We consider the problem of representation of a finite-energy optical field, with a finite number of bits. The optical field is represented with a finite number of uniformly spaced finite-accuracy samples (there is a finite number of amplitude levels that can be reliably distinguished for each sample). The total number of bits required to encode all samples constitutes the cost of the representation. We investigate the optimal number and spacing of these samples under a total cost budget. Our framework reveals the trade-off between the number, spacing, and accuracy of the samples. When we vary the cost budget, we obtain trade-off curves between the representation error and the cost budget. We also discuss the effect of degree of coherence of the field.
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