Lens Aberrations

Lens Aberrations

  • Any failure of a lens to meet theoretical standards of perfection is termed an aberration. Virtually no lens is entirely free of some residual aberrations, no matter what the effort to achieve perfection. In lens design and manufacture, as in most other aspects of photography, there is constant compromise, as one thing is traded off to improve another. For instance, lens speed is often obtained at the expense of flatness of field or freedom from distortion, which may also have to be sacrificed to obtain width of coverage in wide angle lenses. Nearly any economy of manufacture requires some departure from perfection in the lens system. Further, any demand for unusual perfection in a single optical feature tends to require some compromise elsewhere in the design.

  • Although, with the sophisticated computer technology in lens design, and the increasing use of new types of glass in manufacture, most modern lenses are amazingly good. Lenses that give genuinely poor performance are becoming increasingly rare. However, it is useful to know a little about lens aberrations in case you run across the unusual in practice.

  • Some types of aberrations have more effect or have more obvious effects on photographic images than others. Some are more likely to appear, given the manufacturing methods of the day and the design emphases that are most common. Some of the most common aberrations for camera lenses nowadays are astigmatism, chromatic aberration, coma, curvature of field, diffraction, distortion, flare, spherical aberration, vignetting.

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