The retinal nerve fiber layer is different in normal and glaucomatous eyes. The authors used red-free photographs to examine the retinal nerve fiber layer in 234 normal eyes. The retinal nerve fiber layer was most visible in the inferior temporal arcade, followed by the superior temporal arcade, then by the temporal macular area, and finally the nasal area. This distribution was significantly (P less than 0.0001) correlated to (1) the configuration of the neuroretinal rim, which was significantly broadest at the inferior disc pole followed by the superior one, (2) the juxtapapillary caliber of the retinal vessels, which were significantly wider in the inferior temporal arcade than in the superior temporal arcade, and (3) the location of the foveola 0.53 +/- 0.34 mm inferior to the middle point of the vertical optic disc axis. The retinal nerve fiber layer decreased with age. No correlation occurred with sex or right or left eye. No localized retinal nerve fiber layer defects were seen. These features of the normal retinal nerve fiber layer are important for diagnosis of retinal nerve fiber layer changes secondary to optic nerve damage in the diseased eye.