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We investigated the effects of sample preparation and of the exposure to an electron beam on particles in cryo-electron tomographs. Various virus particles with icosahedral symmetry were examined, allowing a comparison of symmetrically related components that should be identical in structure but might be affected differently by these imaging artifacts. Comparison of tomographic reconstructions with previously determined structures established by an independent method showed that neither freezing nor electron beam exposure produced a significant amount of shrinkage along the z axis (thickness). However, we observed damage to regions of the particles located close to the surface of the vitreous ice.