In this work we present a model for image formation in optical coherence microscopy. In the spectral domain detection, each wavenumber has a specific coherent transfer function that samples a different part of the object's spatial frequency spectrum. The reconstruction of the tomogram is usually accurate only in a short depth of field. Using numerical simulations based on the developed model, we identified two distinct mechanisms that influence the signal of out-of-focus sample information. Besides the lateral blurring induced through defocusing, an additional axial envelope contributing equally to the signal degradation was found. (C) 2010 Optical Society of America