Abstract

An absolute scale of performance is set up in terms of the performance of an ideal picture pickup device, that is, one limited only by random fluctuations in the primary photo process. Only one parameter, the quantum efficiency of the primary photo process, locates position on this scale. The characteristic equation for the performance of an ideal device has the form

BC2α2=constant

where B is the luminance of the scene, and C and α are respectively the threshold contrast and angular size of a test object in the scene. This ideal type of performance is shown to be satisfied by a simple experimental television pickup arrangement. By means of the arrangement, two parameters, storage time of the eye and threshold signal-to-noise ratio are determined to be 0.2 seconds and five respectively. Published data on the performance of the eye are compared with ideal performance. In the ranges of B(10−6 to 102 footlamberts), C(2 to 100 percent) and α(2′ to 100′), the performance of the eye may be matched by an ideal device having a quantum efficiency of 5 percent at low lights and 0.5 percent at high lights. This is of considerable technical importance in simplifying the analysis of problems involving comparisons of the performance of the eye and man-made devices. To the extent that independent measurements of the quantum efficiency of the eye confirm the values (0.5 percent to 5.0 percent), the performance of the eye is limited by fluctuations in the primary photo process. To the same extent, other mechanisms for describing the eye that do not take these fluctuations into account are ruled out. It is argued that the phenomenon of dark adaptation can be ascribed only in small part to the primary photo-process and must be mainly controlled by a variable gain mechanism located between the primary photo-process and the nerve fibers carrying pulses to the brain.

© 1948 Optical Society of America

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References

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  1. A. Rose, “The relative sensitivities of television pickup tubes, photographic film and the human eye,” Proc. I.R.E. 30, 295 (1942).
  2. H. DeVries, “The quantum character of light and its bearing upon threshold of vision, the differential sensitivity and visual acuity of the eye,” Physica 10, 553 (1943).
    [CrossRef]
  3. A. Rose, “A unified approach to the performance of photographic film, television pickup tubes and the human eye,” J.S.M.P.E. 47, 273 (1946).
  4. G. C. Sziklai, R. C. Ballard, and A. C. Schroeder, “An experimental simultaneous color television system, Part II: Pickup equipment,” Proc. I.R.E. 35, 862 (1947).
    [CrossRef]
  5. J. P. Connor and R. E. Ganoung, “An experimental determination of visual thresholds at low values of illumination,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 25, 287 (1935).
    [CrossRef]
  6. P. W. Cobb and F. K. Moss, “The four variables of visual threshold,” J. Frank. Inst. 205, 831 (1928).
    [CrossRef]
  7. H. R. Blackwell, “Contrast thresholds of the human eye,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 36, 624 (1946).
    [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  8. P. Reeves, “The response of the average pupil to various intensities of light,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 4, 35 (1920).
    [CrossRef]
  9. L. A. Jones and G. C. Higgins, “Photographic granularity and graininess,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 36, 203 (1946).
  10. S. Hecht, “The instantaneous visual thresholds after light adaptation,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 23, 227 (1937).
    [CrossRef]
  11. A. Rose, P. K. Weimer, and H. B. Law, “The image orthicon, a sensitive television pickup tube,” Proc. I.R.E. 34, 424 (1946).
    [CrossRef]
  12. S. Shlaer, E. L. Smith, and A. M. Chase, “Visual acuity and illumination in different spectral regions,” J. Gen. Physiol. 25, 553 (1942).
  13. M. Luckiesh and A. H. Taylor, “Tungsten, mercury and sodium illuminants at low brightness levels,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 28, 237 (1938).
    [CrossRef]
  14. I. Langmuir and W. F. Westendorp, “A study of light signals in aviation and navigation,” Physics 1, 273 (1931).
    [CrossRef]
  15. S. Hecht, “The quantum relations of vision,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 32, 42 (1942).
    [CrossRef]
  16. E. M. Brumberg, S. I. Vavilov, and Z. M. Sverdlov, “Visual measurements of quantum fluctuations,” J. Phys. U.S.S.R. 7, 1 (1943).
  17. H. K. Hartline, “Nerve messages in the fibers of the visual pathway,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 30, 239 (1940).
    [CrossRef]

1947 (1)

G. C. Sziklai, R. C. Ballard, and A. C. Schroeder, “An experimental simultaneous color television system, Part II: Pickup equipment,” Proc. I.R.E. 35, 862 (1947).
[CrossRef]

1946 (4)

A. Rose, “A unified approach to the performance of photographic film, television pickup tubes and the human eye,” J.S.M.P.E. 47, 273 (1946).

A. Rose, P. K. Weimer, and H. B. Law, “The image orthicon, a sensitive television pickup tube,” Proc. I.R.E. 34, 424 (1946).
[CrossRef]

H. R. Blackwell, “Contrast thresholds of the human eye,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 36, 624 (1946).
[CrossRef] [PubMed]

L. A. Jones and G. C. Higgins, “Photographic granularity and graininess,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 36, 203 (1946).

1943 (2)

E. M. Brumberg, S. I. Vavilov, and Z. M. Sverdlov, “Visual measurements of quantum fluctuations,” J. Phys. U.S.S.R. 7, 1 (1943).

H. DeVries, “The quantum character of light and its bearing upon threshold of vision, the differential sensitivity and visual acuity of the eye,” Physica 10, 553 (1943).
[CrossRef]

1942 (3)

A. Rose, “The relative sensitivities of television pickup tubes, photographic film and the human eye,” Proc. I.R.E. 30, 295 (1942).

S. Shlaer, E. L. Smith, and A. M. Chase, “Visual acuity and illumination in different spectral regions,” J. Gen. Physiol. 25, 553 (1942).

S. Hecht, “The quantum relations of vision,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 32, 42 (1942).
[CrossRef]

1940 (1)

1938 (1)

1937 (1)

S. Hecht, “The instantaneous visual thresholds after light adaptation,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 23, 227 (1937).
[CrossRef]

1935 (1)

1931 (1)

I. Langmuir and W. F. Westendorp, “A study of light signals in aviation and navigation,” Physics 1, 273 (1931).
[CrossRef]

1928 (1)

P. W. Cobb and F. K. Moss, “The four variables of visual threshold,” J. Frank. Inst. 205, 831 (1928).
[CrossRef]

1920 (1)

Ballard, R. C.

G. C. Sziklai, R. C. Ballard, and A. C. Schroeder, “An experimental simultaneous color television system, Part II: Pickup equipment,” Proc. I.R.E. 35, 862 (1947).
[CrossRef]

Blackwell, H. R.

Brumberg, E. M.

E. M. Brumberg, S. I. Vavilov, and Z. M. Sverdlov, “Visual measurements of quantum fluctuations,” J. Phys. U.S.S.R. 7, 1 (1943).

Chase, A. M.

S. Shlaer, E. L. Smith, and A. M. Chase, “Visual acuity and illumination in different spectral regions,” J. Gen. Physiol. 25, 553 (1942).

Cobb, P. W.

P. W. Cobb and F. K. Moss, “The four variables of visual threshold,” J. Frank. Inst. 205, 831 (1928).
[CrossRef]

Connor, J. P.

DeVries, H.

H. DeVries, “The quantum character of light and its bearing upon threshold of vision, the differential sensitivity and visual acuity of the eye,” Physica 10, 553 (1943).
[CrossRef]

Ganoung, R. E.

Hartline, H. K.

Hecht, S.

S. Hecht, “The quantum relations of vision,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 32, 42 (1942).
[CrossRef]

S. Hecht, “The instantaneous visual thresholds after light adaptation,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 23, 227 (1937).
[CrossRef]

Higgins, G. C.

Jones, L. A.

Langmuir, I.

I. Langmuir and W. F. Westendorp, “A study of light signals in aviation and navigation,” Physics 1, 273 (1931).
[CrossRef]

Law, H. B.

A. Rose, P. K. Weimer, and H. B. Law, “The image orthicon, a sensitive television pickup tube,” Proc. I.R.E. 34, 424 (1946).
[CrossRef]

Luckiesh, M.

Moss, F. K.

P. W. Cobb and F. K. Moss, “The four variables of visual threshold,” J. Frank. Inst. 205, 831 (1928).
[CrossRef]

Reeves, P.

Rose, A.

A. Rose, P. K. Weimer, and H. B. Law, “The image orthicon, a sensitive television pickup tube,” Proc. I.R.E. 34, 424 (1946).
[CrossRef]

A. Rose, “A unified approach to the performance of photographic film, television pickup tubes and the human eye,” J.S.M.P.E. 47, 273 (1946).

A. Rose, “The relative sensitivities of television pickup tubes, photographic film and the human eye,” Proc. I.R.E. 30, 295 (1942).

Schroeder, A. C.

G. C. Sziklai, R. C. Ballard, and A. C. Schroeder, “An experimental simultaneous color television system, Part II: Pickup equipment,” Proc. I.R.E. 35, 862 (1947).
[CrossRef]

Shlaer, S.

S. Shlaer, E. L. Smith, and A. M. Chase, “Visual acuity and illumination in different spectral regions,” J. Gen. Physiol. 25, 553 (1942).

Smith, E. L.

S. Shlaer, E. L. Smith, and A. M. Chase, “Visual acuity and illumination in different spectral regions,” J. Gen. Physiol. 25, 553 (1942).

Sverdlov, Z. M.

E. M. Brumberg, S. I. Vavilov, and Z. M. Sverdlov, “Visual measurements of quantum fluctuations,” J. Phys. U.S.S.R. 7, 1 (1943).

Sziklai, G. C.

G. C. Sziklai, R. C. Ballard, and A. C. Schroeder, “An experimental simultaneous color television system, Part II: Pickup equipment,” Proc. I.R.E. 35, 862 (1947).
[CrossRef]

Taylor, A. H.

Vavilov, S. I.

E. M. Brumberg, S. I. Vavilov, and Z. M. Sverdlov, “Visual measurements of quantum fluctuations,” J. Phys. U.S.S.R. 7, 1 (1943).

Weimer, P. K.

A. Rose, P. K. Weimer, and H. B. Law, “The image orthicon, a sensitive television pickup tube,” Proc. I.R.E. 34, 424 (1946).
[CrossRef]

Westendorp, W. F.

I. Langmuir and W. F. Westendorp, “A study of light signals in aviation and navigation,” Physics 1, 273 (1931).
[CrossRef]

J. Frank. Inst. (1)

P. W. Cobb and F. K. Moss, “The four variables of visual threshold,” J. Frank. Inst. 205, 831 (1928).
[CrossRef]

J. Gen. Physiol. (1)

S. Shlaer, E. L. Smith, and A. M. Chase, “Visual acuity and illumination in different spectral regions,” J. Gen. Physiol. 25, 553 (1942).

J. Opt. Soc. Am. (7)

J. Phys. U.S.S.R. (1)

E. M. Brumberg, S. I. Vavilov, and Z. M. Sverdlov, “Visual measurements of quantum fluctuations,” J. Phys. U.S.S.R. 7, 1 (1943).

J.S.M.P.E. (1)

A. Rose, “A unified approach to the performance of photographic film, television pickup tubes and the human eye,” J.S.M.P.E. 47, 273 (1946).

Physica (1)

H. DeVries, “The quantum character of light and its bearing upon threshold of vision, the differential sensitivity and visual acuity of the eye,” Physica 10, 553 (1943).
[CrossRef]

Physics (1)

I. Langmuir and W. F. Westendorp, “A study of light signals in aviation and navigation,” Physics 1, 273 (1931).
[CrossRef]

Proc. I.R.E. (3)

A. Rose, “The relative sensitivities of television pickup tubes, photographic film and the human eye,” Proc. I.R.E. 30, 295 (1942).

G. C. Sziklai, R. C. Ballard, and A. C. Schroeder, “An experimental simultaneous color television system, Part II: Pickup equipment,” Proc. I.R.E. 35, 862 (1947).
[CrossRef]

A. Rose, P. K. Weimer, and H. B. Law, “The image orthicon, a sensitive television pickup tube,” Proc. I.R.E. 34, 424 (1946).
[CrossRef]

Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (1)

S. Hecht, “The instantaneous visual thresholds after light adaptation,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 23, 227 (1937).
[CrossRef]

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Figures (10)

Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Performance of ideal pickup device. The experimentally determined value, 5, of threshold signal-to-noise ratio was used to compute these curves.

Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Performance curve for ideal pickup device. A reduced plot of the curves in Fig. 1.

Fig. 4
Fig. 4

Television pickup arrangement using a light spot scanner.

Fig. 5
Fig. 5

Photograph of test pattern used as subject for the light spot scanner.

Fig. 6
Fig. 6

Series of timed exposures of the test pattern shown in Fig. 5 as transmitted by the television pickup arrangement shown in Fig. 4. The exposure times, starting with Fig. 6a, are 1 1 6 , 1 4, 1, 4, 16 and 64 seconds respectively. These exposures were chosen so that the diagonal demarcation between visibility and invisibility fell to the right of rather than on a particular diagonal of discs. Thus the smallest visible black dots are somewhat above threshold visibility. To get a short decay time, the ultraviolet emission from a special zinc-oxide phosphor scanner was used. Two obvious blemishes that were not apparent under visible light, and have no connection with the test, are marked off by circles in Figs. 6c, d, e, and f.

Fig. 7
Fig. 7

The solid lines with 45° slope are approximations to the experimental data by ideal performance curves.

Fig. 8
Fig. 8

A reduced plot of the data in Fig. 7. The two solid lines are computed from Eq. 5 for an ideal device

Fig. 9
Fig. 9

Performance data for eye (computed from Blackwell). The dotted lines with 45° slope are ideal performance curves drawn tangent to the best observed performance at each value of scene luminance.

Fig. 10
Fig. 10

A reduced plot of the data in Fig. 9. The two dotted lines are the same as the two solid lines in Fig. 8.

Equations (16)

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B C 2 α 2 = constant
Δ N ~ N 1 2
Δ N = k N 1 2
scene luminance B ~ ( N / h 2 ) ,
threshold contrast C = Δ B / B × 100 % = Δ N / N × 100 % ~ 1 / N 1 2 .
B ~ 1 / C 2 h 2 ,
B ~ 1 / C 2 α 2 ,
B = constant ( 1 / C 2 α 2 ) ,
B = 5 ( k 2 / D 2 t θ ) ( 1 / α 2 C 2 ) × 10 - 3 footlambert ,
N = θ N 0 t l 2 sin 2 ϕ ,
l ( d / F ) h ,             and             sin ϕ D / 2 d ,
N = 1 4 θ N 0 t D 2 ( h 2 / F 2 ) = 1.4 θ N 0 t D 2 α 2 × 10 - 10 ,
N 0 / 1.3 × 10 16 = B footlamberts N = 2 θ B t D 2 α 2 × 10 6 ,
B = 5 ( N / D 2 t θ α 2 ) × 10 - 7 footlambert .
C = 100 k / N 1 2 .
B = 5 ( k 2 / D 2 t θ ) ( 1 / α 2 C 2 ) × 10 - 3 footlambert