Quality assessment of autonomously acquired microscopic images is an important issue in high-throughput imaging systems. For example, the presence of low quality images (≥ 10%) in a dataset significantly influences the counting precision of fluorescently stained bacterial cells. We present an approach based on an artificial neural network (ANN) to assess the quality of such images. Spatially invariant estimators were extracted as ANN input data from subdivided images by low level image processing. Different ANN designs were compared and > 400 ANNs were trained and tested on a set of 25000 manually classified images. The optimal ANN featured a correct identification rate of 94% (3% false positives, 3% false negatives) and could process about 10 images per second. We compared its performance with the image quality assessment by different humans and discuss the difficulties in assigning images to the correct quality class. The computer program and the documented source code (VB.NET) are provided under General Public Licence.