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Accurate reconstruction of 3D photoacoustic (PA) images requires detection of photoacoustic signals from many angles. Several groups have adopted staring ultrasound arrays, but assessment of array performance has been limited. We previously reported on a method to calibrate a 3D PA tomography (PAT) staring array system and analyze system performance using singular value decomposition (SVD). The developed SVD metric, however, was impractical for large system matrices, which are typical of 3D PAT problems. The present study consisted of two main objectives. The first objective aimed to introduce the crosstalk matrix concept to the field of PAT for system design. Figures-of-merit utilized in this study were root mean square error, peak signal-to-noise ratio, mean absolute error, and a three dimensional structural similarity index, which were derived between the normalized spatial crosstalk matrix and the identity matrix. The applicability of this approach for 3D PAT was validated by observing the response of the figures-of-merit in relation to well-understood PAT sampling characteristics (i.e. spatial and temporal sampling rate). The second objective aimed to utilize the figures-of-merit to characterize and improve the performance of a near-spherical staring array design. Transducer arrangement, array radius, and array angular coverage were the design parameters examined. We observed that the performance of a 129-element staring transducer array for 3D PAT could be improved by selection of optimal values of the design parameters. The results suggested that this formulation could be used to objectively characterize 3D PAT system performance and would enable the development of efficient strategies for system design optimization.