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A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – AA

This article will discuss a simple frequency domain model for an AntiAliasing (or Optical Low Pass) Filter, a hardware component sometimes found in a digital imaging system[1].  The filter typically sits right on top of the sensing plane and its objective is to block as much of the aliasing and moiré creating energy above the Nyquist spatial frequency while letting through as much as possible of the real image forming energy below that, hence the low-pass designation.

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Figure 1. The blue line indicates the pass through performance of an ideal anti-aliasing filter presented with an Airy PSF (Original): pass all spatial frequencies below Nyquist (0.5 c/p) and none above that. No filter has such ideal characteristics and if it did its hard edges would result in undesirable ringing in the image.

In consumer digital cameras it is often implemented  by introducing one or two birefringent plates in the sensor’s filter stack.  This is how Nikon shows it for one of its DSLRs:

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Figure 2. Typical Optical Low Pass Filter implementation  in a current Digital Camera, courtesy of Nikon USA (yellow displacement ‘d’ added).

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