Abstract Behavior and limitations of the sinc basis method have been discovered during simulation studies. An iterative row-action method (ART) is compared with a full-matrix, least-squares solution (QR decomposition) and the problem of multiple solutions is discussed. Knowledge of the spatial distribution of scattered field energy can be used to speed up convergence. The first iteration is shown to be equivalent to the first Born solution. A fundamental limitation of present diffraction tomography algorithms, concerning phase shift through the scatterer, is found and related to clinical values. Effects of improvements on the initial guesses for the object function and internal field are studied. Lossy cylinder and contrived multicomponent reconstructions yield additional understanding of the phase shift problem. A sequence of simulations investigates estimated solution movement in hyperspace.