The German software company Piccure+ is not one to mince words. Calling the prevailing lens making model “ignorant” the company has released lens correction software that it claims can correct lens defects without building a huge bank of profiles. The upshot, they claim, is that you can use inexpensive lenses and still create high quality images that look as if they were snapped through more expensive glass.
Piccure+ uses complex mathematical models to create a point-spread function for each image before applying a deconvolution to correct defects — much like the approach NASA took to fixing the Hubble Telescope’s optics. Among the virtues of this approach is that it can correct what lens profiles can’t, namely deviations in lens manufacturing.
Rather than work off what it thinks is wrong with the lens, Piccure+ tackles the optical defects directly in the RAW image file itself. (The software can also work with JPEG images but the company claims that the already-compressed JPEG files won’t benefit as much from its algorithmic massaging.) This means that it can also correct distortions and aberrations on images without EXIF data and for lenses that don’t have profiles in competitive software like Adobe’s Camera RAW.
In a blog post announcing the software’s release, the company ambitiously called for a rethink of the entire lens manufacturing paradigm. Rather than invest money in building flawless lenses, the company is arguing that much of the heavy lifting can be done in software. Specifically, their software (of course). Photographers would then be liberated to use less expensive zoom lenses while lens makers could focus on driving their own costs down by relenting on quality control — an argument we have trouble believing is going to find much traction among lens manufacturers.
We’ve just started playing with the software, which you can kick around for free for 14 days. From our initial impressions, it’s clearly easy to use, with a minimalist interface with sliders for optical aberration, sharpness and denoising. However both previewing and processing images on our 2.6GHz dual-core Mac (16GB of RAM) took a fair amount of time (evidently our Mac likes doing complicated math about as much as we do). You can save settings to make your workflow go a bit faster when working in a similar batch of images or you can tell the program (via a slider) to prioritize speed over quality.
Piccure+ will cost $109 and can work as a plugin for Lightroom or as a standalone application.