We explored the impact of the eye’s higher-order aberrations on subjective refraction comparing two classes of methods for estimating refractive state, one based directly on the wave aberration defined in the pupil plane and another based on the retinal image plane. The method defined in the pupil plane chose the sphere and cylinder that either minimized the wave aberration root mean square or minimized the sum of all the spherical and cylindrical components in the wave aberration. The method defined in the image plane chose the sphere and cylinder that optimized an image-quality metric such as the Strehl intensity ratio, the entropy and the intensity variance of the point-spread function, the volume under the modulation transfer function, or the volume under the contrast-sensitivity function. All these methods were compared in a population of six eyes for which we measured both the wave aberration with a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor and the subjective refraction under identical conditions. Pupil plane methods predicted subjective refraction poorly. The mean absolute error of the prediction, in spherical equivalent, was about 0.5 D (range, 0.1 to 0.8 D) and increased with increases in higher-order aberrations. However, for all the retinal image plane methods, the mean error between predicted and subjective refraction was about 0.1 D (range, 0 to 0.25 D). The reliability of the method based on the image-quality optimization was further confirmed in a large population of 146 eyes. In conclusion, higher-order aberrations influence the amount of sphere and cylinder required to correct vision. The results indicate that subjective refraction can be predicted from the eye’s optics alone by optimizing computed retinal image quality.