In the context of extrasolar planet direct detection, we evaluated the performance of differential imaging with ground-based telescopes. This study was carried out in the framework of the VLT-Planet Finder project and is further extended to the case of Extremely Large Telescopes. Our analysis is providing critical specifications for future instruments mostly in terms of phase aberrations but also regarding alignments of the instrument optics or offset pointing on the coronagraph. It is found that Planet Finder projects on 8m class telescopes can be successful at detecting Extrasolar Giant Planets providing phase aberrations, alignments and pointing are accurately controlled. The situation is more pessimistic for the detection of terrestrial planets with Extremely Large Telescopes for which phase aberrations must be lowered at a very challenging level.