Analysis of the optics of photorefractively computed ray tracing shows that, for short camera-to-subject distances, the function relating image size to defocus of the eye is not symmetrical for errors of focus in front of and behind the camera. This asymmetry is exploited in the new method of isotropic photorefraction, in which the supplementary cylinder lenses of the original orthogonal photorefractors are replaced by defocusing of the camera lens itself. By comparing photographs taken with the camera focused in front of and behind the subject, the sign of the eyes' defocus (myopic or hyperopic relative to the camera) can be determined. The axis of any astigmatism is readily apparent as the direction in which the photorefractive images are elongated. The method is well adapted for the refractive screening of infants and young children.