© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. We develop a variational optimization method for crystal analysis in atomic resolution images, which uses information from a 2D synchrosqueezed transform (SST) as input. The synchrosqueezed transform is applied to extract initial information from atomic crystal images: crystal defects, rotations and the gradient of elastic deformation. The deformation gradient estimate is then improved outside the identified defect region via a variational approach, to obtain more robust results agreeing better with the physical constraints. The variational model is optimized by a nonlinear projected conjugate gradient method. Both examples of images from computer simulations and imaging experiments are analyzed, with results demonstrating the effectiveness of the proposed method.