Analysis of retinal image formation for beams of coherent and incoherent radiation emphasizes the role of the Poynting vector’s inclination with respect to the retinal image plane. Coherent beams interfere and give rise to a single Poynting vector that highlights the unique direction of incidence of energy flow, whereas multiple incoherent beams, especially incoherent extended sources in the pupil, generate electro-magnetic disturbances in the image plane each characterized by Poynting vectors of their own. As a result, the Stiles–Crawford diminution of luminant efficiency adds differently depending on the coherence of the entering light. Two practical considerations follow: first, in performing diffraction calculations for the retinal image from known wavefronts in the pupil plane, apodization terms should not be factored in, and, second, in principle, for perfect imaging in standard target viewing, Stiles–Crawford integration with increasing pupil diameter is not expected.
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