I tend to believe discussions of barrel distortion in a lens can be a little misleading at times – how so?
Well to begin with all lens suffer some degree of distortion – a known phenomenon that has lent itself to firmware updates and in camera corrections that in the main address the issue.
Additionally post editing will do likewise – there may be lenses that distort so badly they cannot be properly corrected, but if that’s the case it begs the question why would you own it in the first?
The human eye is center focus centric and a lens mimics that – when a person looks at a photo their focus is centered on a particular spot, unlike a lens the field of vision can’t be expanded to infinity to bring everything into focus – you as a person will look with a roving eye to take everything in even if you squint or step back.
The casual viewer may not even notice distortion unless deliberate or so exaggerated as to resemble a smiley or frowning face.
Now a person should in my opinion make the effort to produce the best photo they’re capable of, but there’s a difference in that and pixel peeping to then announce such and such a lens has x number of degrees of distortion and this degree is acceptable while another isn’t based on what the interpreter believes – and forgive me for saying so as I do without malice but I sometimes wonder if a few of these pixel peepers moonlight as spell checkers in forums and the like – if they actually take themselves so seriously?
To me it’s kind of like the row about photoshopping models – the same individuals who claim such offense undoubtedly photoshop a tweak a two into the portraits they take, the landscapes they enhance.
This is an age of vanity unlike any other, it’s about being “sexy”, attractive, and smoothing out anything not lending itself to that – post editing is a vehicle that addresses that quite well and predictable it would become a go to much the same as botox and the nip and tuck.
In camera corrections and post editing are a type of sleight of hand – in the huge majority of photos what you see isn’t exactly what was captured, and there’s nothing wrong with that as neither cameras, lenses, conditions, or photographers can claim perfection.
Increasingly the narrative is evolving into a give and take about the “real world” and the world of test charts, graphs, and the like.
Both sides serve a viable purpose in my opinion as photography should be something more than a world of endless pixel peeping, “rules”, graphs, charts, manipulations, and lengthy dissertations.
We live in the real world, or at least a construct we are told is reality – but it’s also nice to have a little information as we wend our way through it.
So, photography like life is best served when a balanced approach is taken and diversity is seen to have a value.
Not everyone hears the same drum, or if they do willing to march to it – the proof of that is the huge number of opinions, consumer products and brand names that are available in every facet of life.