Resolution of coherent and incoherent imaging systems reconsidered - Classical criteria and a statistical alternative

Opt Express. 2006 May 1;14(9):3830-9. doi: 10.1364/oe.14.003830.


The resolution of coherent and incoherent imaging systems is usually evaluated in terms of classical resolution criteria, such as Rayleigh's. Based on these criteria, incoherent imaging is generally concluded to be 'better' than coherent imaging. However, this paper reveals some misconceptions in the application of the classical criteria, which may lead to wrong conclusions. Furthermore, it is shown that classical resolution criteria are no longer appropriate if images are interpreted quantitatively instead of qualitatively. Then one needs an alternative criterion to compare coherent and incoherent imaging systems objectively. Such a criterion, which relates resolution to statistical measurement precision, is proposed in this paper. It is applied in the field of electron microscopy, where the question whether coherent high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) or incoherent annular dark field scanning transmission electron microscopy (ADF STEM) is preferable has been an issue of considerable debate.