Glaeser, R. M.; Hagen, W. J.; Han, B.-G.; Henderson, R.; McMullan, G. & Russo, C. J. Defocus-dependent Thon-ring fading. Ultramicroscopy, 2021, 222, 113213
The brightness of modern Schottky field-emission guns can produce electron beams that have very high spatial coherence, especially for the weak-illumination conditions that are used for single-particle electron cryo-microscopy in structural biology. Even so, many users have observed defocus-dependent Thon-ring fading that has led them to restrict their data collection strategy to imaging with relatively small defocus values. In this paper, we reproduce the observation of defocus-dependent Thon-ring fading and produce a quantitative analysis and clear explanation of its causes. We demonstrate that a major cause is the delocalization of high-resolution Fourier components outside the field of view of the camera. We also show that, to correctly characterize the phenomenon, it is important to make a correction for linear magnification anisotropy. Even when the anisotropy is quite small, it is present at all defocus values before circular averaging of the Thon rings, as is also true before merging data from particles in many orientations. Under the conditions used in this paper, which are typical of those used in single-particle electron cryomicroscopy, fading of the Thon rings due to source coherence is negligible. The principal conclusion is that much higher values of defocus can be used to record images than is currently thought to be possible, keeping in mind that the above-mentioned delocalization of Fourier components will ultimately become a limitation. This increased understanding should give electron microscopists the confidence to use higher amounts of defocus to allow, for example, better visibility of their particles and Ewald sphere correction.