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Resolution is a central concept in all imaging fields, and particularly in optical microscopy, but it can be easily misinterpreted. The mathematical definition of optical resolution was codified by Abbe, and practically defined by the Rayleigh Criterion in the late 19th century. The limit of conventional resolution was also achieved in this period, and it was thought that fundamental constraints of physics prevented further increases in resolution. With the recent development of a range of super-resolution techniques, it is necessary to revisit the concept of optical resolution. Fundamental differences in super-resolution modalities mean that resolution is not a directly transferrable metric between techniques. This article considers the issues in resolution raised by these new technologies, and presents approaches for comparing resolution between different super-resolution methods.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





3 - 10


Optical imaging, Resolution, SIM, SMLM, STED, Super-resolution microscopy, Animals, Drosophila, Fourier Analysis, Image Enhancement, Limit of Detection, Macrophages, Microscopy, Microtubules, Optical Imaging