Polarization control and analysis have proven to be a powerful tool both in conventional and confocal microscopies, but most of these approaches have used homogeneously polarized pupils. Other groups have had varying levels of success producing beams with spatially inhomogeneous polarization. In this paper, we describe the generation and focusing properties of such beams and their application to scanning laser microscopy. We specifically consider microscopy using the lowest-order azimuthally polarized beam.© (2000) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.