Purpose To examine the near visual clinical performance of an accommodative intraocular lens (IOL) when compared with a standard monofocal IOL in a fellow eye comparison. Design Prospective, randomized fellow eye comparison. Methods Thirty patients (60 eyes) with bilateral cataracts but otherwise normal eyes were recruited from a single university hospital cataract waiting list. Patients were randomized to receive either the 1CU accommodative IOL in their first eye or the Acrysof MA30 monofocal IOL. The alternative lens was then implanted in the second eye 4 to 6 weeks later. At all follow-up visits, a full assessment was made of distance, near and reading visual performance, and accommodative amplitude. Results Data are available for all patients at 6 months and 20 patients at 1 year. At 6 months, no difference was found in distance-corrected visual acuity between the two IOLs. Of the 1CU eyes, nine patients (30%) could read J6 or better at a reading speed of 80 words/min or better. In these nine patients, the mean difference in the amplitude of accommodation between the two eyes was 0.71 diopters. Conclusions No measurable variable distinguished eyes that developed functional reading vision from those that did not. The accommodative IOL appears to produce improved near vision in some eyes, but it does not work in all eyes, and in eyes where there is apparent accommodation, there is a discrepancy between subjective reading performance and the modest measured increase of accommodative amplitude.