The method of photon-counting integral imaging has been introduced recently for three-dimensional object sensing, visualization, recognition and classification of scenes under photon-starved conditions. This paper presents an information-theoretic model for the photon-counting imaging (PCI) method, thereby providing a rigorous foundation for the merits of PCI in terms of image fidelity. This, in turn, can facilitate our understanding of the demonstrated success of photon-counting integral imaging in compressive imaging and classification. The mutual information between the source and photon-counted images is derived in a Markov random field setting and normalized by the source-image’s entropy, yielding a fidelity metric that is between zero and unity, which respectively corresponds to complete loss of information and full preservation of information. Calculations suggest that the PCI fidelity metric increases with spatial correlation in source image, from which we infer that the PCI method is particularly effective for source images with high spatial correlation; the metric also increases with the reduction in photon-number uncertainty. As an application to the theory, an image-classification problem is considered showing a congruous relationship between the fidelity metric and classifier’s performance.
© 2010 Optical Society of America
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