In the last article we saw that the Point Spread Function and the Modulation Transfer Function of a lens could be easily obtained numerically by applying Discrete Fourier Transforms to its generalized exit pupil function twice in sequence.
Obtaining the 2D DFTs is easy: simply feed MxN numbers representing the two dimensional complex image of the pupil function in its space to a fast fourier transform routine and, presto, it produces MxN numbers that represent the amplitude of the PSF on the sensing plane, as shown below for the pupil function of a perfect lens with a circular aperture and MxN = 1024×1024.
Simple and fast. Wonderful. Below is a slice through the center, the 513th row, zoomed in. Hmm…. What are the physical units on the axes of displayed data produced by the DFT?
Less easy – and the subject of this article as seen from a photographic perspective.
Goodman, in his excellent Introduction to Fourier Optics, describes how an image is formed on a camera sensing plane starting from first principles, that is electromagnetic propagation according to Maxwell’s wave equation. If you want the play by play account I highly recommend his math intensive book. But for the budding photographer it is sufficient to know what happens at the exit pupil of the lens because after that the transformations to Point Spread and Modulation Transfer Functions are straightforward, as we will show in this article.
The following diagram exemplifies the last few millimeters of the journey that light from the scene has to travel in order to smash itself against our camera’s sensing medium. Light from the scene in the form of field arrives at the front of the lens. It goes through the lens being partly blocked and distorted by it (we’ll call this blocking/distorting function ) and finally arrives at its back end, the exit pupil. The complex light field at the exit pupil’s two dimensional plane is now as shown below:
The series of articles starting here outlines a model of how the various physical components of a digital camera and lens can affect the ‘sharpness’ – that is the spatial resolution – of the images captured in the raw data. In this one we will pit the model against MTF curves obtained through the slanted edge methodfrom real world raw captures both with and without an anti-aliasing filter.
With a few simplifying assumptions, which include ignoring aliasing and phase, the spatial frequency response (SFR or MTF) of a photographic digital imaging system near the center can be expressed as the product of the Modulation Transfer Function of each component in it. For a current digital camera these would typically be the main ones:
We now know how to calculate the two dimensional Modulation Transfer Function of a perfect lens affected by diffraction, defocus and third order Spherical Aberration – under monochromatic light at the given wavelength and f-number. In digital photography however we almost never deal with light of a single wavelength. So what effect does an illuminant with a wide spectral power distribution, going through the color filter of a typical digital camera CFA before the sensor have on the spatial frequency responses discussed thus far?
Spherical Aberration (SA) is one key component missing from our MTF toolkit for modeling an ideal imaging system’s ‘sharpness’ in the center of the field of view in the frequency domain. In this article formulas will be presented to compute the two dimensional Point Spread and Modulation Transfer Functions of the combination of diffraction, defocus and third order Spherical Aberration for an otherwise perfect lens with a circular aperture.
Spherical Aberrations result because most photographic lenses are designed with quasi spherical surfaces that do not necessarily behave ideally in all situations. For instance, they may focus light on slightly different planes depending on whether the respective ray goes through the exit pupil closer or farther from the optical axis, as shown below:
The next few posts will describe a linear spatial resolution model that can help a photographer better understand the main variables involved in evaluating the ‘sharpness’ of photographic equipment and related captures. I will show numerically that the combined spectral frequency response (MTF) of a perfect AAless monochrome digital camera and lens in two dimensions can be described as the normalized multiplication of the Fourier Transform (FT) of the lens Point Spread Function by the FT of the (square) pixel footprint, convolved with the FT of a rectangular grid of Dirac delta functions centered at each pixel, as better described in the article
With a few simplifying assumptions we will see that the effect of the lens and sensor on the spatial resolution of the continuous image on the sensing plane can be broken down into these simple components. The overall ‘sharpness’ of the captured digital image can then be estimated by combining the ‘sharpness’ of each of them. Continue reading A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – I→
While perusing Jim Kasson’s excellent Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration tests I was impressed by the quantity and quality of the information the resulting data provides. Longitudinal, or Axial, CA is a form of defocus and as such it cannot be effectively corrected during raw conversion, so having a lens well compensated for it will provide a real and tangible improvement in the sharpness of final images. How much of an improvement?
In fact the question is more generic than that. Smaller format lens designers try to compensate for their imaging system geometric resolution penalty (compared to a larger format when viewing final images at the same size) by designing ‘sharper’ lenses specifically for it, rather than recycling larger formats’ designs (feeling guilty APS-C?) – sometimes with excellent effect. Are they succeeding? I will use mFT only as an example here, but input is welcome for all formats, from phones to large format.
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.
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?→