Dental Digital Photography Update: A Report From the 2014 Chicago Midwinter Meeting

A Report From the 2014 Chicago Midwinter Meeting

Hello all. After attending this year’s Chicago Midwinter Meeting, I am prepared to update you on what’s currently available, both old and new, in the dental digital photography world. Having taught digital dental photography nationwide for the past 15 years, I have witnessed the morphing of dental photography from novelty status—that is, largely incidental information gathering—to having become an indispensable part of dental record keeping and treatment planning. Many fledgling dentists have left their formal training already owning and knowing how to use a digital camera, while the seasoned amongst us have had to do a little continuing education (CE) to catch up. That said, it’s clear to me that much of today’s digital dental camera acquisitions are spurred by a need to replace outdated equipment, if only to make the process more effortless or to accessorize one’s digital outfit so as to expand its use in everyday practice. If this sounds familiar, then let me brief you on what interested me while cruising the aisles at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting. All aboard!

SINGLE-LENS REFLEX CITY
My first stop was the PhotoMed booth. They always put forth a wide array of singlelens reflex (SLR) systems from both Canon and Nikon, equipping them with a variety of lens and flash units that can usually find the sweet spot to match one’s budget. This year’s newcomers would be the Canon T5i (Figure 1) and the Nikon D7100 (Figure 2). Both models are simply nextgeneration versions of their wellrespected predecessors that now have added luxuries such as wider view screens, faster processers, or more megapixels. Both models can be equipped with the Metz MS1 Wireless flash unit, which is the way to go if you’re interested in a lighter weight system. While both systems are topshelf, my nod goes to the Nikon outfit. I prefer Nikon’s outofthebox color rendition to the Canon. It seems more lifelike to me. I also enjoy its 2 user programmable modes, rendering this outfit essentially foolproof when it comes to proper settings. The camera arrives preset by PhotoMed to take either closeup or portrait shots; a single adjustment toggles between the 2 modes. Finally, I’m fond of the optional Nikkor 85 mm lens that further reduces the weight and bulk of the system. (As an aside, the one area where the Canon seems to consistently outperform the Nikon is in speed and accuracy of the autofocus. It’s lightning quick and deadly sharp. Decide which is more important to you!)

Figure 1. The PhotoMed configured Canon T5i single lens reflex (SLR) system with Metz MS-1 flash unit. Figure 2. The PhotoMed configured Nikon D7100 with Metz MS-1 flash and Nikkor 85 mm lens, a lightweight SLR system.
Figure 3. The PhotoMed polar-eyes Cross Polarization Filter for glare-free images. Figure 4. Comparison shots with and without PhotoMed Cross Polarization filter.
Figure 5. The PhotoMed Canon Powershot G16 kit; a top of the line point-and-shoot solution. Figure 6. Dine Corp’s proprietary combination ring and point flash.

PhotoMed has always been strong in the accessory department. Two that are new for this year are the polareyes Cross Polarization Filter and PhotoMed Soft Contrasters. The polarization filter (Figures 3 and 4) eliminates unwanted reflections on the teeth often caused by the flash unit. These reflections, also called specular highlights, can obscure details in both shade and surface texture, hindering accurate communication with the dental laboratory team. The next time you restore a single central incisor, you may wish you had one of these clever gadgets. It mounts via magnets and fits most currently used macro flash units.

The Soft Contrasters are made of a malleable stainless steel that is covered with a black silicone. These enhance patient comfort considerably since they can be bent for easier positioning, and they don’t go “clang” against the teeth as do their predecessors. (Contrasters are those black intraoral coverups that allow us to isolate dental groupings for less distracted visualization.)

Finally, the Canon G16, the latest entry for the popular highend “pointandshoot” G series is here and now features HD video and builtin WiFi. When equipped with one of PhotoMed’s CloseUp attachments, it becomes a formidable dental camera that doubles as an equally effective recreational camera (Figure 5). It’s priced similarly to a lowend SLR ($1,500) but produces images rivaling a highend SLR nonetheless. I would encourage you to go to PhotoMed’s Web site (photomed.net) for more information on these items as well as the rest of their dental photography line.

ENTRY LEVEL SOLUTIONS
My next stop brought me to the Lester Dine booth, also known as Dine Corp (dinecorp.com). While Dine is well known for digital SLR systems that feature its proprietary combination ring flash/point flash unit paired with both Nikon and Canon SLRs (Figure 6), it is also known for its Dine Digital Solution (DDS) kit. This “digital solution” revolves around a palmsized/pocketsized Pentax pointandshoot camera that is set up by Dine to optimize dental photography (Figure 7). It arrives packaged with a host of accessories and a hard shell carrying case. The total price for the basic kit was $695. It can be further accessorized with a printer and editing software (Pixelease) at an additional cost. The latest model of the Pentax camera included in the kit is waterproof, shock proof, and capable of 720 p HD video. I have used variations of this camera system in my hygiene rooms for the past several years in lieu of an intraoral video camera. It performs surprisingly well for “show and tell” patient education and can, when one is on a tight budget, allow a practitioner to take the full range of shots commonly used in dentistry. Make no mistake, however, that while the small Pentax can generate serviceable images, they are not to be confused with the images that can be generated by the fullsized sensors normally found in digital SLR systems; images produced by the SLR systems possess greater depth and accuracy of color, enhanced tonal range, and superior image clarity. Still, the DDS kit is compelling when budgets dictate an economical solution to digital still photography.

While considering affordable solutions, my next stop, CliniPix (clinipix.com), weighed in with an updated CliniPix 123EZ camera, centered around the rather sophisticated and newly introduced Canon SX260, also a pocketsized camera but, in this instance, fitted with an adapter lens allowing for closeup photography (Figure 8). Despite the enhanced capabilities of the Canon Powershot SX260 (aperture priority photography, image stabilization, optical zoom, and HD movie mode), the 123EZ is designed to be simple with no removable parts. All functions are preset by CliniPix for pointandshoot photography. Similarly accessorized and priced to Dine’s DDS kit, the CliniPix 123EZ should also be considered when looking for an entrylevel camera system capable of serviceable dental photography. While CliniPix also outfits an assortment of digital SLR systems, you may wish to look at the accessory category to catch a glimpse of their “fog free” mirror kits. A microfan in the mirror handle removes fogging almost instantly. Now that’s clever!

FOR DENTISTRY ONLY
Speaking of clever, would you be surprised that Shofu Dental, known to most of us as an excellent dental materials and abrasives company, now features a dedicated digital dental camera system? I certainly was! Ushered to the Shofu booth by Dr. Jack Griffin, I was introduced to the EyeSpecial CII (Shofu Dental) by product manager, Stephanie Xelowski. New to the USA, the ESCII (as I’ll call it) offers a unique approach to dental digital photography. It is built for dentistry from the ground up. Generically, it’s a pointandshoot camera with the user focusing and composing solely by looking at the camera’s oversized, touchsensitive, LCD screen. Focusing is a combination of manual focus (with the aid of an onscreen magnification ratio selector) and finetuning with a builtin autofocus feature, engaged once you’ve positioned the camera as dictated by the magnification ratio and focus distance. It sounds complicated, but the learning curve is a relatively short one. What fascinated me most were the 8 shooting modes possessed by the ESCII. In addition to the standard mode for, well, the “standard shots,” the ESCII features a “mirror mode” for flipping the mirrored shots “incamera,” a lowglare mode for shooting tricky anterior shots, a whitening mode for meaningful comparison of before and after bleaching shots, and an “isolate shade mode” that turns the gingiva gray when shooting teeth and shade tabs together. Add a “face mode” for portraits, a telemacro mode for ultra closeup photography, and finally a “surgery mode” that allows for long distance images of a surgical field and...holy megapixel, Batman! Has the digital dental ship finally arrived? Taking images on the show floor just wasn’t enough shutter time to declare this baby the next coming, so I coerced Stephanie into sending me a demo model to take for a spin in my office. After a short 2day inoffice trial, the following are some considerations when making an equipment choice.

Figure 7. Dine Corp’s Digital Solution fits in the palm of your hand. Figure 8. The CliniPix 123EZ really is easy to use; an economical solution to dental photography.
Figure 9. Shofu Dental’s EyeSpecial C-II redefines the look of the dental camera. Figure 10. EyeSpecial C-II is ergonomically designed for easy staff handling.
Figure 11. Oversized LCD screen found on the EyeSpecial C-II. Figure 12. Sample image taken with the EyeSpecial C-II; standard shot variety.


The MSRP at the show was in the $2,700 range—not inexpensive, but comparable to a wellequipped, more traditional Nikon or Canon SLR system. But, when considering a pointandshoot camera such as the ESCII, keep in mind that peering through the viewfinder of an SLR camera offers a crystal clear, near lifesized view of your subject. This makes it a snap to compose your shot and know when you are in proper focus as compared to looking at an LCD screen, which offers at best, 30% of life size. In the case of the ESCII, the user will also need to acclimate to a fairly busy view screen that features a multitude of icons and numbers. Best results are realized with the patient sitting upright. This positions the LCD in such a way that screen glare from overhead lighting is nullified. That aside, the ESCII is sleek and white for easy cleaning, lightweight for easy staff handling, and ergonomically designed for intuitive camera management. Its manualfocus approach to dental photography, while a bit unfamiliar at first, is in fact a more realistic and disciplined method of capturing images when compared to other pointandshoot solutions on the market. I suspect this innovative camera will attract a lot of attention from those new to the market or those looking for a different approach to dental photography (Figures 9 to 12).

WORTH REPEATING
So there you have it—a summary of my photographic encounters this year in Chicago. I will repeat my annual word to the wise. It is best to purchase your equipment from dedicated dental photography dealers, particularly when purchasing an SLR outfit. These companies will have set up the camera optimally for dentistry, and their technical teams will be available to troubleshoot any issues that might arise (as well as provide loaners in the unlikely event that yours malfunctions). The bigbox stores and online retailers of the world “cut it to the bone,” offering only factory default setups; they will not be able to help you when results are less than satisfactory. I would also encourage you to travel to a regional or state association dental meeting for a handson experience with whatever system you are considering. Much has to do with how a camera feels in your hands, or your team members’ hands. And finally, do consider putting some CE time into a good dental digital photography course. Keep an eye open for one in your area. If you don’t see something close by, drop me a line. Perhaps we can work something out. Inoffice training can be very rewarding. Over and out!


Dr. Goldstein, a Fellow of the International Academy of DentoFacial Esthetics as well as a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, practices general dentistry in Wolcott, Conn. Recognized as one of the Leaders in Continuing Education by Dentistry Today since 2002 and for his expertise in the field of dental digital photography, he lectures and writes extensively concerning cosmetics and the integration of digital photography into the general practice. He has authored numerous articles for multiple international dental periodicals. He can be reached via email at the following address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Disclosure: Dr. Goldstein reports no disclosures.