In an effort to establish the imaging properties of a new type of polarized-light microscope, we recorded images of small, uniaxial, birefringent crystals. We show that the sequence of in-focus and out-of-focus images, the so-called point-spread function, of a submicroscopic crystal can be used to measure the orientation of its optic axis in three-dimensional space. By analogy to conoscopic images out-of-focus images reveal the changes in relative phase shift between the extraordinary and the ordinary rays that propagate at different directions through the crystal. We also present simulated images of a pointlike anisotropic scattering particle and compare these with our experimental findings. The theoretical model is based on a complete vectorial theory for partial coherent imaging by use of polarized light and high-numerical-aperture lenses.
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