We examined synaptic transmission between rods or cones and horizontal cells, using perforated patch recording techniques in salamander retinal slices. Experimental conditions were established under which horizontal cells received nearly pure rod or pure cone input. The response-intensity relation for both photoreceptors and horizontal cells was described by a Michaelis-Menten function with an exponent close to 1. A dynamic model was developed for the transduction from photoreceptor voltage to postsynaptic current. The basic model assumes that: (i) photoreceptor light-evoked voltage controls Ca2+ entry according to a Boltzmann relation; (ii) the rate of glutamate release depends linearly on the voltage-gated Ca2+ current (ICa) in the synaptic terminal; (iii) glutamate concentration in the synaptic cleft reflects the balance of release and reuptake in which reuptake obeys first order kinetics; (iv) the binding of glutamate to its receptor and channel gating are fast compared with glutamate kinetics in the synaptic cleft. The good fit to the model confirms that these are the key features of synaptic transmission from rods and cones. The model accommodated changes in kinetics induced by the glutamate uptake blocker, dihydrokainate. The match between model and response was not improved by including an estimate of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor desensitization or by making glutamate uptake voltage dependent.