Accurate simulation of scalar optical diffraction requires consideration of the sampling requirement for the phase chirp function that appears in the Fresnel diffraction expression. We describe three sampling regimes for FFT-based propagation approaches: ideally sampled, oversampled, and undersampled. Ideal sampling, where the chirp and its FFT both have values that match analytic chirp expressions, usually provides the most accurate results but can be difficult to realize in practical simulations. Under- or oversampling leads to a reduction in the available source plane support size, the available source bandwidth, or the available observation support size, depending on the approach and simulation scenario. We discuss three Fresnel propagation approaches: the impulse response/transfer function (angular spectrum) method, the single FFT (direct) method, and the two-step method. With illustrations and simulation examples we show the form of the sampled chirp functions and their discrete transforms, common relationships between the three methods under ideal sampling conditions, and define conditions and consequences to be considered when using nonideal sampling. The analysis is extended to describe the sampling limitations for the more exact Rayleigh–Sommerfeld diffraction solution.
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