Multi-element synthetic aperture imaging methods suitable for applications with severe cost and size limitations are explored. Array apertures are synthesized using an active multi-element receive subaperture and a multi-element transmit subaperture defocused to emulate a single-element spatial response with high acoustic power. Echo signals are recorded independently by individual elements of the receive subaperture. Each method uses different spatial frequencies and acquisition strategies for imaging, and therefore different sets of active transmit/receive element combinations. Following acquisition, image points are reconstructed using the complete data set with full dynamic focus on both transmit and receive. Various factors affecting image quality have been evaluated and compared to conventional imagers through measurements with a 3.5 MHz, 128-element transducer array on different gel phantoms. Multi-element synthetic aperture methods achieve higher electronic signal to noise ratio and better contrast resolution than conventional synthetic aperture techniques, approaching conventional phased array performance.