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DOF in digital pictures

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DOF in digital pictures
Another Test
Diffraction & sharpening
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Added some new images showing the effects of both defocus and diffraction. I also started looking at how much fine detail contrast can be regained with convolution type sharpening.



Some formatting changes, added some words about overestimating the effect of diffraction in the figures.




We are accustomed to having significant Depth Of Field in photography. Now that we have digital sensor that are very high resolving and essentially flat the old figures are less valid.


The main reason I started this investigation is that there was a discussion on Luminous Landscape regarding focus on distant objects. The author was focusing at infinity and saw that infinity was in focus but objects say 300-400 feet away were not in focus. My immediate reaction was that with high resolution digital DOF is virtually nil, especially if we are pixel peeping at actual pixels. I do, you do, we do! Of course, we shall not pixel peep but we do it anyway.


Infinity is a bit less than practical but I sat up an experiment. The set up was as follows:

  • Camera on tripod 3 meter from test object
  • Test object consisted of a "Lens Align device", a dollar bill and test target for Imatest
Focusing distance was calculated for defocus corresponding to 6 micron and 12 micron circle of confusion (CoC). It was assumed that focusing was exactly at 3000 mm and an offset was calculated for each aperture and CoC. Something like this:
F-stop CoC Offset lp/ph "Megapixels" Corresponding near focus
in meters when lens
is focused at infinity
f/8 0 0 2836 24.6
f/8 6 17 2749 23.1 467
f/8 12 35 2454 18.4 235
f/11 6 24 2644 21.4 341
f/11 12 48 2424 18 170


The "lp/ph" figure measures at how many line pairs at picture height the lens can transfer 50% contrast. The "Megapixels" figure is normalized to 24.6 MP at "optimum" focus. Optimum focus was very difficult to find.


f/8 coc=0 CoC = 6 CoC = 12


Preliminary findings

To me it is pretty much obvious that significant sharpness is lost at a circle of confusion of 12 microns, which is approximately twice pixel pitch of the Sony Alpha 900 used for the test.
With a 150 mm lens at 3.0 meter 12 micron corresponds to moving the camera backwards with 3.5 cm if f/8 is used or 48 mm at f/11. Would the camera be focused at infinity a CoC of 12 microns would be achieved at about 235m at f/8 or at 170 m at f/11.
Using a CoC of 6 microns (corresponding to the pixel pitch) I can see some image degradation, but this is quite small. A CoC of 6 microns would be corresponding to about 470 m on a 150 mm lens focused at infinity using f/8. At F/11 CoC 12 microns would be achieved at around 340 m.

Last Updated on Saturday, 12 March 2011 21:05  


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