Sunday, June 8, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About Dental Camera Systems (Well,Almost Everything)

During the 7 years this blog has been up and running, the most popular posts, by far, relate to which camera systems are best for dentistry. I also get a ton of questions on the subject, and since it's been a year since I last wrote about camera systems, I figured that no would be a good time to revisit the subject (and others).
This is what all of your images should look like, and best of all, it should be fun and really quick to capture them.

I want to make it clear right here, that I do not get paid by anyone to sell their camera systems. So, when I recommend a company, it's because I believe in them from the thousand of students and 15 years I've spent teaching clinical photography.

So, let's start by looking at camera price because that's the most common question.

Mistake #1: Don't try to go cheap. It could actually work against you.

The "sweet spot" for digital SLR cameras for dentistry is in the $900-1000 range. There's absolutely no reason to pay $1500-2000 for a dental camera. Remember, we're talking only the camera. Not with the flash and lens. The more you spend, the more "bells and whistles" you're going to be getting and since you should NEVER take your practice camera out of the office for personal use, you'll never be using the extra gadgets that come on a more expensive and bigger/heavier camera.

The biggest mistake I see is people buying cameras without really knowing what to get or why. That's why I made the first DVD. If you think that a $600 camera like the Nikon D5300 will save you tons of money over a more expensive $1000 Nikon D7100, well, you're wrong.
Buying the less expensive D5300 actually doesn't save what you think it will.

How? Well, how do you expect to get photos using your camera. You need a macro flash system. The best system available now is the R1 wireless system from nikon (See post on flashes HERE) which costs about $450. However, if you bought the D5300, which does NOT wirelessly support the R1 flash, you need to buy the R1C1 flash system instead, which DOES wirelessly support the flash, but costs an additional $250. So, in the end, by buying the 5300 instead of the 7100, you'll get poorer images because of a cheaper camera, it'll weigh much more than the 7100 because of the bigger R1 commander unit on top of the camera to wirelessly control the flash and it now has more to break because of the commander module, all because you wanted to save $300 which turned out to actually be a total of about $50 after the R1C1 purchase.

Look for a great, relatively light and compact camera that gives great images and doesn't break the bank.

My recommendations: If you like Nikon for clinical photography (as I do) the D7100 is an amazing camera that will serve you well for the next decade and beyond. If you like Canon, go with the 70D instead of the T5i Rebel and you won't be disappointed. If you do not own a camera yet, or aren't sure of Nikon or Canon, in my humble opinion, the Nikon D7100 is the best camera on the market (at least right now) and beats the Canon 60D for a couple of reasons. Click Comparison and Flash Systems for Canon vs. Nikon  to understand more.

The Nikon D7100 is currently the best valued camera for clinical dental photography-in my humble opinion.

Mistake #2: Don't make a huge investment in a camera system and then not know how to even set it up or how to properly (and easily) use it.

Would you ever buy a piece of dental equipment without knowing how to use it?!?!? Every day, dentists buy a camera and either make the mistake of thinking they'll put it together and "just use it" or worse, hand it off to their assistant expecting that they will somehow channel the energy of the universe and figure out how to get images on their own.

If you've read any of my posts or seen one of my lectures, then you know that the dental camera, when properly used, can change your practice literally overnight.  You can watch your case acceptance go through the ceiling instantly if you shoot a lot of high quality dental images. Emphasis on HIGH QUALITY. This means that your images have no mirrors or retractors in the way, the lighting is perfect and everything is in focus. If you think you're images are already gorgeous, or you're not sure where you rank, please click HERE to learn more about a great way to grade your images.

Learn to properly grade your own images so that you can see where you need to get better.

Leran how to set up and use your camera system and how to properly position mirrors and retractors (the right mirrors and retractors) so that you can get awesome images every time. I've said it many, many times before and I'll say it again here.  Once you learn how to properly use the camera, mirrors and retractors, you'll see how easy (YES, EASY) it is to get great dental images. But you have to learn, and unfortunately, there are very few good resources out there.

Mistake #3: Choose your photography experts carefully. There is A LOT of misinformation out there.

I apologize in advance for the comments that are about to follow. They will seem arrogant, and for those of you who know me personally, you know the respect I have for experts in dentistry. However, there are many out there holding themselves as experts in clinical photography and unfortunately, many of my students have gotten some really bad advice by listening to them. I don't care who you listen to as long as the advice makes sense. I've taught this subject for 15 years, and it wasn't until I was asked to actually teach the clinical photography portion of a class that I was paying to attend that I realized how different (and simpler) my approach to clinical photography was.

I've watched a lot of YouTube videos from "experts" in clinical photography showing the same mistakes that I see students in my classes making. I'm sorry for saying this, but the techniques I've seen from EVERY one of them actually are so wrong and circuitous that I've laughed out loud. Not some, not most, but all. Yep, I said, it. I see people giving absolutely wrong advice on mirror placement, retractor use, patient positioning, assistance. So, you think I'm being a little cavalier in my statements, then consider this first:  As a clinical dentist for 20 years, I want my system of capture to be:
                    Quick-less than 5 minutes for a full set
                    Comfortable-The patient should be 100% comfortable during the process
                    Simple-The words "color temperature" and "white balance" shouldn't be used
                    One person-meaning that the doctor or assistant can shoot without more assistants

...and most importantly (and this is where I see most failures online)...the images should look unimaginably gorgeous EVERY TIME. Period. No excuses.

Take a look at my blog post from 7 years ago HERE. Yep, 7 years ago with an older camera and flash system. Those images took about 2 minutes for all 4. Do you think my patients can see everything I'm trying to point out? Yep. Did I have trouble selling my best care all the time? Nope.

Making my DVD series was neither easy or fun, but I did it because there is simply a huge need to show dentists how to quickly and easily get amazing dental images. Consider purchasing the DVDs  HERE, watch them with your team and you will literally be getting better images immediately afterwards. It will change the way you look at dental photography. Use the code "Thanks15" on checkout and get 15% off everything on the website because you were interested enough to read to this section of the blog.

Mistake #4: Don't expect to use regular mirrors and retractors to get amazing images.

It is so easy to learn how to use mirrors and retractors, but unfortunately, like the myth of the 2x/yr cleaning (which wasn't actually developed by dentists) all traditional mirror and retractor designs seem to have come from a planet where the mouths of patients can actually accommodate them.  On this planet, dentists simply cannot expect to get exceptional images on patients using the "tried and true" shapes and sizes. How do I know? I watched thousands of  students in my hands on courses struggle with their images using the same mirrors and retractors that are being used around the world.
You may not notice it, but this image shows my different mirror and retractor. There are subtle differences in their design, but they do make a huge difference in composition. Of course, if I weren't illustrating the retractor (yes, only one retractor for this shot) and mirror, I would zoom in closer and only the teeth would be in the shot.
Sure, there are patients here and there on whom you can get great images using traditional designs, but they are really the exception, not the rule.

Having trouble with your lateral arch shots or your full occlusals? Ever had a patient not be able to open wide enough to get the full arch? It's partly patient positioning but mostly your mirror and retractors. They're just shaped wrong for most of our difficult shots. That's why I went out of my way to create new shapes and sizes that I perfected by trying them out with my students at my hands on courses. I tried to get them sold through dental supply houses, but nobody was interested (because there simply isn't a lot of money to be made on mirrors or retractors).

Try my mirrors, retractors and DVDs and I can promise you that your images will look far better than you ever imagined possible.

Conclusion: Buy the right camera for your practice, make an investment in a proper set of mirrors and retractors and learn how to use your camera in the simplest and easiest way possible. I know that it sounds funny to even have to say those things, but most dentists are either using the wrong setup or don't really know how to use the right one that they already own. However, when it all comes together, the results can change your practice...quickly.

As always, I look forward to your questions and comments at Glenn@Kriegercontinuum.com

Best Wishes,
My DVD series will make the process of buying, setting up and properly using your camera system a breeze.


  1. Hi Dr. Krieger. Like yourself, I am an orthodontist and so my photography needs are tailored towards ortho photos. I can buy the D7100 body online now for about $760. Is the new D7200 worth the extra $350 or so, or should I just stick to the discontinued model and put that money towards a macro lens? Thank you so much for this blog.

    1. I think that the 7200 is just more camera than you need. If you can get a 7100, I'd say go for it and spend the $350 towards the lens or flash.

  2. Really a wonderful post! I like it very much. Here I find everything in details. I hope I will see this type of post again in your blog.

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  3. Hi Admin,
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  4. What do you think about the cheaper ring flashes on Amazon or even the Metz ring flash?