OSA's Digital Library

Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A


  • Vol. 21, Iss. 9 — Sep. 1, 2004
  • pp: 1714–1723

Vectorial, high-numerical-aperture study of phase-contrast microscopes

Peter R. T. Munro and Peter Török  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA A, Vol. 21, Issue 9, pp. 1714-1723 (2004)

View Full Text Article

Enhanced HTML    Acrobat PDF (649 KB)

Browse Journals / Lookup Meetings

Browse by Journal and Year


Lookup Conference Papers

Close Browse Journals / Lookup Meetings

Article Tools



We describe, using a high-numerical-aperture vectorial model, the image formation of phase-contrast microscopes. In particular, imaging of a weak phase object is considered. We show that, partly owing to the fact that phase-contrast microscopes are interference microscopes, their image formation is fundamentally different from that of conventional transmission optical microscopes. Our detailed analysis reveals a number of yet undocumented properties of these microscopes, including that depending on the given configuration, they can exhibit an improved lateral resolution when larger detectors are used in comparison with that obtained for a small detector size. We present numerical examples to explain this phenomenon and discuss our analysis in detail.

© 2004 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(120.5060) Instrumentation, measurement, and metrology : Phase modulation
(180.1790) Microscopy : Confocal microscopy
(180.5810) Microscopy : Scanning microscopy
(260.3160) Physical optics : Interference

Original Manuscript: December 4, 2003
Manuscript Accepted: April 8, 2004
Published: September 1, 2004

Peter R. T. Munro and Peter Török, "Vectorial, high-numerical-aperture study of phase-contrast microscopes," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 21, 1714-1723 (2004)

Sort:  Author  |  Year  |  Journal  |  Reset  


  1. A. H. Bennet, H. Jupnik, H. Osterberg, O. W. Richards, Phase Contrast Microscopy, Principles and Applications, 1st ed. (Wiley, New York, 1951).
  2. R. Barer, “A vector theory of phase contrast and interference contrast. I. Positive phase contrast,” J. R. Microsc. Soc. 72, 10–30 (1952). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. D. J. Goldstein, “A simple quantitative analysis of phase contrast microscopy, not restricted to objects of very low retardation,” J. Microsc. 128, 33–47 (1982). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. P. Török, P. D. Higdon, T. Wilson, “Theory for confocal and conventional microscopes imaging small dielectric scatterers,” J. Mod. Opt. 45, 1681–1698 (1998). [CrossRef]
  5. F. Zernike, “How I discovered phase contrast,” Science 121, 345–349 (1955). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  6. R. Liang, J. K. Erwin, M. Mansuripur, “Variation on Zernike’s phase-contrast microscope,” Appl. Opt. 39, 2152–2158 (2000). [CrossRef]
  7. C. J. R. Sheppard, T. Wilson, “The image of a single point in microscopes of large numerical aperture,” Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A 379, 145–158 (1982). [CrossRef]
  8. P. Török, P. D. Higdon, T. Wilson, “On the general properties of polarised light conventional and confocal microscopes,” Opt. Commun. 148, 300–315 (1998). [CrossRef]
  9. P. Török, “Imaging of small birefringent objects by polarised light conventional and confocal microscopes,” Opt. Commun. 181, 7–18 (2000). [CrossRef]
  10. N. B. E. Sawyer, S. P. Morgan, M. G. Somekh, C. W. See, “Amplitude and phase microscopy for sizing of spherical particles,” Appl. Opt. 42, 4488–4498 (2003). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  11. V. S. Ignatowsky, “Diffraction by a lens of arbitrary aperture,” Trans. Opt. Inst. Petrograd 1(4), 1–36 (1919).
  12. R. K. Luneburg, Mathematical Theory of Optics, 1st ed. (U. California Press, Berkeley, Calif., 1964), pp. 321–324.
  13. B. Richards, E. Wolf, “Electromagnetic diffraction in optical systems. II. Structure of the image field in an aplantic system,” Proc. R. Soc. London 253, 358–379 (1959). [CrossRef]
  14. M. Born, E. Wolf, Principles of Optics, 6th ed. (Pergamon, London, 1980), pp. 424–428.
  15. O. Haeberlé, H. Furukawa, K. Tenjimbayashi, P. Török, “The point spread function of optical microscopes imaging through stratified media,” Opt. Express 11, 2964–2969 (2003). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  16. J.-M. Jin, The Finite Element Method in Electromagnetics, 1st ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1995).
  17. C. J. R. Sheppard, M. Gu, “Improvement of axial resolution in confocal microscopy using an annular pupil,” Opt. Commun. 84, 7–13 (1991). [CrossRef]

Cited By

Alert me when this paper is cited

OSA is able to provide readers links to articles that cite this paper by participating in CrossRef's Cited-By Linking service. CrossRef includes content from more than 3000 publishers and societies. In addition to listing OSA journal articles that cite this paper, citing articles from other participating publishers will also be listed.

« Previous Article  |  Next Article »

OSA is a member of CrossRef.

CrossCheck Deposited