For an ultra-high numerical aperture (NA), such as that exceeding 0.9, the p-polarized component of light that has passed through a region at the limit of the NA of a high-NA lithography tool, degrades contrast because of the so-called vector imaging effect, and is therefore detrimental to the formation of optical images. Polarized illumination removes the effect of the p-polarized light component and provides illumination light composed of s-polarized light. The higher the NA, the greater are the benefits of polarized illumination. Therefore, in lithography at the 45-nm node and below, polarized illumination is viewed as an indispensable technology. We explore the applicability of polarized illumination to device manufacturing processes at the 45-nm node and beyond, with a focus on the utilization of azimuthally polarized illumination, which enables one mask exposure. The data used in this research were obtained through imaging simulations and experiments using a dry lithography tool equipped with a 0.92-NA projection lens. In imaging simulations using a lithography simulator, the application of azimuthally polarized illumination improved image contrast in resists by approximately 20% for half pitch (HP) 65-nm dense patterns. As a result, device patterns showed enhanced robustness with respect to exposure dose error; extended process windows; and reduced mask error enhancement factor (MEEF), line edge roughness (LER), and line end shortening (LES). This paper examines the results of experiments conducted using imaging simulations and lithography tools on other product device like patterns (besides special patterns in which benefits can clearly be expected, including dense (L/S) patterns), and reports the results.