A performance scaling formulation for flat form-factor cameras is introduced. The analysis follows from basic geometric and sensitivity constraints found in low-profile imaging sensors. A capacity metric is proposed and used to estimate performance cost scaling as a function of the width-to-height aspect ratio in the optics of thin imagers. Two basic flat imaging sensor classes are considered—one folds the optical path of an annular telescope within the volume of a central obscuration, and the other uses spatial multiplexing and filtering across an array of low-resolution small cameras to generate an estimate of the high-resolution image. Scaling trends are highlighted that enable general performance comparisons at the optical signal collection level, thereby providing conclusions that are independent of the computational aspects of any particular approach. The results indicate that thin imagers face significant costs in physical size and sampling requirements if they are to match the performance of conventional cameras in the basic parameters of field of view, resolution, dynamic range, and sensitivity.
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