The inhomogeneous distribution of the receptive fields of cortical neurons influences the cortical representation of the orientation of short lines seen in visual images. We construct a model of the response of populations of neurons in the human primary visual cortex by combining realistic response properties of individual neurons and cortical maps of orientation and location preferences. The encoding error, which characterizes the difference between the parameters of a visual stimulus and their cortical representation, is calculated using Fisher information as the square root of the variance of a statistically efficient estimator. The error of encoding orientation varies considerably with the location and orientation of the short line stimulus as modulated by the underlying orientation preference map. The average encoding error depends only weakly on the structure of the orientation preference map and is much smaller than the human error of estimating orientation measured psychophysically. From this comparison we conclude that the actual mechanism of orientation perception does not make efficient use of all the information available in the neuronal responses and that it is the decoding of visual information from neuronal responses that limits psychophysical performance.