The classical imaging problem is to reproduce perfectly a finite plane (the object) onto another plane (the image) through a finite aperture. It is impossible to do so perfectly for more than one such pairs of planes (this was proven with increasing generality by Maxwell in 1858, by Bruns in 1895, and by Carathéodory in 1926, see summary in Walther, A., J. Opt. Soc. Am. A **6**, 415–422 (1989)). For a single pair of planes (e.g. for a single focus setting of an objective), however, the problem could in principle be solved perfectly.

Practical methods solve this problem with an accuracy which mostly suffices for the special purpose of each species of instrument. The problem of finding a system which reproduces a given object upon a given plane with given magnification (insofar as aberrations must be taken into account) could be dealt with by means of the approximation theory; in most cases, however, the analytical difficulties were too great for older calculation methods but may be ameliorated by application of modern computer systems. Solutions, however, have been obtained in special cases (see A. Konig in M. von Rohr's Die Bilderzeugung, p. 373; K. Schwarzschild, Gottingen. Akad. Abhandl., 1905, 4, Nos. 2 and 3).

At the present time constructors almost always employ the inverse method: they compose a system from certain, often quite personal experiences, and test, by the trigonometrical calculation of the paths of several rays, whether the system gives the desired reproduction (examples are given in A. Gleichen, Lehrbuch der geometrischen Optik, Leipzig and Berlin, 1902). The radii, thicknesses and distances are continually altered until the errors of the image become sufficiently small. By this method only certain errors of reproduction are investigated, especially individual members, or all, of those named above. The analytical approximation theory is often employed provisionally, since its accuracy does not generally suffice.

In order to render spherical aberration and the deviation from the sine condition small throughout the whole aperture, there is given to a ray with a finite angle of aperture u* (width infinitely distant objects: with a finite height of incidence h*) the same distance of intersection, and the same sine ratio as to one neighboring the axis (u* or h* may not be much smaller than the largest aperture U or H to be used in the system). The rays with an angle of aperture smaller than u* would not have the same distance of intersection and the same sine ratio; these deviations are called zones, and the constructor endeavors to reduce these to a minimum.

The same holds for the errors depending upon the angle of the field of view, w: astigmatism, curvature of field and distortion are eliminated for a definite value, w*, zones of astigmatism, curvature of field and distortion, attend smaller values of w. The practical optician names such systems: corrected for the angle of aperture u* (the height of incidence h*) or the angle of field of view w*. Spherical aberration and changes of the sine ratios are often represented graphically as functions of the aperture, in the same way as the deviations of two astigmatic image surfaces of the image plane of the axis point are represented as functions of the angles of the field of view.

The final form of a practical system consequently rests on compromise; enlargement of the aperture results in a diminution of the available field of view, and vice versa. But the larger aperture will give the larger resolution. The following may be regarded as typical:

- (1) Largest aperture; necessary corrections are — for the axis point, and sine condition; errors of the field of view are almost disregarded; example — high-power microscope objectives.

- (2) Largest field of view; necessary corrections are — for astigmatism, curvature of field and distortion; errors of the aperture only slightly regarded; examples — photographic widest angle objectives and oculars.

- Between these extreme examples stands the ordinary photographic objective: the portrait objective is corrected more with regard to aperture; objectives for groups more with regard to the field of view.

- (3) Telescope objectives have small fields of view and aberrations on axis

are very important. Therefore zones will be kept as small as possible and design should emphasize simplicity. Because of this these lenses are the best for analytical computation.

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