Is there any functionality in photoshop that can correct atmospheric distortion?

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Sony A III with 100-400mm and 2X converter. The farther out the subject the softer the image. (I can actually see the heat distortion increase with distance.) What photoshop filters and could help correct such afflicted images?
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Michael Burke

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Posted 1 month ago

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Bill

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The military has software for that but if I told you about it, I'd have to shoot you. Unlike the French Navy which released DxO to the public, the US military doesn't share. 
 
But what you have learned is that there is no point in buying high quality lenses for shooting thru atmospheric distortion. Or shoot in the very early morning before it warms up, the light is better then anyway. 
  
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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Try shooting four or five images with the camera on  a tripod. Then use focus stacking as outlined at the below link. The idea being PS will take the parts of the image in each file that are sharpest and combine them into hopefully a sharper overall image.  I have no idea if it will work with heat wave distortion, but worth a try.

https://create.adobe.com/2019/1/29/focus_stacking_in_ph.html

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Dave Grainger

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Right on! Focus stacking.

I might add the following:  Use manual focus not autofocus, start with
nearest part of scene and work out, being careful not to move the camera due manual focus at each shot, do at least five images. If you have one, try using a Focus Rail to minimize camera shake induced while focusing which could reposition the frame.On the rail there is a micrometer adjustment to move the lens forward in small increments. I use an Oben rail. I also use a wired remote shutter release so my own operation of the shutter does not jiggle the camera.

 It all is a pain in the proverbial appendage, but does improve scenery images such as mine of Mount Baker fifty miles distant, Point Wilson Lighthouse an eighth of  mile and Puget Sound washed rocks in the near ground. All of those were less problem than the atmospherics with that volcano being so distant.

Since the atmospheric "heat wave lens" is not stable, focus stacking should mostly negate those effects. I have done this with acceptable results, but not perfect.

Another approach would be Topaz Sharpen AI in Stabilize mode. That has also worked for me...
(Edited)
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Robert Somrak, Champion

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I am pretty sure using a focusing rail with micrometer adjustments is going to have ZERO effect using a 100-400mm lens with 2x converter when you are shooting far enough away to worry about atmospheric distortion. 
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Dave Grainger

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If Foreground is close and background is distant, it does for me... If no close foreground, I agree
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Doug S

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Depending on the amount and size/type of distortion, you could try manually warp or use liquify.
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Bill

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Atmospheric distortion is a wave. For simple cases like a star, it is just moving the star back and forth. Hence mirror deformation can correct it. 
 
However atmospheric distortion between a camera and a distant object is a very complex wave motion, this is not comparable to astronomical atmospheric distortion hence not correctable in software.   
  
If you are willing to shoot in black and white, put a strong blue filter on the lens; preferably one with a narrow wavelength at the blue end of the spectrum. Being a narrower wavelength, it will block the other wavelengths which are contributing more to the distortion. This will result in a sharper image. This was a standard trick in the days of film and was often used by some of the great landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams to create incredibly sharp images. It also helps compensate for color correction issues, especially with very cheap lenses. With some searching, you might find some sharp images taken with those $100 400mm f/8 lenses which are terrible when used for color photography. But note, the filter MUST go in front of the lens for this technique to work. 
   
A narrow wavelength filter is expensive though a couple of inexpensive deep blue filters stacked will often yield useful results. 
 
Another trick from the world of astrophotography, again for Black and White photography, is to use a slow lens. A cheap 400mm f/8 lens with a blue filter could be sharper than a 400mm f/4 prime. NOT choosing f/8 on the prime lens. The narrow opening must occur before the image hits the lens. Occasionally just putting a reducer in front of the lens will reduce the blurring considerably, a piece of black cardboard with perhaps a 25mm hole in the front mounted like a filter. Again, it must be in front.