We address the problem of exact complex-wave reconstruction in digital holography. We show that, by confining the object-wave modulation to one quadrant of the frequency domain, and by maintaining a reference-wave intensity higher than that of the object, one can achieve exact complex-wave reconstruction in the absence of noise. A feature of the proposed technique is that the zero-order artifact, which is commonly encountered in hologram reconstruction, can be completely suppressed in the absence of noise. The technique is noniterative and nonlinear. We also establish a connection between the reconstruction technique and homomorphic signal processing, which enables an interpretation of the technique from the perspective of deconvolution. Another key contribution of this paper is a direct link between the reconstruction technique and the two-dimensional Hilbert transform formalism proposed by Hahn. We show that this connection leads to explicit Hilbert transform relations between the magnitude and phase of the complex wave encoded in the hologram. We also provide results on simulated as well as experimental data to validate the accuracy of the reconstruction technique. (C) 2011 Optical Society of America