We address the experimental determination of entanglement for systems made of a pair of polarization qubits. We exploit quantum estimation theory to derive optimal estimators, which are then implemented to achieve ultimate bound to precision. In particular, we present a set of experiments aimed at measuring the amount of entanglement for states belonging to different families of pure and mixed two-qubit two-photon states. Our scheme is based on visibility measurements of quantum correlations and achieves the ultimate precision allowed by quantum mechanics in the limit of Poissonian distribution of coincidence counts. Although optimal estimation of entanglement does not require the full tomography of the states we have also performed state reconstruction using two different sets of tomographic projectors and explicitly shown that they provide a less precise determination of entanglement. The use of optimal estimators also allows us to compare and statistically assess the different noise models used to describe decoherence effects occuring in the generation of entanglement.Comment: revised version, 10 page
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