The spatial resolution of the scanning electron microscope is limited by at least three factors: the diameter of the electron probe, the size and shape of the beam/specimen interaction volume with the solid for the mode of imaging employed and the Poisson statistics of the detected signal. Any practical consideration of the high-resolution performance of the SEM must therefore also involve a knowledge of the contrast available from the signal producing the image and the radiation sensitivity of the specimen. With state-of-the-art electron optics, resolutions of the order of 1 nm are now possible. The optimum conditions for achieving such performance with the minimum radiation damage to the specimen correspond to beam energies in the range 1-3 keV. Progress beyond this level may be restricted by the delocalization of SE production and ultimate limits to electron-optical performance.