Now that we know how to create a 3×3 linear matrix to convert white balanced and demosaiced raw data into 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.
How do we translate captured image information into a stimulus that will produce the appropriate perception of color? It’s actually not that complicated.
Recall from the introductory article that a photon absorbed by a cone type (, or ) in the fovea produces the same stimulus to the brain regardless of its wavelength. 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 cone will see about 321,000 photons arrive and produce a relative stimulus of about 94,700, the weighted area under the curve:
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.
How many photons impinge on a pixel illuminated by a known light source during exposure? To answer this question in a photographic context we need to know the area of the pixel, the Spectral Power Distribution of the illuminant and the relative Exposure.
We know the pixel’s area and we know that the Spectral Power Distribution of a common class of light sources called blackbody radiators at temperature T is described by Spectral Radiant Exitance – so all we need to determine is what Exposure this irradiance corresponds to in order to obtain the answer.
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.
I measured the Spectral Power Distribution of the three CFA filters of a Nikon D610 in ‘Daylight’ conditions with a cheap spectrometer. Taking a cue from this post I pointed it at light from the sun reflected off a gray card and took a raw capture of the spectrum it produced.
An ImageJ plot did the rest. I took a dozen pictures at slightly different angles to catch the picture of the clearest spectrum. Shown are the three spectral curves averaged over the two best opposing captures. The Photopic Eye Luminous Efficiency Function (2 degree, Sharpe et al 2005) is also shown for reference, scaled to the same maximum as the green curve. Continue reading Nikon CFA Spectral Power Distribution