The ratio of the sampling frequency to the optical bandpass limit of an incoherent diffraction-limited optical system is a fundamental design parameter for digital imaging systems. This ratio is denoted by λFN/p, where λ is the mean wavelength, FN is the system f/number, and p is the detector sampling pitch. The value of λFN/p for a remote sensing system can have a profound impact on the image quality and the utility of the acquired images. The interaction between λFN/p and image quality is sensitive to the system design parameters such as modulation transfer function (MTF), signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and ground sampled distance (GSD). Image simulations and analysis are presented that illustrate the changes in image quality as a function of λFN/p. System design trades that may influence the determination of the optimal λFN/p for a remote sensing system are also discussed. © 1999 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.