Free Ca2+ concentrations in the cytosol of individual small cells can be recorded with a new fluorescent Ca2+ indicator, "fura-2", and a fluorescence microscope modified to chop rapidly between two wavelengths of excitation. Both fura-2 and its Ca2+ complex fluoresce strongly, but their excitation peaks differ in wavelength. Alternation between the two preferred wavelengths allows assessment of the ratio of Ca2+-bound dye to free dye and hence cytosolic free Ca2+. This ratio measurement largely cancels out the effects of cell thickness, dye content, or instrumental efficiency, uncertainties that can jeopardize measurements at single wavelengths. We describe instrumentation that supplies rapidly alternating excitation wavelengths to either a standard cuvet or a fluorescence microscope. Its use is illustrated by experiments showing changes in cytosolic [Ca2+] accompanying activation of human platelets in suspension or single mouse thymocytes on the microscope.