Accurate surface metrology and transmission characteristics measurements have become vital to certify the manufacturing excellence in the field of glass visors, windshields, menu boards and transportation industries. We report a simple, cost-effective and novel technique for the measurement of geometric aberrations in transparent materials such as glass sheets, Perspex, etc. The technique makes use of an array of spot pattern, we call the spot pattern test chart technique, in the diffraction limited imaging position having large field of view. Performance features include variable angular dynamic range and angular sensitivity. Transparent sheets as the intervening medium introduced in the line of sight, causing aberrations, are estimated in real time using the Zernike reconstruction method. Quantitative comparative analysis between a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor and the proposed new method is presented and the results are discussed. © 2005 IOP Publishing Ltd.