Craig Blackwell, MD
Ophthalmology

Santa Cruz, CA
Diplomate: American Board of Ophthalmology
Fellow: American Academy of Ophthalmology

Welcome to the Website of Craig Blackwell, MD

An Ophthalmology Practice in Santa Cruz, CA

Calc Size of 20/20 Letter

Size of a 20/20 letter on the eye chart.

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The minimum separation between two lines that an average person can see has been measured as an angle of one minute of arc. (1 min is 1/60 of a degree)
Using this strategy a letter on a vision chart is made to measure the smallest space the subject can distinguish. For a 20/20 letter there are three bars and two spaces making the total letter height 5 min with 1 min between the lines.

To figure out how tall this needs to be at a testing distance of 20 feet we can make the following calculations.

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Using the Reduced Schematic Eye
This is a simplified model of the optics of the eye, useful for calculating both object and retinal image size. It is explained in more detail by clicking on the link.

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We will calculate the letter height, L, at distance, D, for both 20 feet and 6 meters.
To simplify the numbers we can do the calculation at 1 degree then divide by 12 to get 5 min.

The Rest of the Letters

A 20/40 letter is twice the height of a 20/20 letter and a 20/200 letter is 10 times that.

Calculate Retinal Image Size

Looking the other direction the size of the 20/20 letter on the retina can be found by the above method or by similar triangles.

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One can then estimate the spacing of the retinal photoreceptors so they are able to distinguish line-space-line. Minimum spacing would be one receptor to sense the first line, a second to sense the space and a third to sense the second line. Studies measuring the size of receptors show good agreement with this spacing and suggest the theoretically best vision would be about 20/10.