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The usual objective in radiography is to produce an image showing the highest amount of detail possible. This requires careful control of a number of different variables that can affect image quality. Radiographic sensitivity is a measure of the quality of an image in terms of the smallest detail or discontinuity that may be detected. Radiographic sensitivity is dependant on the combined effects of two independent sets of variables. One set of variables affects the contrast and the other set of variables affects the definition of the image.

Radiographic contrast is the degree of density difference between two areas on a radiograph. Contrast makes it easier to distinguish features of interest, such as defects, from the surrounding area. The image to the right shows two radiographs of the same stepwedge. The upper radiograph has a high level of contrast and the lower radiograph has a lower level of contrast. While they are both imaging the same change in thickness, the high contrast image uses a larger change in radiographic density to show this change. In each of the two radiographs, there is a small circle, which is of equal density in both radiographs. It is much easier to see in the high contrast radiograph.


Radiographic definition is the abruptness of change in going from one area of a given radiographic density to another. Like contrast, definition also makes it easier to see features of interest, such as defects, but in a totally different way. In the image to the right, the upper radiograph has a high level of definition and the lower radiograph has a lower level of definition. In the high definition radiograph it can be seen that a change in the thickness of the stepwedge translates to an abrupt change in radiographic density. It can be seen that the details, particularly the small circle, are much easier to see in the high definition radiograph. It can be said that the detail portrayed in the radiograph is equivalent to the physical change present in the stepwedge. In other words, a faithful visual reproduction of the stepwedge was produced. In the lower image, the radiographic setup did not produce a faithful visual reproduction. The edge line between the steps is blurred. This is evidenced by the gradual transition between the high and low density areas on the radiograph.



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