A three-dimensional (3-D) optical imaging system offering high resolution in all three dimensions, requiring minimum manipulation and capable of real-time operation, is presented. The system derives its capabilities from use of the superstructure grating laser source in the implementation of a laser step frequency radar for depth information acquisition. A synthetic aperture radar technique was also used to further enhance its lateral resolution as well as extend the depth of focus. High-speed operation was made possible by a dual computer system consisting of a host and a remote microcomputer supported by a dual-channel Small Computer System Interface parallel data transfer system. The system is capable of operating near real time. The 3-D display of a tunneling diode, a microwave integrated circuit, and a see-through image taken by the system operating near real time are included. The depth resolution is 40 μm lateral resolution with a synthetic aperture approach is a fraction of a micrometer and that without it is approximately 10 μm. © 2001 Optical Society of America.