Understanding Mobile Lens Behavior: Flares, Ghosting, & Aberrations

Explore mobile lens behavior and dive deep into lens flares, ghosting, and aberrations to optimize smartphone photography for more precise shots.

Moment’s T-Series Mobile Lens Guide | Hand holding the Tele lens above water.

Mobile photography has seen a significant rise, enabling professionals and hobbyists to capture incredible moments without the weight of a traditional DSLR or mirrorless camera. However, like any art form, mobile photography has its quirks. One area that often draws attention is the behavior of mobile lenses in the face of phenomena like lens flares, ghosting, and chromatic aberration. Let's deep dive into these strange (sometimes unwarranted) occurrences and decode them.

What are Flares, Ghosting, and Chromatic Aberration?

First, let's understand these occurrences and why they appear in images. While they're usually subtle, affecting only the image's contrast or dynamic range a bit, sometimes they can be distracting to the overall picture. Here's why they happen; knowing their causes helps prevent them in the future.

Lens Flares

When light shines directly into the camera and scatters inside the lens, it can create bright streaks or spots on the photo. This is called a lens flare. Think of it like the shiny lines you sometimes see around streetlights at night.

Ghosting

Have you ever seen a faint, often transparent duplicate image on a photo? That's ghosting. It usually occurs when light reflects off an object and bounces inside the lens before reaching the camera sensor.

Chromatic Aberration

Sometimes, you might notice colored fringes or edges around objects in your photos, especially near the edges. This happens because the lens bends different light colors in slightly different amounts. It's like a mini rainbow effect, but not in a good way — it's called chromatic aberration.

Photo from ShotKit demonstrating harsh flaring from backlighting.

CineStill 800T by @westcott

CineStill 800T by @westcott

Flaring of the blue light.

Why Do Mobile Lenses Behave Differently Than DSLRs?

While DSLRs and mirrorless rigs generally feature a design where the lens (glass) interacts directly with the sensor, mobile lenses often sport a "glass on glass" construction. This distinct build can sometimes amplify specific optical effects, making them stand out or behave differently than their DSLR counterparts.

Telephoto focal lengths, in particular, are also naturally more sensitive and prone to specific optical nuances. When you zoom in with your phone, some of these sensitivities might become apparent, but remember; they’re inherent to the lens design.

Anamorphic lenses, in particular, aren’t without their quirks. While they offer a unique, widescreen cinematic appeal, they might also showcase a slight drop-off in sharpness towards the edges. Think of this as the lens’s artistic touch, a small compromise for that distinct movie-like aesthetic to accommodate more of the scene being shown in your frame.

Tips to Minimize Unwanted Effects

There are a few simple tricks to do if you want to avoid harsh flares or ghosting.

Decrease Brightness

Before capturing an image, especially in scenarios with dominant light sources, try adjusting your brightness by underexposing the image with a lower ISO or higher shutter speed count. This simple modification can significantly reduce flare and ghosting effects. And while manual adjustments aren’t possible on your phone’s native camera app, we suggest downloading our Moment Pro Camera App for additional manual control (available for iOS only).

Move Your Body

A slight shift in your shooting angle can also significantly reduce unwanted optical effects. Move your body around to avoid harsh flaring from the sun, and use your hand or a lens hood to shield direct light. I often do this with my larger DSLR camera; no glass is entirely free from the downfalls of bright shooting conditions!

Use a Wider Focal Length

And remember — focal length can also impact the lens flare effect. Typically, wide-angle lenses are less prone to flare compared to telephoto lenses. If you use a smaller aperture, the lens flare becomes more noticeable. To reduce lens flare for your mobile lens, try shooting with a wider camera aperture using the Moment Pro Camera App, or switch to a mobile lens offering a broader scene, such as the Fisheye 14mm or the Wide 18mm.

Post-Processing Solutions

Many software applications offer a chromatic aberration removal tool, such as Lightroom. It’s as easy as a simple click; instructions are below:

1. Import your photo into Lightroom.

2. Navigate to the 'Develop' module.

3. Open the 'Lens Corrections' panel.

4. Check the 'Remove Chromatic Aberration' box.

5. Adjust the sliders, if necessary, to perfect your image.

Moment Wide 18mm Lens 01

Moment

18mm Wide Mobile Lens | M-Series

Arguably our most recognized product. The Moment 18mm Wide Lens captures beautiful clear wide images and video on iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy camera phones.

Buy for $99.00

iPhone 14 Pro 3x Camera + Moment 58mm Tele Lens

Shot on T-Series Fisheye 14mm lens.

Shooting the other side of the mountain during sunset to avoid backlight aberration.

afterbefore
No Flare
Flare

Remember, Not All Flaring Is “Bad”

When employed judiciously, a lens flare, or aberration, can be a valuable artistic tool in photography and filmmaking. Contrary to its usual role as a disruptor of clarity, lens flare can introduce a sense of realism, warmth, or nostalgia to a scene. The subtle gleam or streak of light can evoke emotions of dreaminess, wonder, or even a retro vibe reminiscent of older photographic methods.

For instance, filmmakers might deliberately introduce lens flare during sunrise, allowing those radiant beams to infiltrate the camera, an ode to the rising sun’s raw power and ethereal beauty. This technique can create an intimate atmosphere, drawing viewers deeper into the moment and reinforcing the narrative's emotional resonance.

After all, Anamorphic Lenses are best known for juicy flares to add that natural touch of visual appeal most artists strive for!

Film Image by Willem Verbeeck

Edited w/ Ms. Portrait Preset

Conclusion

Mobile lenses, with their portability and convenience, have revolutionized photography. Like all tools, they come with their unique set of behaviors. Understanding and anticipating these can help manage expectations and push the boundaries of what's possible with mobile photography. We believe in the power of informed creativity and hope this article has illuminated some of the intricacies of mobile lens behavior for you.

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