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DxOMark image quality testing protocols for lenses and sensors

Introduction to measurement protocols | DxO Labs’ testing facility | Noise protocol (for SNR, Dynamic Range and Tonal Range measurements) | ISO sensitivity measurement protocol | Color sensitivity measurement protocol | Modulation Transfer Function | Distortion, LCA, and vignetting | Light transmission

Testing protocols for noise and dynamic range

We perform noise measurement using a transmission target placed on top of a uniform light box. The transmission target, designed by DxO Labs, is made of a plate of thick black plastic with precision-drilled holes which are equipped with a range of neutral density filters designed to absorb the light identically for all wavelengths.

Noise target exposure setup
Noise and contrast transmission target

The filters are made of pure optical glass with no structures that can be measured as noise. (While other image quality measurement solutions make use of printed targets, we believe such targets are inappropriate for noise measurement testing, as the intrinsic noise pattern of the print paper may be recorded by the tested camera and then confused with the camera’s own noise pattern.)

We place high-density filters on neighboring positions to limit reciprocal illumination of the patches.

The light box (placed behind the target) is composed of two fluorescent daylight spectrum tubes with a diffusing sheet on top, achieving a perfect uniformity on each filter. The luminance is about 1500cd/m2.

We use filters having different light absorption levels ranging from 0% to 99.99% in order to test across a dynamic range of 4 density steps (= 13.3 f-stops — a dynamic range much greater than today’s digital cameras). When shooting such a chart, the sensor of the camera being tested sees a wide range of light levels, with a 1/10,000 ratio from minimum to maximum. For comparison, a printed target dynamic is typically 2 density steps (6.65 f-stops), which is inadequate to simulate high dynamic range or back-lit scenes.

Each uniform zone on the chart (a “patch”) is measured for luminance (cd/m2) with a certified luminance-meter; then all the values are input into DxO Analyzer software.

Once we measure the target and calibrate the DxO Analyzer software, the selected camera shoots an image of the noise target at different ISO settings, and we measure the noise for each color channel of the target image (R, Gr, Gb, B). We compute the mean gray level and noise values for each patch and for all images shot at different ISO settings. We then interpolate these numerical values for all gray levels to calculate and plot signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) curves, from which DxO Analyzer extracts the SNR 18%, the dynamic range, and the tonal range.

Read more about SNR, dynamic range, and tonal range.