A novel optical configuration for contouring of three-dimensional objects is presented. In this configuration (referred to as image plane speckle interferometry) an object point is viewed symmetrically with respect to the surface normal and combined coherently at the image plane of the imaging system. This configuration is simple to implement and provides the possibility to vary the sensitivity over a wide range. Detailed theory and experimental results are presented. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.