Specifying Lenses for Megapixel Cameras

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Submitted By kenlo2010
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Specifying lenses for megapixel cameras
Continuing advances in high-resolution sensors with higher pixel densities and smaller pixels are challenging optics manufacturers to produce lenses with increased performance. To understand how lenses can affect the performance of imaging systems, it is necessary to grasp the physics behind diffraction, lens aperture, focal length, and the wavelength of light (see “Matching Lenses and Sensors,” Vision Systems Design, March 2009). Other design limitations also restrict the optical capabilities of a lens, even before manufacturing tolerances are taken into account.
In specifying a lens and camera system for a particular application, it is not advisable to simply choose a 5-Mpixel lens, for example, in the hope that it will work with a 5-Mpixel camera. Before choosing such a lens, the effects of aperture (f/#), working distance, lens design, and tolerances must also be considered. Detailing the specific requirements of an application is critical before choosing correct optical components since this allows manufacturers to show how their components may meet these requirements.
Understanding MTF
One of the most useful benchmarks for describing image quality (lens performance) is the modulation transfer function (MTF). Unfortunately, since MTF can be specified in different ways, the performance of any given lens may appear higher than what is actually achievable.
To properly measure the MTF, an image of a target whose intensity varies sinusoidally in space is used. This sine-wave target always produces a sine-wave image, regardless of the resulting quality of the image. The only values affected by poor image quality are the contrast and phase of the image. When contrast is plotted against spatial frequency, the horizontal axis shows the spatial resolution in line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) and the vertical axis shows the…...

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