The optical properties of plano-convex refractive microlenses with low Fresnel Number (typically FN < 10) are investigated. It turns out that diffraction effects at the lens aperture limit the range of the effective focal length. The upper limit of the focal length is determined by the diffraction pattern of a pinhole with equal diameter. In addition achromatic microlenses can be realized because refraction and diffraction have opposing effects on the focal length. Gaussian beam propagation method has been used for simulation. The presented results are of relevance for applications, where microlenses with small apertures and long focal lengths are used, for example, Shack Hartmann wavefront sensors or confocal microscopes. © 2006 Optical Society of America.