5 Cameras and Film

In Chapter 1, we described the pinhole camera model that is commonly used in computer graphics. This model is easy to describe and simulate, but it neglects important effects that physical lenses have on light passing through them. For example, everything rendered with a pinhole camera is in sharp focus—a state of affairs not possible with real lens systems. Such images often look computer generated for their perfection. More generally, the distribution of radiance leaving a lens system is quite different from the distribution entering it; modeling this effect of lenses is important for accurately simulating the radiometry of image formation.

Camera lens systems introduce various aberrations that affect the images that they form; for example, vignetting causes a darkening toward the edges of images due to less light making it through to the edges of the film or sensor than to the center. Lenses can also cause pincushion or barrel distortion, which causes straight lines to be imaged as curves. Although lens designers work to minimize aberrations in their designs, they can still have a meaningful effect on images.

This chapter starts with a description of the Camera interface, after which we present a few implementations, starting with ideal pinhole models.

After light has been captured by a camera, it is measured by a sensor. While traditional film uses a chemical process to measure light, most modern cameras use solid-state sensors that are divided into pixels, each of which counts the number of photons that arrive over a period of time for some range of wavelengths. Accurately modeling the radiometry of how sensors measure light is an important part of simulating the process of image formation.

To that end, all of pbrt’s camera models use an instance of the Film class, which defines the basic interface for the classes that represent images captured by cameras. We describe two film implementations in this chapter, both of which use the PixelSensor class to model the spectral response of a particular image sensor, be it film or digital. The film and sensor classes are described in the final section of this chapter.