We present the first application of Zernike phase-contrast transmission electron microscopy to single-particle 3D reconstruction of a protein, using GroEL chaperonin as the test specimen. We evaluated the performance of the technique by comparing 3D models derived from Zernike phase contrast imaging, with models from conventional underfocus phase contrast imaging. The same resolution, about 12A, was achieved by both imaging methods. The reconstruction based on Zernike phase contrast data required about 30% fewer particles. The advantages and prospects of each technique are discussed.