We have developed a digital holographic microscope (DHM), in a transmission mode, especially dedicated to the quantitative visualization of phase objects such as living cells. The method is based on an original numerical algorithm presented in detail elsewhere [Cuche et al., Appl. Opt. 38, 6994 (1999)]. DHM images of living cells in culture are shown for what is to our knowledge the first time. They represent the distribution of the optical path length over the cell, which has been measured with subwavelength accuracy. These DHM images are compared with those obtained by use of the widely used phase contrast and Nomarski differential interference contrast techniques.