A laser beam with circular polarization can be converted into either radial or azimuthal polarization by a microfabricated spiral phase plate and a radial (or azimuthal)-type linear analyzer. The resulting polarization is axially symmetric and is able to produce tightly focused light fields beyond the diffraction limit. We describe in detail the theory behind the technique and the experimental verification of the polarization both in the far field and at the focus of a high numerical aperture lens. Vector properties of the beam under strong focusing conditions were observed by comparing the fluorescence images corresponding to the focal intensity distribution for both radial and azimuthal polarizations. The technique discussed here may easily be implemented to a wide range of optical instruments and devices that require the use of tightly focused light beams.
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