Phoroptor® by Reichert®

Celebrating 100 Years of Making Vision Clearer 


This year, Reichert® celebrates 100 years of Phoroptor®! On January 10, 1922, the United States Patent & Trademark Office granted a registered trademark to the word Phoroptor, to coincide with its first model release, and ever since, Phoroptor has been synonymous with vision care. This iconic refracting instrument has helped transform eye care with its ability to provide practitioners a better, faster, and more efficient way to perform vision tests. From the very first model 100 years ago, to the modern Phoroptor® VRx Digital Refraction System, Phoroptor has paved the path for innovation and optical excellence in the eye care industry.

American Optical 589 Additive Phoroptor - 1934


In the Beginning

Starting as a spectacle shop by William Beecher in 1833, American Optical Company (AO) was incorporated in 1869 (and would later become Reichert). American Optical made major contributions to the science of vision, revolutionizing eye care for generations. Some of these accomplishments include the adoption of the dioptric system of lens power and the acceptance of this system by the U.S. Bureau of Standards. Additionally, American Optical invented numerous industry standard products, including the first rimless spectacles, the manufacture of toric lenses used for correction of astigmatism, and the Lensometer®, providing the first means to measure spectacle power.

American Optical Co. Facility – Southbridge, Massachusetts 

Evolution of Phoroptor®

In 1915, Henry DeZeng, a New Jersey inventor, introduced the Model 570 Phoro-Optometer. This would be the foundation of what was to follow. In 1922, DeZeng released the No. 584 Phoroptor, the first official Phoroptor refracting instrument. American Optical, brought Phoroptor to the forefront of vision care after acquiring DeZeng Standard in 1925. In 1927, American Optical launched the Effective Power 588 Phoroptor, boasting greater power range. The Additive Effective Power 589 Phoroptor was released in 1934, which included the addition of the Jackson Cross Cylinder lenses, and the iconic question, “Better 1 or better 2?”

Effective Power 588 Phoroptor - 1927 

The next major redesign came with the 590 Phoroptor, which had a more robust housing and lens design, released in 1948.

590 Phoroptor - 1948

By the 1950's and 1960's, American Optical released the Rx Master™ Phoroptor and the Ultramatic Rx Master™ Phoroptors, introducing the shape and functionality we’re all familiar with today. They also came in everyone’s favorite colors, Coral and Sea Foam Green!

Ultramatic Rx Master Phoroptor - 1956
By the 1980's, American Optical had become Reichert® Ophthalmic, and we continue to carry the Phoroptor name, quality, and legacy forward.

Phoroptor® Today

As Phoroptor became the standard for every eye care professional as a means of providing accurate and efficient eye exams, the technology behind it also evolved.

The patented Illuminated Phoroptor was released in 2003, and allows doctors to easily see the measurement dials while keeping the room dim for patients. LED lights inside the translucent cylinder power and axis dials, as well as next to the sphere power windows, can be adjusted to a variety of brightness settings making it easy to interpret power.

Illuminated Phoroptor - 2003
In 2015, Reichert unveiled the Phoroptor VRx, a digital refraction system that allows for all functions of a refraction to be done from a computerized controller. This digital Phoroptor connects to the ClearChart® Digital Acuity System, and interfaces with a range of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems, making managing patient exams and information accurate and effortless. That brings us to today, where the state-of-the-art Phoroptor VRx is now capable of remote refractions via telehealth systems, making it possible to see more patients in more places!

Phoroptor VRx - 2015

American Advancement and Innovation

Phoroptors have been built and tested at our state-of-the-art facility in Buffalo, New York, since the 1930's and have the distinction of being the only refractors designed and assembled in the United States. Decades of American quality and craftsmanship go into each and every Phoroptor produced, and are shipped out every single day to all corners of the world.

Every Phoroptor is Designed and Assembled in Buffalo, NY, USA

It’s Phoroptor®, Not "Phoropter"

While you might refer to a refracting instrument as just a “phoropter”, the original, trademarked, patented, and trusted name is Phoroptor. There's only one Reichert Phoroptor.

A Look Forward

Reichert's commitment is to manufacture high-quality refraction devices that give eye care professionals the ability to provide clearer vision to their patients. Innovation is at the core of Reichert and Phoroptor is no exception. It’s hard to imagine the eye care industry without it!


What's next for Phoroptor in the 100 years to come? Want to be the first to find out how we're going to celebrate Phoroptor this year? Fill out the form and we'll keep you in the loop!


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