PURPOSE: To describe the methodology of eye examination and the baseline eye characteristics of the Vitamin E, Cataract and Age-Related Maculopathy (VECAT) study participants. METHODS: A sample of volunteers from an urban area of Melbourne, Australia, were recruited to participate in a randomized, controlled trial investigating the effect of vitamin E on the development of cataract and age-related maculopathy Standardized eye examinations involved clinical assessment, which included Wilmer grading of the lens, digital photography of the lens with Nidek EAS-1000 lens camera and stereo photography of the macular area with the Nidek 3-DX fundus camera. All cases of ophthalmic findings were determined on the basis of pathology in the worse eye. RESULTS: Most eyes were free from abnormalities. The most frequent findings were cataract and age-related macular changes. Nuclear cataract (nuclear opacity grade >2) was present in 4.5%, cortical cataract (cortical opacity grade >2) in 14.3% and posterior subcapsular cataract in 3.0% of participants; in addition, coronary cataract was observed in 13.6%. Soft drusen larger than 125 pm were found in 11.4%, retinal pigment epithelium changes in 9.5%, epiretinal membrane in 6.6% and age-related macular degeneration in 0.5% of participants. SUMMARY: Due to the selection criteria, the majority of participants had clear or minor lens changes and/or minor retinal age-related changes. Precise instrumental documentation will allow an accurate assessment of the incidence and dynamics of these changes throughout 4 years of observation.