Photoacoustic imaging is a hybrid imaging modality capable of producing contrast similar to optical imaging techniques but with increased penetration depth and resolution in turbid media by encoding the information as acoustic waves. In general, it is important to characterize system performance by parameters such as sensitivity, resolution, and contrast. However, system characterization can extend beyond these metrics by implementing advanced analysis via singular value decomposition. A method was developed to experimentally measure a matrix that represented the imaging operator for the system. Analysis of the imaging operator was done via singular value decomposition so that the capability of the system to reconstruct objects and the inherent system sensitivity to those objects could be understood. The results provided by singular value decomposition were compared to simulations performed on an ideal system with matching transducer arrangement and defined object space.