Tag Archives: photograph

Dynamic Range and Bit Depth

My camera has an engineering Dynamic Range of 14 stops, how many bits do I need to encode that DR?  Well, to encode the whole Dynamic Range 1 bit will suffice.  The reason is simple, dynamic range is only concerned with the extremes, not with tones in between:

    \[ DR = \frac{Maximum Signal}{Minimum Signal} \]

So in theory we only need 1 bit to encode it: zero for minimum signal and one for maximum signal, like so

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Sensor IQ’s Simple Model

Imperfections in an imaging system’s capture process manifest themselves in the form of deviations from the expected signal.  We call these imperfections ‘noise’.   The fewer the imperfections, the lower the noise, the higher the image quality.  However, because the Human Visual System is adaptive within its working range, it’s not the absolute amount of noise that matters to perceived IQ as much as the amount of noise relative to the signal. That’s why to characterize the performance of a sensor in addition to noise we also need to determine its sensitivity and the maximum signal it can detect.

In this series of articles I will describe how to use the Photon Transfer method and a spreadsheet to determine basic IQ performance metrics of a digital camera sensor.  It is pretty easy if we keep in mind the simple model of how light information is converted into raw data by digital cameras:

Sensor photons to DN A


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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