The quality of many imaging devices can be characterized, within certain constraints, by means of the modulation transfer function (MTF) and the phase transfer function (PTF). In many cases, it is possible to estimate, qualitatively, the effect of the MTF on the appearance of objects, and much progress has been made in making quantitative predictions of the detectability of objects and features within objects. This is not the case, however, for the PTF, and its influence is often neglected, even though nonideal PTF’s obviously may degrade image quality. Experiments are described that attempt to assess the significance of the PTF for human visual performance. The effects of various PTF’s were simulated by means of a technique that maintained the modulation of the spatial-frequency components closely constant. The visual detectability of such phase changes was measured by a discrimination method, and phase threshold levels were evaluated. Simple linear patterns provided the targets for all measurements, although some images are shown that illustrate qualitatively the phase-shift results on real two-dimensional targets. The work enables an assessment to be made of the effects of phase changes produced by various imaging systems.
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