We analyze estimation error as a function of spectral bandwidth for division-of-amplitude (DoAm) Stokes polarimeters. Our approach allows quantitative assessment of the competing effects of noise and deterministic error, or bias, as bandwidth is varied. We use the signal-to-rms error (SRR) as a metric. Rather than calculating the SRR of the estimated Stokes parameters themselves, we use the singular-value decomposition to calculate the SRRs of the coefficients of the measured data vector projected onto the measurement matrix left singular vectors. We argue that calculating the SRRs for left singular vector coefficients will allow development of reconstruction filters to minimize Stokes estimation error. For the example case of a source with constant polarization over a relatively wide band, we show that as the spectral filter bandwidth is increased to include wavelengths significantly different than the design wavelength, the SRRs of the estimated left singular vector coefficients will a.) increase monotonically if relatively few photo-detection events (PDEs) are recorded, b.) after a sharp peak close to the design wavelength, decrease monotonically if relatively many PDEs are recorded, and c.) have well-defined maxima for nominal PDE counts. Given some idea of the source brightness relative to detector noise, one can specify a spectral filter bandwidth minimizing the variance and bias effects and optimizing Stokes parameter estimation. Our approach also allows one to specify the bandwidth over which the response of “achromatic” optics must be reasonably invariant with wavelength for rms Stokes estimation error to remain below some desired maximum. Finally, we point out that our method can be generalized not only to other types of polarimeters, but also to any sensing scheme that can be represented by a linear system for limiting values of a certain parameter.
© 2010 Optical Society of America
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