We present a detailed statistical analysis of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy for a wide range of timescales. The derivation is completely analytical and can provide an excellent tool for planning and analysis of FCS experiments. The dependence of the signal-to-noise ratio on different measurement conditions is extensively studied. We find that in addition to the shot noise and the noise associated with correlated molecular dynamics there is another source of noise that appears at very large lag times. We call this the "particle noise," as its behavior is governed by the number of particles that have entered and left the laser beam sample volume during large dwell times. The standard deviations of all the points on the correlation function are calculated analytically and shown to be in good agreement with experiments. We have also investigated the bias associated with experimental correlation function measurements. A "phase diagram" for FCS experiments is constructed that demonstrates the significance of the bias for any given experiment. We demonstrate that the value of the bias can be calculated and added back as a first-order correction to the experimental correlation function.
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