correcting lens distortion in action cameras

Today, in this article, we will discuss how to remove fisheye effect from GoPro, SJCAM, Eken, or just about any action camera out there. I will do so by using free fisheye correction softwares that are available for both Windows and Mac.

A Little on Fisheye Distortion

fisheye image correction barrel distortion action cameras gopro
Credits: epaperpress

Firstly, most, if not all, action cameras has a wide FOV between 140˚ to 180˚. The only way to produce that wide field of view is by using a fisheye lens. This causes the distortion of the video as it is caused by the fisheye lens.

fisheye lens correcting lens distortion
Credits: nefal.tv

If you notice the fisheye lens, it is bent and curved and thus the image sensor of the camera would produce a rectilinear or straight image. Thus, it applies for photos and videos.

This is the only way of efficiently ‘squeezing’ in the wide field of view and hence the image has to distort and there is no way around.

Another thing to point out would be that the main purpose of action cameras is not to capture non-distorted cinematographic films but to take an immersive wide angled field of view video. There is also a certain flair when it comes to fisheye videos too and sometimes it can be nicer than a rectilinear image.

But this is nothing to worry about because it can easily be de fisheye by simple post processing.

General Method For Correcting Both Videos and Photos:

  1. Import Media

  2. Insert the Filter and Adjust Magnitude (FOV)

  3. Export and Save File

Note that you will lose a little FOV in the process and it is not possible to avoid that for videos as it has to follow 16:9 ratio.

However, for photos, the resolution is very flexible hence you can do it without losing any FOV like the photo below.

If you own a GoPro, an alternative to the method to correcting video below is using the GoPro Studio App to correct which I feel will be a little simpler. The tutorial can be found here.

How To Edit Corrected Video/Photos

Correcting Lens Distortion for action cameras remove fisheye from sjcam cameras,
Credits: creativepro.com

Using Gimp For Correcting Distorted Photos

fisheye correction in gimp correcting barrel distortion free fisheye correction software, video fisheye correction software for free remove fisheye from sjcam camerasDownloading and Installing

Gimp is a really good and free fisheye correction software and many people have said that it is comparable to Photoshop as it is a huge range of filters and offers a lot of options as far as editing goes.

Gimp is available for Windows and Mac and can be downloaded here.

Video Tutorial

If you don’t understand any part of the video, please look at the word tutorial for clarification.

Word Tutorial

  1. Import and select media by going to File>Open
  2. Go to Filters>Distorts>Lens Distortion
  3. Adjust the scale but this is the configuration I usually use for my action cameras (SJ4000, Eken, ThiEYE, GoPro Hero Wide Angle View) after playing with it for awhile: Main: -64 Edge: 15 Zoom: -16, Others all default (0) but it still depends on your photo that you take and boils down to playing around and finding what suits you best.
  4. Rotate (Layers>Transform>Arbitrary Rotation) and change perspective (Tools>Transform Tools>Perspective) of your photo and this is done by trying out and seeing what fits you.
  5. Afterwards, click on export and select your name and destination and you’re good to go.

Using HitFilm 4 Express For Correcting Distorted Video

free fisheye correction software, video fisheye correction software for free hitfilm 4 express remove fisheye from sjcam camerasDownloading and Installing

This software is quite unique because it is free to download but you have to share with any of your social media (can share only yourself) to enable the download and is available via Windows and Mac. However, I have done the steps for you and you can download via this link directly if you are too lazy to do it. 😛

Anyways, once you have downloaded you do have to activate it or else you can’t export. This can be easily done by creating an account with your email account for free.

If you are wondering, there are lesser softwares capable of doing distortion correction as compared to stabilising a video, hence , I have decided to use this app that is available for free as preinstalled apps like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie are not able to correct fisheye distortion.

Video Tutorial

If you don’t understand any part of the video, please look at the word tutorial for clarification.

Guide (Word Tutorial)

  1. Click new on the top left hand.
  2. Select your settings (mostly I use 1080p 30fps max is 1080p 60fps ) then click your start your editing
  3. On the bottom left, click on Import and select the media that you want to use
  4. Drag it into the editor.
  5. Click on effects toolbar and select “Action Cam Lens Distort” by dragging it into the video clip
  6. Afterwards, click control and this is quite important. If you own a GoPro Hero, SJ4000, Yi, Eken, or other action cameras, click the first option for the preset option. Click reverse if required.
  7. Check if the film is okay and if you wish to add any more effects, you can.
  8. After that, on the top right corner, click on export and select your destination.

So that’s all you have to do and now you can do whatever you want with your de-fisheyed video.

Conclusion

In summary, I hope you are able to correct your distorted video and although it is quite troublesome, it will be worth in the end when you share it with your friends and families.

Although this tutorial use only HitFilm 4 Express, there are still many apps out there in the market and many of them require you to pay, which explains why I chose this app.

That’s all for this tutorial and I hope you have learnt something from this tutorial. If you want to learn how to stabilise your shaky videos or create a 360˚ video, I have written tutorials about them as well!


Lastly, thank you for reading this and if you have any questions or other softwares worth mentioning, please feel free to drop a comment down below. I’ll surely appreciate it! 🙂

–> To check out my other tutorials, click here!<–

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8 Comments

  1. Really informative post! Was looking for something like this! I just got a Sjcam action camera a month ago, playing around with it and taking it mountain biking. The footage I get always takes the depth of the picture. I believe using the gimp method will works wonders for improving my footage.

    1. Yup totally agree! By the way, the gimp one only works with photos but the hitfilm one works with videos! So you’ll need to know what you are correcting!

      If you are unsure of anything else or face any problems, you can always feel free to ask me. 🙂

      Anyways, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

  2. When it comes to photography and video stuff, I really have no clue on what I am doing most of the time. This guide is great for people like myself. I thought that getting the fisheye effect is something that cannot be changed.

    You sure have a very extensive knowledge of various photo editing software. I wonder why some people love action cameras. I actually find action camera recordings to be very nauseating.

    Nonetheless, great article!

    1. Thanks glad it helped! 🙂

  3. Although I like to see the distortion, because it doesn’t compress the distance or height of a move, I still see why it would be necessary to correct the distortion at times.

    Thanks for the awesome tutorial Kai. I’m on a path to becoming a professional freerunner and I’m going to be shooting a lot more GoPro footage very soon so this guide will definitely come in it. I made sure to bookmark it.

    1. Glad you found this useful! 

      Anyways, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

  4. This guide is for video and stills but I’m a bit confused about how you can apply this to video with it’s constantly changing view, perspective and distortion. You altered the distortion in this image but, in a video, each frame will be different and distortion will be different depending on how close you are to the subject and how level the camera is. So how can you alter distortion in a video?

    BTW, it’s really not distortion. What is commonly called distortion is how things really look to a wide angle lens. But that’s just a technical point. Of course, it’s often best to alter it (not correct it, technically speaking.)

    Perspective is another thing and it can effect “distortion.” But most people – even professional photographers – don’t seem to understand is that perspective is ONLY affected by the distance of the camera to the subject. Changing focal length merely crops or enlarges the view but perspective does not change unless the camera to subject distance changes. This is important to understand for all photographers and videographers. Once you understand this, you realize the importance of camera position. You should NOT zoom to crop an image. Choose your camera position (this is for both still and video) to get the perspective you like. Then you can zoom to crop the image if you like.

    I’m a retired professional photographer who still works almost exclusively in large format film (4×5″ and 8×10″) and still print in my darkroom. Large format photography requires in-depth understanding of perspective because large format cameras can alter it easily.

    That said, I do very little digital photography with the exception of unimportant “snap-shots” but I did just buy a JCAM SJ7 Star action camera to use primarily on my motorcycle trips. So I’m new to this.

    1. Hi Bob, thanks for your insightful comment and appreciate the correction!

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