The relation between visual acuity and illumination was measured in red and blue light, using a broken circle or C and a grating as test objects.
The red light data fall on single continuous curves representing pure cone vision. The blue light data fall on two distinct curves with a transition at about 0.03 photons. Values below this intensity represent pure rod vision. Those immediately above represent the cooperative activity of rods and cones, and yield higher visual acuities than either. Pure cone vision in this intensity region is given by central fixation (C test object). All the rest of the values above this transition region represent pure cone vision. In blue light the rod data with the C lie about 1.5 log units lower on the intensity axis (cone scale) than they do in white light, while with the grating they lie about 1.0 log unit lower than in white light.
Both the pure rod and cone data with the C test object are precisely described by one form of the stationary state equation. With the grating test object and a non-limiting pupil, the pure rod and cone data are described by another form of the same equation in which the curve is half as steep. The introduction of a small pupil, which limits maximum visual acuity, makes the relation between visual acuity and illumination appear steeper.
Determinations of maximum visual acuities under a variety of conditions show that for the grating the pupil has to be larger, the longer the wavelength of the light, in order for the pupil not to be the limiting factor.
Similar measurements with the C show that when intensity discrimination at the retina is experimentally made the limiting factor in resolution, visual acuity is improved by conditions designed to increase image contrast. However, intensity discrimination cannot be the limiting factor for the ordinary test object resolution because the conditions designed to improve image contrast do not improve maximum visual acuity, while those which reduce image contrast do not produce proportional reductions of visual acuity.