A method for confocal optical microscopy is presented in which the role usually played by spatial modulators (pinhole or fiber) placed before the detector, is electronically emulated by an adaptive pixel-exclusion process performed at the level of an image detector. The technique is optimally suited to the construction of systems based on a multi-point illumination and detection approach, with the aid of conventional lamps and CCD image sensors. Due to its inherent simplicity and versatility, the proposed design can be efficiently employed in transmission, reflection and fluorescence microscopy, using trans- or epi-illumination configurations. The resulting advantages appear particularly relevant in biomedical applications, not only with the purpose of setting up practical and affordable instruments, but also in order to avoid specimen damage or signal saturation effects, as well as to obtain confocal images of light-absorbing microscopic structures.© (1995) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.