In the paraxial approximation a symmetrical optical system may be represented by a 2 × 2 matrix. It has been the custom to describe each optical element by a transfer matrix representing propagation between the principal planes or through an interface for thin elements. If the focal-plane representation is used instead, any focusing element or combination of elements is represented by the same antidiagonal matrix whose nonzero elements are the focal lengths: The matrix represents propagation between the focal planes. For propagation between any two arbitrary planes, the system transfer matrix can be decomposed into the product of two upper triangular matrices and an antidiagonal matrix. This decomposition yields the above-mentioned focal-plane matrix, and the two upper triangular matrices represent propagation between the input and the output planes and the focal planes. Because the matrix decomposition directly yields the parameters of interest, the analysis and the synthesis of optical systems are simpler to carry out. Examples are given for lenses, diopters, mirrors, periodic sequences, resonators, lenslike media, and phase-conjugate mirror systems.
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