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Spie Press Book

Optical Design for Visual Systems
Author(s): Bruce H. Walker
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Book Description

This tutorial explains the human eye, its function, and performance limits from the perspective of an experienced optical engineer and lens designer. It is concise and readable, with examples and data, and is intended for students, practicing engineers, and technology users.

From an August 2013 review by Jani Achrén, Founder and Owner of Incident Angle Co., Ltd., Finland:

"Optical Design for Visual Systems contains very little heavy mathematics, making it very fast to read. The text contains lots of data and examples. Although being a relatively short book, after reading it I found myself returning to the book many times to verify my interpretations of it or to compare performances. The text leaves many questions that are excellent pointers for broadening one's knowledge on visual design from other resources. The practice of including a review and summary for each chapter is just a superb idea! The lazy guy in me would have liked to see more references, though having the existing ones listed in order of relevance was another suberb idea! This book is marvelously organized.

Basically, the contents cover the human eye, with details on parameters that have an impact on visual design, and several prescriptions on visual systems and their performance limits. The chapter on the eye is definitely the winner of the book, as school biology rarely explains the optically relevant issues concerning the human eye. The text is very detailed in its explanation on how the eye affects the evaluation of the visual system."

Click here for full review:

Book Details

Date Published: 1 September 2000
Pages: 170
ISBN: 9780819438867
Volume: TT45

Table of Contents
SHOW Table of Contents | HIDE Table of Contents
1. Introduction 1
2. The Eye 3
2.1 General 3
2.2 Eye Model 3
2.3 Spot-Size Analysis 5
2.4 The Retina 6
2.5 Image Quality 7
2.6 Normal Vision 8
2.7 Peripheral Vision 10
2.8 Review and Summary 10
3. Magnification and Vision 13
3.1 Introduction 13
3.2 Near Object Standard 13
3.3 Loupe Magnification 15
3.4 Microscope Magnification 17
3.5 Distant Object Magnification 19
3.6 Photographic Systems 21
3.7 Video Systems 23
3.8 Review and Summary 25
4. The Magnifier - Design 27
4.1 Introduction 27
4.2 The Biconvex Magnifier 27
4.3 The Doublet Magnifier 34
4.4 The Triplet Magnifier 36
4.5 The Symmetrical Two-Doublet Magnifier 41
4.6 Resolution 41
4.7 Review and Summary 43
5. The Eyepiece - Design 45
5.1 Introduction 45
5.2 The Generic Eyepiece 45
5.3 The Huygenian Eyepiece 47
5.4 The Ramsden Eyepiece 47
5.5 The Kellner Eyepiece 47
5.6 The RKE Eyepiece 47
5.7 The Orthoscopic Eyepiece 51
5.8 The Symmetrical Eyepiece 51
5.9 The Erfle Eyepiece 51
5.10 The Scidmore Eyepiece 56
5.11 The RKE Wide-angle Eyepiece 56
5.12 Eyepiece Focus 56
5.13 Eyepiece with the Eye 59
5.14 Review and Summary 64
6. The Microscope - Design 65
6.1 Introduction 65
6.2 Basic System Specifications 65
6.3 Resolution Goals and Limits 65
6.4 10× Objective, Starting Lens Form 66
6.5 New 10× Objective Design 67
6.6 Adding the Eyepiece 72
6.7 Performance Evaluation 73
6.8 Review and Summary 77
7. The Telescope - Design 79
7.1 Introduction 79
7.2 The Astronomical Telescope 79
7.3 Resolution Goals and Limits 80
7.4 The Terrestrial Telescope 89
7.5 Resolution Goals and Limits 89
7.6 Review and Summary 95
8. The Borescope - Design 97
8.1 Introduction 97
8.2 General Optical Configuration 97
8.3 Objective Lens Design 99
8.4 Common Relay Lens Design 102
8.5 Final Relay Lens Design 106
8.6 Eyepiece Selection 106
8.7 Magnification Evaluation 110
8.8 Review and Summary 111
9. The Periscope - Design 113
9.1 Introduction 113
9.2 General Optical Configuration 113
9.3 Objective Lens Design 115
9.4 Relay Lens Pair Design 122
9.5 Visual Performance Analysis 125
9.6 True Resolution Gain 126
9.7 Review and Summary 133
10. Biocular - Design 135
10.1 Introduction 135
10.2 Biocular Eyepiece 135
10.3 Head-Up Display (HUD) 142
10.4 Review and Summary 146
11. Review and Summary of Design Concepts 147
11.1 Introduction 147
11.2 The Model Eye 147
11.3 Model Eye Resolution 147
11.4 Visual Magnification 148
11.5 Other Visual Instruments 149
11.6 Conclusion 149
References 151
Index 153


In the field of optical engineering there exists a complete genre of instruments that are intended to be used with the human eye as the final system sensor. The optical design of such instruments involves a unique approach, dealing with a special set of requirements and design methods. This book will provide the reader with a basic understanding of these methods and the reasons behind them.

Initial chapters will deal with the human eye, its unique design characteristics and its function. A mathematical model of the eye, closely simulating the dimensions and performance of the typical eye, and suitable for computer analysis, will be generated. Computer simulation and analysis will be used to establish a baseline of performance for this eye model. This analysis of the visual system includes the use of an Aerial Image Modulation (AIM) curve, which describes the performance of the visual sensor, i.e., the eye's retina. While generation of this AIM curve has involved some assumptions, it has been based on known characteristics of the retina. Results found when combining the Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) of the model eye with this AIM curve are consistent with the resolving capability of the typical visual system. This will permit performance comparisons in later chapters to determine the effectiveness of a variety of designs. Some time will be spent on describing the various reasons for the introduction of optical instruments that are intended to enhance the performance of the naked eye.

The simple magnifier (loupe), the eyepiece, and the microscope represent the most basic tier of optical designs for visual applications where near objects are being viewed. When viewing objects at great distances, the eyepiece is combined with an objective lens to form a telescope design. Several telescope designs will be developed and described in some detail. Design procedures will illustrate how these telescope designs are modified to make them suitable for a variety of applications. In a number of unusual applications, it is required that a relatively large distance exist between the objective and the eyepiece of a telescope design. The basic submarine periscope and the field of industrial and medical borescope design will be discussed in order to demonstrate the interesting and unique aspects of these instruments.

Finally, the topic of biocular lens designs will be touched upon. In a biocular design the optics must be configured such that a common object can be viewed by both eyes simultaneously. This leads to a lens system that is quite large physically, and has a small f-number (often around f/1.0). The design of a biocular lens is complicated by the fact that the relatively small pupil of the eye is sampling the output of this large lens. Several designs in this category will be presented.

Each design that is to be presented here (including the model eye) has been generated using the OSLO PRO and the OSLO Premium Edition optical design software packages from Sinclair Optics. Optical design methods and procedures will be discussed in some detail, with emphasis on the real world reasons behind them. While the typical reader may not use this information to make him or her self into a bonafide optical designer, a familiarity with this category of instruments and the design methods involved in creating them will permit an intelligent exchange of concepts and ideas with the Optical Designer on the program.

The level of mathematics and physics involved in the preparation of this book has been limited to fundamental algebra and trigonometry, along with the basic principals of optics that will be found in all basic optics textbooks. In this age, the lens design software package and the modern personal computer have assumed much of the heavy lifting (in a mathematical sense).

It is hoped that this book will successfully convey to the reader an understanding and appreciation of the basic human visual system, its function and its rather remarkable performance capabilities. Secondly, the reader should come away with an understanding of the many unique considerations involved in the optical design of a system to be used in conjunction with the visual system. As is often the case, while the flexibility and responsiveness of the visual system tends to simplify the actual design process, the design is simultaneously made more difficult by the optical and physical limitations of that same visual system.

It is recognized that in most engineering fields (and optics is not an exception), the most effective engineering solutions involve the serious balancing of numerous design considerations, i.e., trade-offs. This book will be useful to the optical designer, as well as others peripherally involved, in helping to decide on the most effective way of incorporating those many compromises into a successful final design.

Bruce H. Walker
July 2000

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