Owing to the high degree of scattering of light through tissues, the ill-posedness of fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT) inverse problem causes relatively low spatial resolution in the reconstruction results. Unlike L2 regularization, L1 regularization can preserve the details and reduce the noise effectively. Reconstruction is obtained through a restarted L1 regularization-based nonlinear conjugate gradient (re-L1-NCG) algorithm, which has been proven to be able to increase the computational speed with low memory consumption. The algorithm consists of inner and outer iterations. In the inner iteration, L1-NCG is used to obtain the L1-regularized results. In the outer iteration, the restarted strategy is used to increase the convergence speed of L1-NCG. To demonstrate the performance of re-L1-NCG in terms of spatial resolution, simulation and physical phantom studies with fluorescent targets located with different edge-to-edge distances were carried out. The reconstruction results show that the re-L1-NCG algorithm has the ability to resolve targets with an edge-to-edge distance of 0.1 cm at a depth of 1.5 cm, which is a significant improvement for FMT.