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The theoretical performances of a split detector and a lateral effect detector used as a position sensitive device in the optical beam deflection method are compared. It is shown that the limit to the resolution in both cases is essentially equal. The possibility of improving the resolution in angle deflection by reflecting the beam from a cylindrical mirror, as was recently proposed by A. Yarai, Y. Fukunaga, K. Sakamoto, and T. Nakanishi [Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 33, 3251 (1994)] is also explored. It is shown that using a cylindrical mirror does not result in a smaller theoretical limit to the resolution. However, it does improve the resolution in some cases and may have practical uses. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.