VS212A Optics and Dioptrics of the Eye

Coursemaster:  Austin Roorda, PhD, Minor Hall rm 485, 510-642-2380, aroorda@berkeley.edu

NOTE: This course is now administered through bCourses. I will only update the lecture notes here for thos who are unable to register for the class.


The purpose of this proseminar is to give an overview of optics, optics of the eye, how the optics of the eye affect instruments that measure ocular properties and how the optics of the eye impact vision. The lecture will span basic geometrical optics of the eye, physical optics and finish with discussions of current visual optics research. There is a lab component of the course which will give you hands on access to an optical system designed for vision science applications and will give you an opportunity to do some data analysis.

 Learning Objectives:

Grading: Class participation: 10%, Take home exam: 30%, Final report: 60%  


Lecture Notes (2016)  

  powerpoint   or   pdf 


  Take-Home Basic Optics Exam




Reading List

Week 1


Organizational Meeting (possible changes to schedule)


(time perimitting)

Basic Optics

Nature of Light



Image formation

Ray tracing

Thick lenses and Cardinal points

Lateral magnification

Optical systems


Badal Optometer

This text …

Keating MP. Geometric, physical and visual optics. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998

…is a decent reference to help you with the basics. It is not required that you read it, but you might refer to it for more thorough explanations of some of the concepts.


My favorite optics text is..

Freeman MH. Optics. London: Butterworths, 1990 (on reserve in library)

…just be careful about the differences in syntax between this and Keating. I use the syntax from Freeman.

Week 2



Optics of the Eye

The reduced eye

The optical components of the eye

Axes of the eye

Visual angle

Transmission of the components of the eye

Westheimer G. (2006) Specifying and controlling the optical image on the human retina. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research. 25, 19-42.


Charman,W.N. (1991). Optics of the Human Eye. In: Cronly-Dillon,J., (Ed.) Visual Optics and Instrumentation (pp. 1-26). Boca Raton: CRC Press Inc.


selections from Bennett, A.G., Rabbetts, R.B. "The eye's optical system" chapter 2 in Clinical Visual Optics 2nd edition (Butterworth Heinemann Ltd.)


Week 3




Image Quality in the eye - 1

Defocus and pupil size

Depth of focus/field

Diffraction and resolution


Generation of ciliary corona (van den Berg)

Calculation and measurement of wide angle scatter




Seidel (brief)

Roorda,A. (2002). Human Visual System - Image Formation. In: Hornack,J.P., (Ed.) Encylopedia of Imaging Science and Technology (pp. 539-557). New York: Wiley & Sons.


Thibos,L.N., Bradley,A., Still,D.L., Zhang,X.X., & Howarth,P.A. (1990). Theory and measurement of ocular chromatic aberration.  Vision Res. 30, 33-49.


Van den Berg T.J.T.P., Hagenouw, M.P.J., Coppens, J.E., The Ciliary Corona: Physical Model and Simulation of the Fine Needles Radiating from Point Light Sources IOVS, 46: 2627-2632 (2005).


Week 4



 Fourier Analysis related to the eye



General usefulness of representing objects in frequency space

Demonstrate Matlab applications



Wavefront Lab

Wave aberration measurements

Wave aberration analysis



This book gives a thorough treatment on the topic in a very understandable way…

Bracewell R. The Fourier Transform and its Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965.




Salmon TO, van de Pol C. Normal-eye Zernike coefficients and root-mean-square wavefront errors.  J Cataract Refract Surg. 2006 Dec;32(12):2064-74.


Standards for Reporting the Aberrations of the Eye

Week 5



Image Quality in the eye - 2

Metrics for Image Quality

Retinal limits to vision

Williams DR, Porter J, Yoon G, Guirao A, Hofer H, Chen L, Cox I, Macrae SM. How far can we extend the limits of human vision? In: Krueger RR, Applegate RA, Macrae SM, eds. Wavefront Customized Visual Correction: The Quest for Supervision II. Thorofare: Slack, Incorporated, 2004: 19-38.

Roorda,A. (2011). Adaptive optics for studying visual function: a comprehensive review. J.Vis., 11(7)