The photoabsorption and photoluminescence (PL) properties of the surface E(') center, -GeX(3), and the combined E(')-center-oxygen vacancy, X(3)Ge-GeX(2), defects in substoichiometric germanium oxides have been investigated by high-level ab initio calculations, including complete active space self-consistent field, multireference configuration interaction, and symmetry-adapted cluster configuration interaction methods. Both defects have been shown to give rise to photoabsorption bands between 4 and 6 eV. Geometry relaxation is significant and the Stokes shifts are large for all calculated excited states. A removal of an electron from the Ge-Ge bond leads to its destruction, whereas the creation of an electron hole at lone pairs of O atoms results in elongations of the Ge-O-Ge bonds in the corresponding bridges. Most often, deexcitations of excited electronic states proceed radiationlessly, through crossing points of their potential energy surfaces with those of the lower states. The -GeX(3) defect is able to generate several PL bands in the UV ( approximately 3 eV) and IR (1.2-1.4 and 0.5-0.6 eV) spectral ranges, whereas the X(3)Ge-GeX(2) defect gives only one red/orange PL band at 2.0-2.1 eV. No intense PL band was found in the blue spectral region of 2.5-2.7 eV, and the two defects are not likely to contribute to the intense blue photoluminescence observed for GeO(2) nanowires.