Journal of Electronic ImagingToward a digital camera to rival the human eye
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All things considered, electronic imaging systems do not rival the human visual system despite notable progress over 40 years since the invention of the CCD. This work presents a method that allows design engineers to evaluate the performance gap between a digital camera and the human eye. The method identifies limiting factors of the electronic systems by benchmarking against the human system. It considers power consumption, visual field, spatial resolution, temporal resolution, and properties related to signal and noise power. A figure of merit is defined as the performance gap of the weakest parameter. Experimental work done with observers and cadavers is reviewed to assess the parameters of the human eye, and assessment techniques are also covered for digital cameras. The method is applied to 24 modern image sensors of various types, where an ideal lens is assumed to complete a digital camera. Results indicate that dynamic range and dark limit are the most limiting factors. The substantial functional gap, from 1.6 to 4.5 orders of magnitude, between the human eye and digital cameras may arise from architectural differences between the human retina, arranged in a multiple-layer structure, and image sensors, mostly fabricated in planar technologies. Functionality of image sensors may be significantly improved by exploiting technologies that allow vertical stacking of active tiers.