 at 14:27

All the answers are great here --- let me just add than when you apply any correction, you are doing image transformations that put pixels where there were none before --- interpolating and so. So there is some inevitable loss do to the nature itself of the operation, like when you upsize an image.

There is a really technical and good article by Roger Cicala (whom I think is one of the greatest lens guru out there) explaining this with numbers.

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Lightroom lens correction doesn't make a bad lens good but it does make some lens imperfections irrelevant, for example:

  • If you have an otherwise good lens that suffers from vignetting when wide open - your options used to be to not shoot wide open or to leave space around the subject so you can crop the corners - today you can shoot it wide open and fill the frame.

  • If you have a super-zoom that is very convenient and has good image quality but has unacceptable barrel distortion at some focal length ranges - now you can use it.

Also, obviously, it can help save a picture that was taken with a bad lens and make it acceptable (like the other raw processing features can help save an incorrectly exposed picture)

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1  
Yes. I had a question on this very topic that I think was answered well by Matt here: photo.stackexchange.com/a/20841/4892 Basically, he noted that a lens with vignetting is not really an issue if you have Lightroom. –  dpollitt Mar 15 '12 at 23:46
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While the vignette correction is powerful, it can introduce noise. This is especially noticable in low-light conditions, where you tend to shoot wide open and the vignetting is most prominent. The result of barrel distiortion correction and devignetting is that you lose a bit of sharpness and editing latitude. –  Henrik Helmers Dec 17 '12 at 13:46

I think it's more correct to say that Lightroom's lens profiles can make any lens "better." Bad lenses are still bad, good lenses are still good. The corrections Lightroom can make simply improve some aspects of image quality. Making the leap of taking a poor lens and making it good is far outside of what LR can do.

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+1 for making the most out of whatever you've got. –  D. Lambert Mar 15 '12 at 18:21
    
Well formulated. –  Pete Mar 15 '12 at 21:23

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