Recently a method was presented for reconstructing optical pathlength distributions (OPDs) from images of weak phase objects obtained by a conventional differential interference contrast (DIC) microscope. A potential application of this technique is the determination of the mass of biological objects: by integrating the optical pathlength over the projected surface of the image of an object, a measure of the dry mass, i.e. the total mass of all solid constituents present in the object, is obtained. To assess the possibilities of DIC microscopy for this application, simulations were performed on computer-generated DIC images of objects of various sizes, shapes and orientation angles. After reconstructing the OPDs from these images, the integrated optical pathlength of each of the test objects was determined, and compared with the expected results. The parameter settings used in the reconstruction algorithm were found to be very important in obtaining a reliable measurement. Using optimal parameter settings, errors in the integrated OPD could be limited to a few per cent for circular objects within the investigated size range. For non-circular objects, however, the orientation angle of the object relative to the lateral shift was found to influence the measured values. Ellipses with their long axes perpendicular to the shift direction had a significantly higher integrated OPD than ellipses orientated parallel to the shift. By adjusting the reconstruction parameters the effect could be limited, but complete elimination of the artefact was not possible within the parameter range investigated.