We measured retinal image quality in astigmatic eyes, using the double-pass technique. We analyzed the influence of the amount of astigmatism and changes in axis of astigmatism on the eye's optical performance. Different amounts of astigmatism were obtained by variation of the cylindrical power of a lens situated in front of the eye, between 0.25-diopter (D) overcorrection and 1-D undercorrection at intervals of 0.25 D. Changes in the axis of astigmatism were obtained by rotation of the lens, which neutralizes the astigmatism in an angle of +/- 10 degrees at 5 degrees intervals. The results show the decrease in retinal image quality and the increase in the degree of image astigmatism obtained when the amount of astigmatism increases or the angle between the lens and the eye axis is other than zero. In general, the largest variations correspond to when the astigmatism changes from 0 to 0.25 D or when the axis changes from 0 degree to +/- 5 degrees. The reduction in optical performance is smaller in living eyes than in an eye model or in an artificial eye. The aberrations present in the living eye reduce the relative loss of retinal image quality introduced by astigmatism.