What is the limit of resolution of the human eye?

Written by leah berkman
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What is the limit of resolution of the human eye?
The human eye is able to see a variety of shapes, colours and light gradients. (Eye image by mohamed salah eldin said from Fotolia.com)

The human eye's resolution is not measured the same way that the resolution of a photograph or television is measured. The eye constantly takes in information (that is, it doesn't deal with imagery as discrete "stills," like photographs) from the environment and--within the brain--combines the two visual inputs from the two eyes. This allows for the creation of an accurate visual understanding of the environment, including distance and depth perception.

Processing of Environmental Information

The human eye processes information--as light--to construct a visual understanding of the environment. Light enters through the pupil of the eye (the black circle in the centre of the eye). Light then passes through the lens, which projects the image onto the retina (in the back of the eye).

The Brain's Role in Increasing Resolution

The views left and right eye are used to construct a three-dimensional image in the brain. Additionally, eye movements "sweep" the environment, which create greater image resolution. From the two visual inputs of the eyes and the visual sweeping, the brain assembles a higher-resolution image than is otherwise possible.

Application of Resolution to Human Vision

The "resolution" of the human eye is measured by the ability of the eye to resolve between two points of light at a given distance. At the distance of one foot, the human eye is able to discern points as small as 0.00349 inches wide. Though digital cameras today are quite powerful, they still cannot create images as high resolution as the human eye.

Poor Vision and Resolution

Resolution is also greatly contingent on the uncorrected vision of an individual; for the purposes of these examples, normal 20/20 eyesight is assumed. Far or nearsightedness greatly affects resolution abilities on an individual basis: Resolution power decreases as visual impairment increases.

Distance and Resolution of Eyesight

The resolving power (that is, how far apart two points must be to be discerned as distinct) of the human eye at a distance of 1 km is typically 30 to 60 cm, meaning an angular resolution of between 0.02 to 0.03 degrees. With a greater distance from the object to the eye, resolution and acuity both decrease.

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