Real Image vs Virtual Image: Difference and Comparison

Under the optics domain, an image refers to the collection of focus points of numerous light rays that emerge from a source or object.

The characteristics of images play a vital role in the study of optics and light sources. Images can be further classified into two main types: real and virtual.

Key Takeaways

  1. Real images form when light rays converge and can be projected onto a screen.
  2. Virtual images result from diverging light rays and cannot be projected onto a screen.
  3. Real images are inverted, while virtual images are upright.

Real Image vs Virtual Image

Real images can be projected onto a screen and are formed when light rays converge on a surface, and they physically exist. Virtual images appear to be formed from the apparent intersection of light rays but cannot be projected onto a screen, they are perceived and cannot be captured.

Real Image vs Virtual Image

The real image forms when the light rays meet at a point after refraction or reflection. The meeting point of the light rays is known as the point of intersection.

The nature of a real image is always inverted. The real image is depicted by rays of light which are full and solid lines.

On the other hand Virtual image forms when the light rays seem or appear to meet (imaginary). The light rays are extended to a point to form the image point. The nature of the virtual image is always upright.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonReal ImageVirtual Image
DefinitionReal image is formed by converging rays at a focus point or a collection of focus pointsVirtual image is formed by diverging rays at a focus point or a collection of focus points
Intersection of light rays Real image is obtained due to actual intersection of light raysVirtual image is obtained due to imaginary intersection of light rays
Nature of image Real image is always inverted Virtual image is always upright
Position of image Real image forms on the different side of the object Virtual image forms on one and the same side with respect to the object
Type of raysReal image is formed due to light rays which are converging at a pointVirtual images are formed due to light rays which appear to be diverging from a point

What is Real Image?

The real image is formed by light rays that converge at a focus point or a collection of focus points. The location of the real image is in the plane of convergence that begins from an object.

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Common examples of a real image are images produced on the retina of the eyeball, the image on the cinema screen, the image on the detector in the rear of a camera, and various other such examples.

In physics, the real image is depicted by rays of light which are full and solid lines. The image can only form where these rays converge.

Converging lenses and concave mirrors are commonly used to obtain real images. The real image can be inverted if the object is placed far away from the focal point of the lens or the mirror.

The inspection of real images is done by a lens system or a second lens. Such a mechanism is followed in light microscopes, telescopes, and binoculars.

The objective lens can collect the light from the object within the Optical instrument and produce a real image. In the system of lenses or second lenses, the eyepiece projects onto the retina of the eye.

The second real image that is formed is projected through the system.

The light rays intersect and bisect each other to form a real image. The image is such that it can be obtained on a screen. Such a mechanism is followed in projectors. The image can never be upright.

What is Virtual Image?

The virtual image is formed and established by light rays that appear to be diverging at a focus point or a collection of focus points. The location where the virtual image forms is in the plane of divergence.

The extensions of diverging rays which are received backward can form the type of image. The most common and popular example of a virtual image is the reflection that is formed and achieved in the mirror.

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In physics, a virtual image is depicted by rays of light which are dotted lines. The light rays in the virtual image seem to be behind the mirror as a source in a plane mirror.

The image formed is of the same size as that of the object. The image is positioned behind the plane mirror.

In a convex mirror or diverging lens, The image formed is of a smaller size than that of the object. Tracing the back of the light rays to the source from where they seem to appear can provide the location of the virtual image.

The formation of the image is on one and the same side of the object.

Projecting virtual images on the screen is impossible since the rays never converge or intersect. The light rays are considered or imagined to converge behind the lens at some point.

A virtual image can be obtained on a plane or convex mirror. The image formed is upright in nature. The light rays seem or appear to diverge.

Main Differences Between Real Image and Virtual Image

  1. The light rays producing real images converge, while the light rays producing virtual images appear to diverge.
  2. A real image can be obtained on a screen, while a virtual image cannot be obtained on a screen.
  3. In diagrams, the real image is formed by full and solid light rays, while dotted light rays form the virtual image.
  4. Real images are produced on a concave mirror or converging lens, while virtual images are produced on a convex mirror or diverging lens.
  5. The nature of the real image is inverted, while the nature of the virtual image is erect.
Difference Between Real Image and Virtual Image
References
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.4218/etrij.05.0104.0194
  2. https://www.osapublishing.org/abstract.cfm?uri=ol-28-16-1421

Last Updated : 25 June, 2023

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