Purpose To assess the inter and intra observer variability of subjective grading of the retinal arterio-venous ratio (AVR) using a visual grading and to compare the subjectively derived grades to an objective method using a semi-automated computer program. Methods Following intraocular pressure and blood pressure measurements all subjects underwent dilated fundus photography. 86 monochromatic retinal images with the optic nerve head centred (52 healthy volunteers) were obtained using a Zeiss FF450+ fundus camera. Arterio-venous ratios (AVR), central retinal artery equivalent (CRAE) and central retinal vein equivalent (CRVE) were calculated on three separate occasions by one single observer semi-automatically using the software VesselMap (ImedosSystems, Jena, Germany). Following the automated grading, three examiners graded the AVR visually on three separate occasions in order to assess their agreement. Results Reproducibility of the semi-automatic parameters was excellent (ICCs: 0.97 (CRAE); 0.985 (CRVE) and 0.952 (AVR)). However, visual grading of AVR showed inter grader differences as well as discrepancies between subjectively derived and objectively calculated AVR (all p < 0.000001). Conclusion Grader education and experience leads to inter-grader differences but more importantly, subjective grading is not capable to pick up subtle differences across healthy individuals and does not represent true AVR when compared with an objective assessment method. Technology advancements mean we no longer rely on opthalmoscopic evaluation but can capture and store fundus images with retinal cameras, enabling us to measure vessel calibre more accurately compared to visual estimation; hence it should be integrated in optometric practise for improved accuracy and reliability of clinical assessments of retinal vessel calibres.