Optomotor response/reflex (OMR) assays are emerging as a powerful and versatile tool for phenotypic study and new drug discovery for eye and brain disorders. Yet efficient OMR assessment for visual performance in mice remains a challenge. Existing OMR testing devices for mice require a lengthy procedure and may be subject to bias due to use of artificial criteria. We developed an optimized staircase protocol that utilizes mouse head pausing behavior as a novel indicator for the absence of OMR, to allow rapid and unambiguous vision assessment. It provided a highly sensitive and reliable method that can be easily implemented into automated or manual OMR systems to allow quick and unbiased assessment for visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in mice. The sensitivity and quantitative capacity of the protocol were validated using wild type mice and an inherited mouse model of retinal degeneration - mice carrying rhodopsin deficiency and exhibiting progressive loss of photoreceptors. Our OMR system with this protocol was capable of detecting progressive visual function decline that was closely correlated with the loss of photoreceptors in rhodopsin deficient mice. It provides significant advances over the existing methods in the currently available OMR devices in terms of sensitivity, accuracy and efficiency.