Tag Archives: units

Wavefront to PSF to MTF: Physical Units

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 P twice in sequence.[1]

Obtaining the 2D DFTs is easy: simply feed MxN numbers representing the two dimensional complex image of the pupil function in its uv space to a fast fourier transform routine and, presto, it produces MxN numbers that represent the amplitude of the PSF on the xy sensing plane, as shown below for the pupil function of a perfect lens with a circular aperture and MxN = 1024×1024.

Figure 1. 1a Left: Array of numbers representing a circular aperture (zeros for black and ones for white).  1b Right: Array of numbers representing the PSF of image 1a (contrast slightly boosted).

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?

Figure 2. A slice through the center of the PSFshown in figure 1b.

Less easy – and the subject of this article as seen from a photographic perspective.

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The Units of Discrete Fourier Transforms

This article is about specifying the units of the Discrete Fourier Transform of an image and the various ways that they can be expressed.  This apparently simple task can be fiendishly unintuitive.

The image we will use as an example is the familiar Airy Disk from the last few posts, at f/16 with light of mean 530nm wavelength. Zoomed in to the left in Figure 1; and as it looks in its 1024×1024 sample image to the right:

Airy Mesh and Intensity
Figure 1. Airy disc image. Left, 1a, 3D representation, zoomed in. Right, 1b, as it would appear on the sensing plane.

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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.

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