Tolerance to visual defocus

Gordon E. Legge, Kathy T. Mullen, George C. Woo, F. W. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Low-resolution optical systems are more tolerant to defocus than are high-resolution systems. We wished to determine whether this principle applies to human vision. We used psychophysical methods to measure the effects of defocus in normal eyes under low-resolution conditions. Modulation transfer of sine-wave gratings was measured as a function of dioptric defocus at low and medium spatial frequencies. We defined the depth of focus at a given spatial frequency to be the dioptric range for which the modulation transfer exceeds 50% of its peak value. For dilated pupils, depth of focus increased from about 2.5 diopters (D) at 3.5 cycles/deg to about 17 D at 0.25 cycles/ deg. From our results we predicted that tasks requiring only low spatial frequencies will be more tolerant to defocus than tasks requiring higher spatial frequencies. This prediction was confirmed in a letter-recognition experiment. The increasing tolerance to defocus at low spatial frequencies also implies that individuals with low acuity will be more tolerant to defocus than people with normal vision. defocus in 30 low-vision eyes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-863
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America A: Optics and Image Science, and Vision
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 1987


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