Category Archives: Perceptual

Linear Color: Applying the Forward Matrix

Now that we know how to create a 3×3 linear matrix to convert white balanced and demosaiced raw data into XYZ_{D50}  connection space – and where to obtain the 3×3 linear matrix to then convert it to a standard output color space like sRGB – we can take a closer look at the matrices and apply them to a real world capture chosen for its wide range of chromaticities.

Figure 1. Image with color converted using the forward linear matrix discussed in the article.

Continue reading Linear Color: Applying the Forward Matrix

Color: Determining a Forward Matrix for Your Camera

We understand from the previous article that rendering color during raw conversion essentially means mapping raw data represented by RGB triplets into a standard color space via a Profile Connection Space in a two step process

    \[ RGB_{raw} \rightarrow  XYZ_{D50} \rightarrow RGB_{standard} \]

The process I will use first white balances and demosaics the raw data, which at that stage we will refer to as RGB_{rwd}, followed by converting it to XYZ_{D50} Profile Connection Space through linear transformation by an unknown ‘Forward Matrix’ (as DNG calls it) of the form

(1)   \begin{equation*} \left[ \begin{array}{c} X_{D50} \\ Y_{D50} \\ Z_{D50} \end{array} \right] = \begin{bmatrix} a_{11} & a_{12} & a_{13} \\ a_{21} & a_{22} & a_{23} \\ a_{31} & a_{32} & a_{33} \end{bmatrix} \times \left[ \begin{array}{c} R_{rwd} \\ G_{rwd} \\ B_{rwd} \end{array} \right] \end{equation*}

Determining the nine a coefficients of this matrix is the main subject of this article[1]. Continue reading Color: Determining a Forward Matrix for Your Camera

Color: From Capture to Eye

How do we translate captured image information into a stimulus that will produce the appropriate perception of color?  It’s actually not that complicated[1].

Recall from the introductory article that a photon absorbed by a cone type (\rho, \gamma or \beta) in the fovea produces the same stimulus to the brain regardless of its wavelength[2].  Take the example of the eye of an observer which focuses  on the retina the image of a uniform object with a spectral photon distribution of 1000 photons/nm in the 400 to 720nm wavelength range and no photons outside of it.

Because the system is linear, cones in the foveola will weigh the incoming photons by their relative sensitivity (probability) functions and add the result up to produce a stimulus proportional to the area under the curves.  For instance a \gamma cone will see about 321,000 photons arrive and produce a relative stimulus of about 94,700, the weighted area under the curve:

equal-photons-per-wl
Figure 1. Light made up of 321k photons of broad spectrum and constant Spectral Photon Distribution between 400 and 720nm  is weighted by cone sensitivity to produce a relative stimulus equivalent to 94,700 photons, proportional to the area under the curve

Continue reading Color: From Capture to Eye

An Introduction to Color in Digital Cameras

This article will set the stage for a discussion on how pleasing color is produced during raw conversion.  The easiest way to understand how a camera captures and processes ‘color’ is to start with an example of how the human visual system does it.

An Example: Green

Light from the sun strikes leaves on a tree.   The foliage of the tree absorbs some of the light and reflects the rest diffusely  towards the eye of a human observer.  The eye focuses the image of the foliage onto the retina at its back.  Near the center of the retina there is a small circular area called the foveola which is dense with light receptors of well defined spectral sensitivities called cones. Information from the cones is pre-processed by neurons and carried by nerve fibers via the optic nerve to the brain where, after some additional psychovisual processing, we recognize the color of the foliage as green[1].

spd-to-cone-quanta3
Figure 1. The human eye absorbs light from an illuminant reflected diffusely by the object it is looking at.

Continue reading An Introduction to Color in Digital Cameras

COMBINING BAYER CFA MTF Curves – II

This is a vast and complex subject for which I do not have formal training.  In this and the previous article I present my thoughts on how MTF50 results obtained from  raw data of the four Bayer CFA channels off  a uniformly illuminated neutral target captured with a typical digital camera through the slanted edge method can be combined to provide a meaningful composite MTF50 for the imaging system as a whole1.  Corrections, suggestions and challenges are welcome. Continue reading COMBINING BAYER CFA MTF Curves – II

Combining Bayer CFA Modulation Transfer Functions – I

This is a vast and complex subject for which I do not have formal training.  In this and the following article I will discuss my thoughts on how MTF50 results obtained from  raw data of the four Bayer CFA color channels off  a neutral target captured with a typical camera through the slanted edge method can be combined to provide a meaningful composite MTF50 for the imaging system as a whole.   The perimeter are neutral slanted edge measurements of Bayer CFA raw data for linear spatial resolution  (‘sharpness’) photographic hardware evaluations.  Corrections, suggestions and challenges are welcome. Continue reading Combining Bayer CFA Modulation Transfer Functions – I

Linearity in the Frequency Domain

For the purposes of ‘sharpness’ spatial resolution measurement in photography  cameras can be considered shift-invariant, linear systems.

Shift invariant means that the imaging system should respond exactly the same way no matter where light from the scene falls on the sensing medium .  We know that in a strict sense this is not true because for instance a pixel has a square area so it cannot have an isotropic response by definition.  However when using the slanted edge method of linear spatial resolution measurement  we can effectively make it shift invariant by careful preparation of the testing setup.  For example the edges should be slanted no more than this and no less than that. Continue reading Linearity in the Frequency Domain

Smooth Gradients and the Weber-Fechner Fraction

Whether the human visual system perceives a displayed slow changing gradient of tones, such as a vast expanse of sky, as smooth or posterized depends mainly on two well known variables: the Weber-Fechner Fraction of the ‘steps’ in the reflected/produced light intensity (the subject of this article); and spatial dithering of the light intensity as a result of noise (the subject of a future one).

Continue reading Smooth Gradients and the Weber-Fechner Fraction

Image Quality: Raising ISO vs Pushing in Conversion

In the last few posts I have made the case that Image Quality in a digital camera is entirely dependent on the light Information collected at a sensor’s photosites during Exposure.  Any subsequent processing – whether analog amplification and conversion to digital in-camera and/or further processing in-computer – effectively applies a set of Information Transfer Functions to the signal  that when multiplied together result in the data from which the final photograph is produced.  Each step of the way can at best maintain the original Information Quality (IQ) but in most cases it will degrade it somewhat.

IQ: Only as Good as at Photosites’ Output

This point is key: in a well designed imaging system** the final image IQ is only as good as the scene information collected at the sensor’s photosites, independently of how this information is stored in the working data along the processing chain, on its way to being transformed into a pleasing photograph.  As long as scene information is properly encoded by the system early on, before being written to the raw file – and information transfer is maintained in the data throughout the imaging and processing chain – final photograph IQ will be virtually the same independently of how its data’s histogram looks along the way.

Continue reading Image Quality: Raising ISO vs Pushing in Conversion

Can MTF50 be Trusted?

A reader suggested that a High-Res Olympus E-M5 Mark II image used in the previous post looked sharper than the equivalent Sony a6000 image, contradicting the relative MTF50 measurements, perhaps showing ‘the limitations of MTF50 as a methodology’.   That would be surprising because MTF50 normally correlates quite well with perceived sharpness, so I decided to check this particular case out.

‘Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes’?

Continue reading Can MTF50 be Trusted?

Why Raw Sharpness IQ Measurements Are Better

Why Raw?  The question is whether one is interested in measuring the objective, quantitative spatial resolution capabilities of the hardware or whether instead one would prefer to measure the arbitrary, qualitatively perceived sharpening prowess of (in-camera or in-computer) processing software as it turns the capture into a pleasing final image.  Either is of course fine.

My take on this is that the better the IQ captured the better the final image will be after post processing.  In other words I am typically more interested in measuring the spatial resolution information produced by the hardware comfortable in the knowledge that if I’ve got good quality data to start with its appearance will only be improved in post by the judicious use of software.  By IQ here I mean objective, reproducible, measurable physical quantities representing the quality of the information captured by the hardware, ideally in scientific units.

Can we do that off a file rendered by a raw converter or, heaven forbid, a Jpeg?  Not quite, especially if the objective is measuring IQ. Continue reading Why Raw Sharpness IQ Measurements Are Better

How Sharp are my Camera and Lens?

You want to measure how sharp your camera/lens combination is to make sure it lives up to its specs.  Or perhaps you’d like to compare how well one lens captures spatial resolution compared to another  you own.  Or perhaps again you are in the market for new equipment and would like to know what could be expected from the shortlist.  Or an old faithful is not looking right and you’d like to check it out.   So you decide to do some testing.  Where to start? Continue reading How Sharp are my Camera and Lens?

I See Banding in the Sky. Is my Camera Faulty?

This is a recurring nightmare for a new photographer: they head out with their brand new state-of-the art digital camera, capture a set of images with a vast expanse of sky or smoothly changing background, come home, fire them up on their computer, play with a few sliders and … gasp! … there are visible bands (posterization, stairstepping, quantization) all over the smoothly changing gradient.  ‘Is my new camera broken?!’, they wonder in horror.

Relax, chances are very (very) good that the camera is fine.  I am going to show you in this post how to make sure that that is indeed the case and hone in on the real culprit(s). Continue reading I See Banding in the Sky. Is my Camera Faulty?

Converting Radiometric to Photometric Units

When first approaching photographic science a photographer is often confused by the unfamiliar units used.  In highs school we were taught energy and power in radiometric units like watts (W) – while in photography the same concepts are dealt with in photometric units like lumens (lm).

Once one realizes that both sets of units refer to the exact same physical process – energy transfer – but they are fine tuned for two slightly different purposes it becomes a lot easier to interpret the science behind photography through the theory one already knows.

It all boils down to one simple notion: lumens are watts as perceived by the Human Visual System.

Continue reading Converting Radiometric to Photometric Units

MTF50 and Perceived Sharpness

Is MTF50 a good proxy for perceived sharpness?  It turns out that the spatial frequencies that are most closely related to our perception of sharpness vary with the size and viewing distance of the displayed image.

For instance if an image captured by a Full Frame camera is viewed at ‘standard’ distance (that is a distance equal to its diagonal) the portion of the MTF curve most representative of perceived sharpness appears to be around MTF90. Continue reading MTF50 and Perceived Sharpness

Deconvolution vs USM Capture Sharpening

UnSharp Masking (USM) capture sharpening is somewhat equivalent to taking a black/white marker and drawing along every transition in the picture to make it stand out more – automatically.  Line thickness and darkness is chosen arbitrarily to achieve the desired effect, much like painters do. Continue reading Deconvolution vs USM Capture Sharpening