AIMS/BACKGROUND--The study aimed to determine the influence of increased intraocular light scatter on the contrast in scanning laser ophthalmoscope (SLO) images and to examine to what extent SLO images can visualise the fundus through media opacities due to cataract. METHODS--Intraocular light scatter was estimated from measurements of letter contrast sensitivity before and after cataract surgery in five eyes. SLO images were obtained before and after surgery using confocal apertures of 1, 2, 4, and 10 mm, at laser wavelengths of 633 and 780 nm. Visibility of the fundus was determined by measurements of retinal contrast. SLO images were compared with standard fundus photographs. RESULTS--SLO images obtained before surgery revealed details of the retina that were unresolvable in the fundus photographs because of light scattering. By using one of the three smallest apertures, image contrast was further improved. However, no simple relations between aperture size, estimated light scatter, and image contrast could be found. CONCLUSION--SLO imaging was found to be superior to fundus photography for viewing the retina in eyes with cataract. Owing to the inhomogeneous nature of cataracts, the optimal choice of confocal aperture and laser wavelength is not simple and must be individualised.