If you have been putting your top-rated digital camera through its paces, you may run into some strange occurrences while taking certain photos. One of these frustrations is called distortion. What causes distortion in a digital camera? Keep reading to find out the root causes and how to avoid them.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Digital camera distortion bends straight lines, causes a chromatic aberration, and all forms of visual warp.
  • Distorted images are typically caused by using the incorrect lens for your subject matter, especially when this lens de-emphasizes the center of the image.
  • Fix a distorted image by experimenting with different lenses, placing your subject in different locations, and raising the shutter speed.

What is Distortion?

When it comes to digital images, distortion refers to when a photo looks warped, slightly crooked, or, of course, distorted. In other words, the photo does not exactly match what you were seeing in the viewfinder when you snapped the shot. There is a reason, after all, phrases such as “the camera adds 20 pounds” have become so popular. You may also want to understand what causes black screen in digital cameras and how to fix.

Insider Tip

When it comes to digital images, distortion refers to when a photo looks warped, slightly crooked, or, of course, distorted.

What Causes Distortion?

With both digital and analog film cameras, distortion is typically caused by a disturbance with the lens or with the image frames of the shot. Focal length lenses are susceptible to distortion, as are telephoto lenses, wide-angle lens, focal length lenses, and zoom lenses. The end result is a curving of vertical lines and other straight lines, increased digital noise, and more.

How to Stop Distortion with Digital Cameras

There are various methods to minimize distortion, though the actual steps may vary depending on the make and model of your camera and what type of lens you are using.

Raise the Shutter Speed

A fast shutter speed can reduce certain types of visual distortion in digital photography, as an increased shutter speed will take more photos in a short period of time. This reduces distortion because the image sensors will be forced to act quickly.

Insider Tip

Position your subjects at a variety of distances from the camera to find the spot with the least amount of distortion.

Avoid Certain Lenses

As previously stated, certain kinds of lenses are more prone to distortion than others. There is no hard and fast rule here, as each lens interacts with each camera in a specific way. A general rule of thumb, however, is to simply avoid wide-angle lenses, as the center of an image should always feature the least level of noise or distortion. This may also be what causes grainy pictures on a digital camera. Wide-angle lenses de-emphasize the center and, thus, more distortion.

Experiment With Subject Distances

Position your subjects at a variety of distances from the camera to find the spot with the least amount of distortion. Any professional photographer will know to experiment until the perfect shot can be achieved. You should also make a habit out of referring to the preview image before snapping the shot.

Warning

Wide-angle lenses de-emphasize the center and, thus, more distortion.

F.A.Q.

Are heat waves destroying your image quality?

Heatwaves can have an impact on the sharpness of an image, though they rarely cause distortion. If you are using a telephoto lens to get landscape shots on a sunny day, you may run into dulling heat waves.


How much noise in photography is too much?

This will depend on personal preference. When it comes to realistic shots of people, places, and things, you will want to minimize noise. If you are going for a unique visual style, however, you may want to actually raise the noise level.


Why have manufacturers left this distortion in their lenses?

Short answer? Some manufacturers have gotten lazy with the ascendance of digital cameras, as this distortion can often be fixed in post by using photo editing software.



STAT: Perspective distortion is a warping or transformation of an object and its surrounding area that differs significantly from what the object would look like with a normal focal length, due to the relative scale of nearby and distant features. (source)

Lawrence Bonk

Lawrence Bonk is a copywriter with a decade of experience in the tech space, with columns appearing in Engadget, Huffington Post and CBS, among others. He has a cat named Cinnamon.

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