Tag Archives: sharpness

Bayer CFA Effect on Sharpness

In this article we shall find that the effect of a Bayer CFA on the spatial frequencies and hence the ‘sharpness’ captured by a sensor compared to those from a corresponding monochrome imager can go from nothing to halving the potentially unaliased range based on the chrominance content of the image projected on the sensing plane and the direction in which the spatial frequencies are being stressed.

A Little Sampling Theory

We know from Goodman[1] and previous articles that the sampled image (I_{s} ) captured in the raw data by a typical current digital camera can be represented mathematically as  the continuous image on the sensing plane (I_{c} ) multiplied by a rectangular lattice of Dirac delta functions positioned at the center of each pixel:

(1)   \begin{equation*} I_{s}(x,y) = I_{c}(x,y) \cdot comb(\frac{x}{p}) \cdot comb(\frac{y}{p}) \end{equation*}

with the comb functions representing the two dimensional grid of delta functions, sampling pitch p apart horizontally and vertically.  To keep things simple the sensing plane is considered here to be the imager’s silicon itself, which sits below microlenses and other filters so the continuous image I_{c} is assumed to incorporate their as well as pixel aperture’s effects. Continue reading Bayer CFA Effect on Sharpness

Taking the Sharpness Model for a Spin – II

This post  will continue looking at the spatial frequency response measured by MTF Mapper off slanted edges in DPReview.com raw captures and relative fits by the ‘sharpness’ model discussed in the last few articles.  The model takes the physical parameters of the digital camera and lens as inputs and produces theoretical directional system MTF curves comparable to measured data.  As we will see the model seems to be able to simulate these systems well – at least within this limited set of parameters.

The following fits refer to the green channel of a number of interchangeable lens digital camera systems with different lenses, pixel sizes and formats – from the current Medium Format 100MP champ to the 1/2.3″ 18MP sensor size also sometimes found in the best smartphones.  Here is the roster with the cameras as set up:

table-1-testing-model
Table 1. The cameras and lenses under test.

Continue reading Taking the Sharpness Model for a Spin – II

Taking the Sharpness Model for a Spin

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 method[1] from 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:

(1)   \begin{equation*} MTF_{sys} = MTF_{lens} (\cdot MTF_{AA}) \cdot MTF_{pixel} \end{equation*}

all in two dimensions Continue reading Taking the Sharpness Model for a Spin

A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – Polychromatic Light

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?

Monochrome vs Polychromatic Light

Not much, it turns out. Continue reading A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – Polychromatic Light

A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – Spherical Aberrations

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:

371px-spherical_aberration_2
Figure 1. Top: an ideal spherical lens focuses all rays on the same focal point. Bottom: a practical lens with Spherical Aberration focuses rays that go through the exit pupil based on their radial distance from the optical axis. Image courtesy Andrei Stroe.

Continue reading A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – Spherical Aberrations

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.

Downsizing Box 4X
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:

d800-aa1
Figure 2. Typical Optical Low Pass Filter implementation  in a current Digital Camera, courtesy of Nikon USA (yellow displacement ‘d’ added).

Continue reading A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – AA

A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – Aliasing

Having shown that our simple two dimensional MTF model is able to predict the performance of the combination of a perfect lens and square monochrome pixel we now turn to the effect of the sampling interval on spatial resolution according to the guiding formula:

(1)   \begin{equation*} MTF_{Sys2D} = \left|(\widehat{ PSF_{lens} }\cdot \widehat{PIX_{ap} })\ast\ast\: \delta\widehat{\delta_{pitch}}\right|_{pu} \end{equation*}

The hats in this case mean the Fourier Transform of the relative component normalized to 1 at the origin (_{pu}), that is the individual MTFs of the perfect lens PSF, the perfect square pixel and the delta grid.

Sampling in the Spatial and Frequency Domains

Sampling is expressed mathematically as a Kronecker delta function at the center of each pixel (the red dots below).

Footprint-PSF3
Figure 1. Left, 1a: A highly zoomed (3200%) image of the lens PSF, an Airy pattern, projected onto the imaging plane where the sensor sits. Pixels shown outlined in yellow. A red dot marks the sampling coordinates. Right, 1b: The sampled image zoomed at 16000%, 5x as much, because each pixel’s width is 5 linear units on the side.

Continue reading A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – Aliasing

A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – II

Now that we know from the introductory article that the spatial frequency response of a typical perfect digital camera and lens can be modeled simply as the product of the Modulation Transfer Function of the lens and pixel area, convolved with a Dirac delta grid at cycles-per-pixel spacing

(1)   \begin{equation*} MTF_{Sys2D} = \left|(\widehat{ PSF_{lens} }\cdot \widehat{PIX_{ap} })\ast\ast\: \delta\widehat{\delta_{pitch}}\right|_{pu} \end{equation*}

we can take a closer look at each of those components (pu here indicating normalization).   I used Matlab to generate the examples below but you can easily do the same in a spreadsheet.  Here is the code if you wish to follow along. Continue reading A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – II

A Simple Model for Sharpness in Digital Cameras – I

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

    \[ MTF_{2D} = \left|(\widehat{ PSF_{lens} }\cdot \widehat{PIX_{ap} })\ast\ast\: \delta\widehat{\delta_{pitch}}\right|_{pu} \]

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

A Longitudinal CA Metric for Photographers

While perusing Jim Kasson’s excellent Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration tests[1] 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 this article I suggest one such metric for the Longitudinal Chromatic Aberrations (LoCA) of a photographic imaging system: Continue reading A Longitudinal CA Metric for Photographers

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

Downsizing Algorithms: Effects on Resolution

Most of the photographs captured these days end up being viewed on a display of some sort, with at best 4K (4096×2160) but often no better than HD resolution (1920×1080).  Since the cameras that capture them have typically several times that number of pixels, 6000×4000 being fairly normal today, most images need to be substantially downsized for viewing, even allowing for some cropping.  Resizing algorithms built into browsers or generic image viewers tend to favor expediency over quality, so it behooves the IQ conscious photographer to manage the process, choosing the best image size and downsampling algorithm for the intended file and display medium.

When downsizing the objective is to maximize the original spatial resolution retained while minimizing the possibility of aliasing and moirè.  In this article we will take a closer look at some common downsizing algorithms and their effect on spatial resolution information in the frequency domain.

Continue reading Downsizing Algorithms: Effects on Resolution

Raw Converter Sharpening with Sliders at Zero?

I’ve mentioned in the past that I prefer to take spatial resolution measurements directly off the raw information in order to minimize often unknown subjective variables introduced by demosaicing and rendering algorithms unbeknownst to the operator, even when all relevant sliders are zeroed.  In this post we discover that that is indeed the case for ACR/LR process 2010/2012 and for Capture NX-D – while DCRAW appears to be transparent and perform straight out demosaicing with no additional processing without the operator’s knowledge.

Continue reading Raw Converter Sharpening with Sliders at Zero?

Are micro Four Thirds Lenses Typically Twice as ‘Sharp’ as Full Frame’s?

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.

Continue reading Are micro Four Thirds Lenses Typically Twice as ‘Sharp’ as Full Frame’s?

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?

Equivalence in Pictures: Sharpness/Spatial Resolution

So, is it true that a Four Thirds lens needs to be about twice as ‘sharp’ as its Full Frame counterpart in order to be able to display an image of spatial resolution equivalent to the larger format’s?

It is, because of the simple geometry I will describe in this article.  In fact with a few provisos one can generalize and say that lenses from any smaller format need to be ‘sharper’ by the ratio of their sensor linear sizes in order to produce the same linear resolution on same-sized final images.

This is one of the reasons why Ansel Adams shot 4×5 and 8×10 – and I would too, were it not for logistical and pecuniary concerns.

Continue reading Equivalence in Pictures: Sharpness/Spatial Resolution

The Units of Spatial Resolution

Several sites perform spatial resolution ‘sharpness’ testing of imaging systems for photographers (i.e. ‘lens+digital camera’) and publish results online.  You can also measure your own equipment relatively easily to determine how sharp your hardware is.  However comparing results from site to site and to your own can be difficult and/or misleading, starting from the multiplicity of units used: cycles/pixel, line pairs/mm, line widths/picture height, line pairs/image height, cycles/picture height etc.

This post will address the units involved in spatial resolution measurement using as an example readings from the slanted edge method.

Continue reading The Units of Spatial Resolution

How to Get MTF Performance Curves for Your Camera and Lens

You have obtained a raw file containing the image of a slanted edge  captured with good technique.  How do you get the MTF curve of the camera and lens combination that took it?  Download and feast your eyes on open source MTF Mapper by Frans van den Bergh.  No installation required, simply store it in its own folder.

The first thing we are going to do is crop the edges and package them into a TIFF file format so that MTF Mapper has an easier time reading them.  Let’s use as an example a Nikon D810+85mm:1.8G ISO 64 studio raw capture by DPReview so that you can follow along if you wish.   Continue reading How to Get MTF Performance Curves for Your Camera and Lens

The Slanted Edge Method

My preferred method for measuring the spatial resolution performance of photographic equipment these days is the slanted edge method.  It requires a minimum amount of additional effort compared to capturing and simply eye-balling a pinch, Siemens or other chart but it gives immensely more, useful, accurate, absolute information in the language and units that have been used to characterize optical systems for over a century: it produces a good approximation to  the Modulation Transfer Function of the two dimensional Point Spread Function of the camera/lens system in the direction perpendicular to the edge.

Much of what there is to know about a system’s spatial resolution performance can be deduced by analyzing such a curve, starting from the perceptually relevant MTF50 metric, discussed a while back.  And all of this simply from capturing the image of a black and white slanted edge, which one can easily produce and print at home.

Continue reading The Slanted Edge Method

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?

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