The role of the non-mydriatic fundus camera in detection of diabetic retinopathy was evaluated as part of a comprehensive screening programme for diabetic complications offered to all diabetic patients in a rural town. Retinopathy was demonstrated in 124/358 (35%) of patients screened. Forty-eight patients (13%) were judged to have sight-threatening retinopathy, of whom 29 patients (8% of the total) were not already under the care of an ophthalmologist. However, in only 66% of patients were photographs of both eyes of adequate quality to assess for retinopathy. The percentage of poor quality photographs increased with age in those aged greater than 50 years. It is concluded that the non-mydriatic camera can increase the detection of sight-threatening retinopathy in the community. Although this method of screening is not perfect, because of the number of poor quality photographs, it may be as good as or better than existing screening practices in unselected diabetic populations.