Zernike circle polynomials are in widespread use for wavefront analysis because of their orthogonality over a circular pupil and their representation of balanced classical aberrations. However, they are not appropriate for noncircular pupils, such as annular, hexagonal, elliptical, rectangular, and square pupils, due to their lack of orthogonality over such pupils. We emphasize the use of orthonormal polynomials for such pupils, but we show how to obtain the Zernike coefficients correctly. We illustrate that the wavefront fitting with a set of orthonormal polynomials is identical to the fitting with a corresponding set of Zernike polynomials. This is a consequence of the fact that each orthonormal polynomial is a linear combination of the Zernike polynomials. However, since the Zernike polynomials do not represent balanced aberrations for a noncircular pupil, the Zernike coefficients lack the physical significance that the orthonormal coefficients provide. We also analyze the error that arises if Zernike polynomials are used for noncircular pupils by treating them as circular pupils and illustrate it with numerical examples.
© 2008 Optical Society of America
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