The contrast sensitivity function was assessed in children and adults with normal vision, visual impairment due to ocular disease, and strabismic amblyopia. The methods used were: the LH contrast vision test and the ability to detect raisins, puffed rice and white and black sugar strands against a white and black background. The aim of the study was to see whether any of the tests could be used in the detection of subnormal vision, and to compare the results between the different groups of patients. The following parameters of contrast sensitivity function (CSF) were measured with the LH-test: the maximum contrast sensitivity, the total area of CSF, and the area of 8 spatial frequency bands. Difficulty in detecting an object with low versus high contrast was measured with the sugar strands. Subjects with subnormal vision due to ocular disease and strabismic amblyopia had lower contrast sensitivity than subjects with normal vision measured as the total area of the CSF or the area of a specific frequency band. However, the maximum contrast sensitivity value that could be measured with the test was not significantly different between the groups. No subject had difficulties in the detection of raisins and puffed rice on a white and black background. Difficulties in detecting sugar strands on a white background were not seen in the normal children, but approximately 65% of the children with visual impairment had difficulties, as did approximately 25% of the children and adults with strabismus. Most of these subjects also had low visual acuity, but there was no correlation between the level of reduction of visual acuity and the difficulty in detecting sugar strands.