The presence of noise and absence of contrast in electron micrographs lead to a reduced resolution of the final 3D reconstruction, due to the inherent limitations of single-particle image alignment. The fast rotational matching (FRM) algorithm was introduced recently for an accurate alignment of 2D images under such challenging conditions. Here, we implemented this algorithm for the first time in a standard 3D reconstruction package used in electron microscopy. This allowed us to carry out exhaustive tests of the robustness and reliability in iterative orientation determination, classification, and 3D reconstruction on simulated and experimental image data. A classification test on GroEL chaperonin images demonstrates that FRM assigns up to 13% more images to their correct reference orientation, compared to the classical self-correlation function method. Moreover, at sub-nanometer resolution, GroEL and rice dwarf virus reconstructions exhibit a remarkable resolution gain of 10-20% that is attributed to the novel image alignment kernel.