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Lens resolution

The ability of a lens to resolve detail is usually determined by the quality of the lens but is
ultimately limited by diffraction. Light coming from a point in the object diffracts through the
lens aperture such that it forms a diffraction pattern in the image which has a central spot and
surrounding bright rings, separated by dark nulls; this pattern is known as an Airy pattern, and
the central bright lobe as an Airy disk. The angular radius of the Airy disk (measured from the
center to the first null) is given by
is the angular resolution in radians,
is the wavelength of light in meters,
and D is the diameter of the lens aperture in

Angular resolution
Angular resolution, or spatial resolution, describes the ability of any image-forming device such as an
optical or radio telescope, a microscope, a camera, or an eye, to distinguish small details of an object,
thereby making it a major determinant of image resolution.
Resolving power of lens

The imaging system's resolution can be limited either by aberration or by diffraction causing
blurring of the image. These two phenomena have different origins and are unrelated.
Aberrations can be explained by geometrical optics and can in principle be solved by increasing
the optical quality and subsequently the cost of the system. On the other hand, diffraction
comes from the wave nature of light and is determined by the finite aperture of the optical
elements. The lens' circular aperture is analogous to a two-dimensional version of the single-slit
experiment. Light passing through the lens interferes with itself creating a ring-shape diffraction
pattern, known as the Airy pattern, if the wavefront of the transmitted light is taken to be
spherical or plane over the exit aperture.
The interplay between diffraction and aberration can be characterised by the point spread
function (PSF). The narrower the aperture of a lens the more likely the PSF is dominated by
diffraction. In that case, the angular resolution of an optical system can be estimated (from the
diameter of the aperture and the wavelength of the light) by the Rayleigh criterion invented by
Lord Rayleigh:
Two point sources are regarded as just resolved when the principal diffraction maximum of one
image coincides with the first minimum of the other.[1] [2] If the distance is greater, the two points
are well resolved and if it is smaller, they are regarded as not resolved. Rayleigh defended this
criteria on sources of equal strength.[2]

If one considers diffraction through a circular aperture, this translates into:

is the angular resolution (radians),
is the wavelength of light,
and D is the diameter of the lens' aperture.

Lateral resolution
Resolution depends on the distance between two distinguishable radiating points. The sections
below describe the theoretical estimates of resolution, but the real values may differ. The results
below are based on mathematical models of Airy discs, which assumes an adequate level of
contrast. In low-contrast systems, the resolution may be much lower than predicted by the theory
outlined below. Real optical systems are complex and practical difficulties often increase the
distance between distinguishable point sources.
The resolution of a system is based on the minimum distance at which the points can be
distinguished as individuals. Several standards are used to determine, quantitatively, whether or
not the points can be distinguished. One of methods specifies that, on the line between the center
of one point and the next, the contrast between the maximum and minimum intensity be at least
26% lower than the maximum. This corresponds to the overlap of one airy disk on the first dark
ring in the other. This standard for separation is also known as the Rayleigh criterion In symbols,
the distance is defined as follows [1]

is the minimum distance between resolvable points, in the same units as is specified
is the wavelength of light, emission wavelength, in the case of fluorescence,
is the index of refraction of the media surrounding the radiating points,
is the half angle of the pencil of light that enters the objective, and
is the Numerical aperture

Sensor resolution (spatial)

Some optical sensors are designed to detect spatial differences in electromagnetic energy. These
include photographic film, solid-state devices (CCD, CMOS detectors, and infrared detectors
like PtSi and InSb), tube detectors (vidicon, plumbicon, and photomultiplier tubes used in nightvision devices), scanning detectors (mainly used for IR), pyroelectric detectors, and

microbolometer detectors. The ability of such a detector to resolve those differences depends
mostly on the size of the detecting elements.

Numerical aperture
In optics, the numerical aperture (NA) of an optical system is a dimensionless number that characterizes
the range of angles over which the system can accept or emit light. By incorporating index of refraction
in its definition, NA has the property that it is constant for a beam as it goes from one material to
another provided there is no optical power at the interface.

In most areas of optics, and especially in microscopy, the numerical aperture of an optical system
such as an objective lens is defined by

Numerical aperture versus f-number

Numerical aperture of a thin lens.

Numerical aperture is not typically used in photography. Instead, the angular aperture of a lens
(or an imaging mirror) is expressed by the f-number, written f/# or , which is defined as the
ratio of the focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil :

N is not actual NA


Diagram of decreasing apertures, that is, increasing f-numbers, in one-stop increments; each aperture
has half the light gathering area of the previous one.

In optics, the f-number (sometimes called focal ratio, f-ratio, f-stop, or relative aperture[1]) of
an optical system is the ratio of the lens's focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil.[2
The f-number N is given by

where is the focal length, and is the diameter of the entrance pupil (effective aperture). It is
customary to write f-numbers preceded by f/, which forms a mathematical expression of the
entrance pupil diameter in terms of f and N.[2] For example, if a lens's focal length is 10 mm and
its entrance pupil diameter is 5 mm, the f-number is 2 and the aperture diameter is f/2.
Ignoring differences in light transmission efficiency, a lens with a greater f-number projects
darker images. The brightness of the projected image (illuminance) relative to the brightness of
the scene in the lens's field of view (luminance) decreases with the square of the f-number.
Doubling the f-number decreases the relative brightness by a factor of four. To maintain the
same photographic exposure when doubling the f-number, the exposure time would need to be
four times as long.
Most lenses use a standard f-stop scale, which is an approximately geometric sequence of numbers that
corresponds to the sequence of the powers of the square root of 2: f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8,
f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, f/45, f/64, f/90, f/128, etc.

Comparison of Airy Disc to Gaussian beam focus

A circular laser beam with uniform intensity profile, focused by a lens, will form an Airy pattern
at the focal plane of the lens. The intensity at the center of the focus will be


is the total power of the beam,

is the area of the beam (

the lens.

is the beam diameter), is the wavelength, and is the focal length of

A Gaussian beam with

diameter of D focused through an aperture of diameter D will have
a focal profile that is nearly Gaussian, and
the intensity at the center of the focus will be 0.924

Spherical aberration



Chromatic aberration

Snell's law
Snell's law states that the ratio of the sines of the angles of incidence and refraction is equivalent
to the ratio of phase velocities in the two media, or equivalent to the reciprocal of the ratio of the
indices of refraction:

If theta 1 is lesser part and density of medium 2 is higher i.e the refractive index is
higher then light bends towards min angle side