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Fluorescent proteins and dyes are routine tools for biological research to describe the behavior of genes, proteins, and cells, as well as more complex physiological dynamics such as vessel permeability and pharmacokinetics. The use of these probes in whole body in vivo imaging would allow extending the range and scope of current biomedical applications and would be of great interest. In order to comply with a wide variety of application demands, in vivo imaging platform requirements span from wide spectral coverage to precise quantification capabilities. Fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT) detects and reconstructs in three dimensions the distribution of a fluorophore in vivo. Noncontact FMT allows fast scanning of an excitation source and noninvasive measurement of emitted fluorescent light using a virtual array detector operating in free space. Here, a rigorous process is defined that fully characterizes the performance of a custom-built horizontal noncontact FMT setup. Dynamic range, sensitivity, and quantitative accuracy across the visible spectrum were evaluated using fluorophores with emissions between 520 and 660 nm. These results demonstrate that high-performance quantitative three-dimensional visible light FMT allowed the detection of challenging mesenteric lymph nodes in vivo and the comparison of spectrally distinct fluorescent reporters in cell culture. (C) The Authors. Published by SPIE under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.