Although the retinal image is typically polychromatic, few studies have examined polychromatic image quality in the human eye. We begin with a conceptual framework including the formulation of a psychophysical linking hypothesis that underlies the utility of image quality metrics based on the polychromatic point-spread function. We then outline strategies for computing polychromatic point-spread functions of the eye when monochromatic aberrations are known for only a single wavelength. Implementation problems and solutions for this strategy are described. Polychromatic image quality is largely unaffected by wavelength-dependent diffraction and higher-order chromatic aberration. However, accuracy is found to depend critically upon spectral sampling. Using typical aberrations from the Indiana Aberration Study, we assessed through-focus image quality for model eyes with and without chromatic aberrations using a polychromatic metric called the visual Strehl ratio. In the presence of typical levels of monochromatic aberrations, the effect of longitudinal chromatic aberration is greatly reduced. The effect of typical levels of transverse chromatic aberration is virtually eliminated in the presence of longitudinal chromatic aberration and monochromatic aberrations. Clinical value and limitations of the method are discussed.
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