We show that it is possible to obtain high optical contrast photoacoustic images of tissue with 0.55 μm transverse resolution. To achieve high sensitivity, we used a high NA (0.85), 125 MHz spherically focused ultrasonic transducer in a confocal arrangement with a high resolution optical objective (NA=0.6). Laser pulses of a few nJ in pulse energy with durations of 1.5 ns at a 20 KHz pulse repetition rate were used to generate photoacoustic waves. Although the penetration depth is limited to hundreds of microns by both optical scattering and ultrasonic absorption, the developed technique can compete with optical microscopy, for example, in quantitative spectral measurements, in microcirculation research, or in nanoparticle detection.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.