Visual optics

The Handbook of Visual Optics, edited by Pablo Artal, offers an authoritative overview of encyclopaedic knowledge in the field of physiologic optics.

Leigh Spielberg

Posted: Friday, December 1, 2017

It’s often good to get back to the fundamentals. The Handbook of Visual Optics, Volume 1: Fundamentals and Eye Optics (CRC Press), edited by Pablo Artal, “offers an authoritative overview of encyclopaedic knowledge in the field of physiologic optics”.
This is very much a text of basic optical science, in the sense that its focus is the structure and function of the eye, rather than its pathology. It integrates knowledge not only from medicine and biology, but also physics, psychology and engineering.
For example, Chapter 9: Instrumentation for Adaptive Optics (AO), first covers the principles of AO and then goes on to describe wavefront sensors and correctors to give the reader an in-depth look at how AO works.
I personally found the chapter on the retina to be fascinating. A sub-chapter entitled “Retinal Compression is Similar to Video Compression” explains how, in high-luminance situations, retinal circuits act as filters that pass only certain kinds of information and block other kinds. On the other hand, in scotopic conditions, retinal processing is expansive, meaning that signals converge to active the system despite low rates of stimulation by incoming photons.
The Handbook is very readable, despite the complicated material. It is most appropriate for researchers in visual optics and those involved in the design and testing of ophthalmic and optometric instrumentation. Trainees seeking a deeper understanding of the eye’s physiological optical system would also benefit from reading this text.

Once we understand how the visual system works and how to measure its function, we can move on to the correction of its flaws. The 2nd volume of this tandem, entitled Instrumentation and Vision Correction (also edited by Pablo Artal), describes the concepts underlying the ways we can improve vision.
Its three parts are “Part I: Ophthalmic Instrumentation;” “Part II: Vision Correction,” and “Part III: The Impact of the Eye’s Optics on Vision”. Most relevant to the practising ophthalmologist is Part II, which includes chapters on accommodating and adjustable intraocular lenses.
Whereas Volume 1 is particularly relevant for researchers and engineers, Volume 2 is more appropriate for ophthalmologists, particularly surgeons who specialise in cataract and refractive procedures and who are interested in staying on the cutting edge.

Readers can get a 15% discount off the price of these books from using the discount code on the ESCRS Education Portal at

There is also an ESCRS iLearn Visual Optics suite of courses (three courses). ESCRS members can access these for free and earn three CME credits on successful completion of each course.