The authors present the experimental result of improved lateral resolution in laser confocal microscopy (LCM) by using annular and radially polarized light as the input illumination of an existing LCM. The authors examined the lateral resolution of the LCM by imaging a single fluorescent bead and measuring the lateral width of the single bead profile appearing in the optical image. Compared to no aperture and linearly polarized light, the central peak of the single bead profile narrowed by ∼40%, being as small as 122 nm in full width at half maximum using 405 nm laser excitation in a reflection imaging. In addition, the authors showed that radial polarization helps to preserve the circular shape of the single bead profile whereas linearly polarized light tends to induce an elongation along the polarization direction. Microsc. Res. Tech., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.