D.E.V.I.C.E. is an encyclopedia of terms used by manufacturers of test and measurement equipment. T&M Atlantic created this service to better explain the functionality of instruments it offers, and to highlight the latest developments in the world of measurement equipment. We are using such tools as animation to bring words and pictures to life and to create not just an understanding but also an appreciation for technology that goes into the design of every instrument.
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A dioptre, or diopter, is a unit of measurement of the optical power of a lens or curved mirror, which is equal to the reciprocal of the focal length measured in metres (that is, 1/metres). It is thus a unit of reciprocal length. For example, a 3-dioptre lens brings parallel rays of light to focus at 1⁄3 metre. The same unit is also sometimes used for other reciprocals of distance, particularly radii of curvature and the vergence of optical beams. The usage was proposed by French ophthalmologist Ferdinand Monoyer in 1872.
One benefit of quantifying a lens in terms of its optical power rather than its focal length is that when relatively thin lenses are placed close together their powers approximately add. Thus a thin 2-dioptre lens placed close to a thin 0.5-dioptre lens yields almost the same focal length as a 2.5-dioptre lens would have.
Though the dioptre is based on the SI-metric system it has not been included in the standard so that there is no international name or abbreviation for this unit of measurement—within the international system of units this unit for optical power would need to be specified explicitly as the inverse metre. However most languages have borrowed the original name and some national standardization bodies like DIN specify a unit name (dioptrie, dioptria, etc.) and derived unit symbol "dpt".