Focus: To be effective in dentistry a digital camera must meet several criteria. First it must be able to take a good picture in focus with out distortion of both a full face and a close up of the smile. Inexpensive cameras can’t do this. Most standard point and shoot cameras are designed to take a photo from six feet or more away. In the dental office we need to be much closer with “macro” focus capability. Cameras without good lenses and zoom capacity can’t get a close up smile in focus and they often “fish eye” the full face. This results in a distortion of the middle portion of the picture making the nose seem enormous.
Resolution: The next factor is image quality or resolution. Quality requirements will vary significantly depending on how the photos will be used. Dentists taking clinical photos for lecture presentations will need high quality with high resolution to show fine detail in a projected image. On the other hand insurance documentation photos can usually be low resolution. Cosmetic imaging photos may be some where in between. As a general rule any camera with four or more mega pixel capacity will do well in the dental office.
Flash: Next the camera needs a remote or diffused flash. Standard point flash systems on most cameras will often wash out close up smile photos. All the detail and color are lost. Or the flash will create deep shadows on one side and bright highlights on the other obscuring detail and making cosmetic imaging difficult. To be effective the camera needs a remote flash, which can be attached to a ring flash, or a flash diffuser to evenly distribute the light.
Accessories: To effectively use digital photography in the dental office the dentist will not only need the proper camera but he/she will need lens adaptors, a remote ring flash or diffuser, memory media, a media reader, batteries, possibly a battery charger and most importantly instructions. Finding the right camera and putting all the accessories together can be an expensive time consuming process. Most dentists should consider a kit from Photo-Med, Norman Camera or Lester Dyne.