We propose an annular-aperture-based defocusing technique for three-dimensional (3D) particle metrology from a single camera view. This simple configuration has high optical efficiency and the ability to deal with overlapped defocused images. Initial results show that an uncertainty in depth of 23 µm can be achieved over a range of 10 mm for macroscopic systems. This method can also be applied in microscopy for the measurement of fluorescently doped microparticles, thus providing a promising solution for 3D flow metrology at both macroscales and microscales. © 2008 Optical Society of America.