The Nagel anomaloscope: its calibration and recommendations for diagnosis and research

  • Herbert Jägle
  • Markus Pirzer
  • Lindsay T. Sharpe
Clinical Investigation



The Nagel anomaloscope Model I is the definitive clinical instrument for classifying phenotypic variations in X-linked color-vision disorders. Its system of classification is based on the Rayleigh equation: the relative amounts of red and green primary lights required to match a yellow primary. Our aim was to characterize how changes in mains voltage and ambient temperature influence the wavelength and intensity of each primary and alter the Rayleigh matches of normal and anomalous trichromats.


A Nagel Model I anomaloscope was calibrated in wavelength and intensity while varying the temperature of its prism housing and the mains voltage. Three normal, three protanomalous and three deuteranomalous trichromats made Rayleigh matches at various temperatures and voltages.


The intensities of the green and red primaries show an exponential growth with mains voltage. Additionally, the wavelengths and intensities of all three primaries change with prism housing temperature. As a result, the R-G match midpoints of normal and anomalous trichromats shift with increasing mains voltage, and more markedly with increasing prism housing temperature, to higher R-G settings.


Rayleigh matches obtained with the Nagel I anomaloscope are sensitive to changes in voltage supply and prism housing temperature, arising largely from thermal effects of the internal light sources. However, the instrument may still be safely used for diagnostic and research purposes provided that: (1) a stable voltage supply is used; (2) it is kept at a constant temperature; and (3) the match midpoint of the reference population has been established under identical conditions.


  1. 1.
    Birch J (1993) Classification of anomalous trichromatism with the Nagel anomaloscope. In: Drum B (ed) Colour vision deficiencies XI. Kluwer Academic Press, Netherlands, pp 19–24Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cavonius CR (1995) Effect of lamp voltage on Nagel anomaloscope settings. In: Drum B (ed) Colour vision deficiencies XII. Kluwer Academic Press, Netherlands, pp 489–494Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cole BL (1993) Does defective colour vision really matter? In: Drum B (ed) Colour vision deficiencies XI. Kluwer Academic Press, Netherlands, pp 67–86Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    DIN 6160. Anomaloskope zur Diagnose von Rot-Grün-Farbenfehlsichtigkeiten. Ausgabe 1996Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    DIN EN 50160. Merkmale der Spannung in öffentlichen Elektrizitätsversorgungsnetzen. Ausgabe 2000-03Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    EN 50160. Voltage characteristics of electricity supplied by public distribution systems. Version 1999-01-01Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gramberg-Danielsen B (1976) Rechtssicherheit bei der Bestimmung des Anomalquotienten? Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 168:429–433PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jordan G, Mollon JD (1993) The Nagel anomaloscope and a seasonal variation of colour vision. Nature 363:546–549CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Nagel W (1907) Zwei Apparate für die augenärztliche Funktionsprüfung. Z Augenheilkd 17:201–222Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Richter M (1948) Vom gegenwärtigen Stand der Farbenlehre. Z Wiss Photogr 43:209–237Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Schmidt I (1955) Some problems related to testing color vision on the Nagel anomaloscope. J Opt Soc Am 45:514–521PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sharpe LT, Stockman A, Jägle H, Nathans J (1999) Opsin genes, cone photopigments and colorblindness. In: Gegenfurtner K, Sharpe LT (eds) Color vision: from genes to perception. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 3–52Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Trendelenburg W (1929) Zur Diagnostik des abnormen Farbensinnes. Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 83:721–732Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Zrenner E (1984) A proposal for the documentation of clinically applied color vision tests. Dev Ophthalmol 9:157–170PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Jägle
    • 1
  • Markus Pirzer
    • 1
  • Lindsay T. Sharpe
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pathophysiology of Vision & Neuro-OphthalmologyUniversity Eye HospitalTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneNewcastle upon TyneUK

Personalised recommendations