Sunday, July 21, 2013

Do You Use a Ring Flash or a Point Flash for Dental Photography?

The title of this post is a question that I must have asked at least a hundred times a year at lectures when someone asked me about their camera setup. I'd have to guess that they didn't know the answer or were wrong at least 75% of the time. Well, I'm going to help you understand which one you have and why it's really important to know.

Let's start with point flashes. As their name implies, they shed a point of light, from an angle to the subject. The great thing about point flashes is that they give shadows. Think of walking down the street near sunset. The shadows are nice and long.

dental images
Shadows are what distinguish decent from awesome dental images.
That's what we kind of want in dental images We want nice shadows to show negative space where it actually exists. I'm not talking about the shadow cast by the cheek when it's not properly retracted, but rather the shadow cast into embrasures, for instance. It's shadows that allow us to properly see stippling on gingiva or the texture of oral pathology or the surface texture on a tooth as it bounces off of the subject.

dental camera
Negative spaces between teeth and on surfaces really allow one to see surface texture
This shadowing is where point flashes truly excel. Ring flashes throw light from every angle and wash out the color and hide the details for precise lab work or beautiful, natural color.

Traditionally, point flashes were single in number and cast shadows in only one direction. However, a couple of decades ago, someone got the great idea to place the flash on both sides of the lens and the quality of images jumped through the roof. Nowadays, wireless flash systems like the one from Nikon allow photographers to put as many flashes as they like around the lens. I often see dentists with upwards of 4 point flashes around a lens and for pure shooting purposes, they have turned a point flash into a ring flash. For the record, I've gotten some gorgeous images with just 2 flashes and don't see the need for anything more.

The Nikon R1 (or R1C1) is a simple example of dual point flash use. You'd almost have to be blind to confuse it with a ring flash. This is my favorite flash for dentistry because it throws nice long shadows due to its distance from the lens.
Dental photography
The Nikon R1 is an amazing flash which gives great surface texture

The Canon MT24-EX is also pretty easy to distinguish as a dual point flash , however, it's high cost and super bright lights make it a less than ideal flash for most dentists.
Dental photography
The Canon MT-24EX is an amazing flash but very expensive and needs an experienced user to control

So, what about the most common flash, the Canon MT14-EX? Almost every doctor I've met who uses it calls it a ring flash, but it isn't. It's a dual point flash because each side can be independently turned on or off and this is REALLY important (as I will get to soon). It's a great flash...if you know how to use it properly, and very few do.
Dental photography
Most owners of the Canon MT-14EX don't know if it's a ring flash or double point flash

The Metz 1510 is a pure ring flash. I am not at all a fan of it for many reasons, and you can email me if you want to know more.

dental camera
Don't be lured by the wireless nature of the Metz flash. For the money, there are WAY better options

Here's the key fact. If you want to get great images of your patients to hang on the wall, get great depth of field or communicate with labs or other dentists, you had better know how to use your flash properly.

To learn more about our clinical photography DVD series which will get you shooting the best dental images imaginable, simply click HERE.

Best Wishes,

Thursday, July 4, 2013

An Amazing Website to Compare Dental Cameras

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the most common questions I get is: "Which camera should I buy?" Though there are significant differences between using a digital camera for dental and recreational use, there is an amazing website for learning more about each camera body out there as well as side by side comparisons for almost all camera competitors in each price range.

The website to which I am referring is Snapsort.com and it is DEFINITELY worth checking out.

Are you looking to see if the newest features of a camera make it worth switching? This website is for you.

Here's how it works:

Enter the camera body you're looking the learn more about. In this case, let's enter the Nikon D7000. It will show you all of the features, cost, etc.

dental photography
Once you enter a camera, you'll get many options to evaluate. Everything from a basic overview to lowest priced places to buy it. 

Not impressed yet? That's OK. You can click on the "competitors" link and it will give you the opportunity to compare other cameras in the similar price range and with similar features---even by different manufacturers. Don't worry, though. You do not need to guess which cameras are competitors; the site automatically shows them to you for your choice. In some cases, there can be a dozen or so.
dental photography
When you choose "competitors" you will get an auto generated list of other cameras in the same price and feature range---from other camera manufacturers as well.

When you click on the "Compare" link to the right of the competitor, it will then bring you to a "summary" page where the overall results of the comparison are displayed.

dental camera
The compare feature is amazing.

I'm always on the lookout for resources to help those who trust my opinion and I think that this is a great place to get some really nice cursory information about camera bodies. Oh, and by the way, I have NO financial interest in Snapsort.

Of course, once you get a camera body, you need a lens and flash system specifically designed for up-close "macro" photography. I would strongly suggest our 2 DVD series which will help you choose and set up a camera for perfect lighting, depth of field and composition. Use the information on these 2 DVDs and you'll have others jealous when they look at your images. They can be seen HERE .

As always, best wishes.