In 3D computer graphics and computer vision, a depth map is an image or image channel that contains information relating to the distance of the surfaces of scene objects from a viewpoint. The term is related (and may be analogous) to depth buffer, Z-buffer, Z-buffering, and Z-depth. The "Z" in these latter terms relates to a convention that the central axis of view of a camera is in the direction of the camera's Z axis, and not to the absolute Z axis of a scene.
Depth Map: Nearer is darker
Depth Map: Nearer the Focal Plane is darker
Two different depth maps can be seen here, together with the original model from which they are derived. The first depth map shows luminance in proportion to the distance from the camera. Nearer surfaces are darker; further surfaces are lighter. The second depth map shows luminance in relation to the distances from a nominal focal plane. Surfaces closer to the focal plane are darker; surfaces further from the focal plane are lighter, (both closer to and also further away from the viewpoint).
Depth maps have a number of uses, including: