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In
geometrical optics Geometrical optics, or ray optics, is a model of optics that describes light Wave propagation, propagation in terms of ray (optics), rays. The ray in geometric optics is an abstract object, abstraction useful for approximating the paths along which ...
, a focus, also called an image point, is a point where light rays originating from a point on the object converge. Although the focus is conceptually a point, physically the focus has a spatial extent, called the blur circle. This non-ideal focusing may be caused by aberrations of the imaging optics. In the absence of significant aberrations, the smallest possible blur circle is the
Airy disc A computer-generated Airy disk from diffracted white light ( D65 spectrum). Note that the red component is diffracted more than the blue, so that the center appears slightly bluish. In optics Optics is the branch of physics Physics (f ...
, which is caused by
diffraction Diffraction refers to various phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle or opening. It is defined as the bending of waves around the corners of an obstacle or through an aperture In optics, an aperture is a hole or an openin ...
from the optical system's
aperture In optics, an aperture is a hole or an opening through which light travels. More specifically, the aperture and focal length of an optical system determine the cone angle of a bundle of ray (optics), rays that come to a focus (optics), focus ...
. Aberrations tend worsen as the aperture diameter increases, while the Airy circle is smallest for large apertures. An image, or image point or region, is in focus if light from object points is converged almost as much as possible in the image, and out of focus if light is not well converged. The border between these is sometimes defined using a " circle of confusion" criterion. A principal focus or focal point is a special focus: * For a
lens A lens is a transmissive optical device that focuses or disperses a light beam by means of refraction. A simple lens consists of a single piece of transparent material, while a compound lens consists of several simple lenses (''elements' ...
, or a spherical or parabolic mirror, it is a point onto which
collimated light A collimated beam of light or other electromagnetic radiation has parallel rays, and therefore will spread minimally as it propagates. A perfectly collimated light beam, with no beam divergence, divergence, would not disperse with distance. Howe ...
parallel to the axis is focused. Since light can pass through a lens in either direction, a lens has two focal points – one on each side. The distance in air from the lens or mirror's principal plane to the focus is called the ''
focal length
focal length
''. * Elliptical mirrors have two focal points: light that passes through one of these before striking the mirror is reflected such that it passes through the other. * The focus of a
hyperbolic
hyperbolic
mirror Grange, East Yorkshire, UK, from World War I. The mirror magnified the sound of approaching enemy Zeppelins for a microphone placed at the Focus (geometry), focal point. A mirror is an object that Reflection (physics), reflects an image. Lig ...

mirror
is either of two points which have the property that light from one is reflected as if it came from the other. Diverging (negative) lenses and convex mirrors do not focus a collimated beam to a point. Instead, the focus is the point from which the light appears to be emanating, after it travels through the lens or reflects from the mirror. A convex parabolic mirror will reflect a beam of collimated light to make it appear as if it were radiating from the focal point, or conversely, reflect rays directed toward the focus (geometry), focus as a collimated beam. A convex elliptical mirror will reflect light directed towards one focus as if it were radiating from the other focus, both of which are behind the mirror. A convex
hyperbolic
hyperbolic
mirror Grange, East Yorkshire, UK, from World War I. The mirror magnified the sound of approaching enemy Zeppelins for a microphone placed at the Focus (geometry), focal point. A mirror is an object that Reflection (physics), reflects an image. Lig ...

mirror
will reflect rays emanating from the focus (geometry), focal point in front of the mirror as if they were emanating from the focal point behind the mirror. Conversely, it can focus rays directed at the focal point that is behind the mirror towards the focal point that is in front of the mirror as in a Cassegrain reflector, Cassegrain telescope.


See also

*Autofocus *Cardinal point (optics) *Defocus aberration *Depth of field *Depth of focus *Far point *Focus (geometry) *Fixed focus *Bokeh *Focus stacking *Focal Plane *Manual focus


References

{{Authority control Geometrical optics Science of photography