We report on a frequency doubled 980 nm vertical external cavity surface emitting laser for applications in confocal laser scanning microscopy. The beam quality, wavelength flexibility, and low noise characteristics of this compact source make this prolific imaging technique an exemplary tool. Single pass frequency doubling via KNbO3 was demonstrated, yielding 1.8 mW at 490 nm with a near diffraction limited beam quality. Detailed analysis and comparison of the laser performance with the current standard argon ion laser revealed clear advantages of the solid-state source for confocal imaging. Imaging of fluorescein and eGFP labeled biological samples using the attenuated solid-state source provided high-resolution images at lower cost and with improved reliability.