We report on a technique for producing a Bessel function correlation output for an arbitrary input pattern. The central dark spot at the center of the Bessel function correlator output is narrower than the width of the normal correlation spot and can be extremely useful for locating the center of the correlation signal. The Bessel function is produced by convolution of the extremely sharp correlation produced by an inverse filter with the Bessel function and is encoded with a single phase-only liquidcrystal spatial light modulator. To encode amplitude information on the filter, we spatially modulate the phase encoded on the filter. Amplitude modulation is obtained by modulation of the diffraction efficiency of the phase grating. Experimental results are presented. © 1999 Optical Society of America.