A transfer theory is developed that determines the image space, and three-dimensional image spectrum, of a 3–D object. For both incoherent and coherent illumination, the image is found to obey convolution, transfer, and sampling theorems that resemble the familiar results of ordinary 2-D theory. A 3-D transfer function is related to the pupil function of the image-forming optical system. One result of the theory is that with incoherent illumination, the object image space contains no more than 1/(λ3f/no.4) degrees of freedom/unit volume, where λ is the wavelength of light. The transfer theory is based on the existence of volumes of stationarity, termed “isotomes;” into which the object must be partitioned. Isotomicity is shown to be approximated, over sufficiently small volumes, in the diffraction-limited case.
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